Growing up in the countryside can be a real buzzkill when it comes to making career plans. Don't get me wrong, I love coming from Norfolk and I'm so proud to call it my home. But when you're a teenager who is trying to build a future career, it can often seem like it's holding you back. For many people in the UK, we're born in quiet countryside towns and sleepy little villages. It's a great way to grow up, far from the pressures of city life and surrounded by clean country air. But thanks to the UK economy struggling over recent years and post-recession, it can also mean growing up in a town full of betting shops and charity shops.
These school years can be a crucial time in shaping our career plans from what information is available to us. Whether we choose university or an apprenticeship, whether we move away to a city or decide to stay. Perhaps the area might have an abundance of practical learning opportunities, but it's an academic future you're truly dreaming of. What about those pressured to university who crave a more practical learning style? It's so difficult to really strike the right balance and make the right choices. But the important thing to remember is that there really isn't a right or wrong answer. The only choice to make is the right one for you, and it's never too late to change your mind.
The problems with growing up in a rural area
It's so easy to grow up with that attitude that your home is a shit-hole. I know from a childhood in Norfolk, all the kids were looking forward to escaping and university was the best way to do that. They craved somewhere busier, but it's ironic that a few years later so many missed the peace of their homes. So many leave to university and just choose any degree, rather than really being educated on what they will gain from the qualification. They don't think beyond the degree or make a long-term plan. But it's understandable why people leave. For those who stay at home and settle down with families young, this is often the main option.
Jobs in the countryside revolve around farming, factory work and labour, or retail, nursing and teaching. These jobs have limited availability because often people move to the area to raise families and work in the same job until retirement. Often these roles will not have much room for you to work your way up to a higher wage or position due to the lower staff turnover. If you have a preference for academic work, there will be very limited availability of roles or work experience for journalists, lawyers or doctors. For graduates who return home post-university, finding work can be tough and they can be forced to take lower paid jobs to make ends meet.
But living in the countryside can be great for your career plans...
Living in the countryside doesn't have to be all negatives for your career. In fact, there are a lot of amazing positives that could really help land your dream job. You may not live in London, but most rural areas have access to other cities where competition could be much less fierce for jobs. For instance, Norfolk has great access to both Norwich and Cambridge. Studying in smaller classes at school gives you the support to really develop your skills early, and to discover talents and passions. City schools often have much larger classes and teachers are able to focus less on the children.
By choosing to follow a career path closer to home, you stand the chance of starting out as a big fish in a small pond. Great for building experience and a portfolio as I did when I started my journalism career. In a short time, I gained invaluable experience that most journalism students don't learn for several years. You have the opportunity to get work experience or make connections with companies on a personal level, rather than being one of hundreds applying for a role. This is how I managed to become a journalist without even having a qualification! Less competition gives you a real chance to shine and show what you can offer. Then, once you have the basis for a good career, it's much easier to apply for jobs elsewhere.
How did country life affect my career plans?
When I finished school, I went away to study English Language and Communication with Literature at university. I chose not to study in a city, but instead just outside London. My original plan was to become a teacher, but that soon changed and I realised writing was my real passion. I think choosing to study in a place that was more relaxed and less busy, meant I had more time to get writing experience. It meant I started working as a newspaper columnist and a contributor to an online festivals magazine. The summer before my final year, I spent in my home town where I became the first person to get work experience at the local newspaper in a decade.
It would have been really competitive to try and get this experience in a city. So actually going rural really helped me build my experience and got me my first front page within a week. Getting this invaluable experience is what secured me my first job straight out of university as a junior reporter. It led to my becoming editor of the online festivals magazine and also setting up this blog. The skills I learnt in this time were invaluable and have helped me to build a portfolio as a writer and journalist. It has also helped me to build my own brand as a travel blogger working with companies around the world.
Top tips for career plans if you live in the countryside:
- Don't look at it as holding you back. Change your attitude and you'll change what you get from it.
- Talk to everyone and use your contacts. Small towns mean you potentially have a link to every job.
- Research qualifications and the likelihood of employment post-degree. Ask yourself if a degree is the best option, or if you're better suited to an apprenticeship.
- Get experience! The best way to get an idea if you could do a job, go and do it! Ask everywhere for work experience or placements. Do them in the summer, ask for one day a week at uni.
- Countryside life is quiet and peaceful – use any free time wisely to build your skills, do online courses, get experience or volunteer. It really helps boost your CV.
The most important thing to remember is that you are a product of your environment. Either use that to your advantage, or change it. Taking control of your career plans is the best way to ensure you are happy with the path you have chosen. Don't be scared to put yourself out there, and always grab opportunities when they arise. But don't worry about countryside living putting you a step behind those in the cities. The only limit on your potential is the one you place on yourself.
Are you a country or city person? Do you think where you grew up has affected your career prospects?