How I got to Careers: Tricia Onions

Posted in: Advice, Career Choice

Having completed my Master’s in 2016, I’m still relatively new to the world of work. Did I know what I wanted to do with my Creative Writing MA? Not a clue! But I started applying for jobs while I was still writing my dissertation, which resulted in a job offer at a women’s refuge to start the following September.

It was a bumpy road from there on out, because I lost that job after five months. There was a nasty sting in realising I wasn’t the right person for the role. I didn’t stop to think about whether the role was right for me. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t!) I have a gap on my CV from where I tried to get back on my feet, followed by a hodgepodge of temporary gigs: café work, retail, portering. I remember feeling rudderless, though looking back, I now have loads of transferable skills. Employers value customer service, whether you are working in a shop or for an insurance firm.

Working on a seasonal contract, I needed a backup plan, and I started applying for jobs at the University of Bath. For me, job offers are like buses – nothing, nothing, nothing, and then two come at once. I took a job with the Uni, though I was terrified it wouldn’t work out. What if I just couldn’t hold down a job?

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but those fears were unfounded – I’ve been with the Careers Service for 18 months now. As an Information Assistant, one minute I might be analysing our event attendances for the year; the next I might be brainstorming for a marketing project. Transferable skills are sometimes less obvious in the creative arts, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. I pride myself on thinking outside the box, welcoming novelty, and communicating my ideas engagingly.

The temporary jobs I held in the past are still relevant to my career – they weren’t just a means to an end. Believe it or not, I really enjoyed busy days on my feet at the café! I can get quite antsy if I’m sat down all day, doing the same task, so I really value hybrid work that requires a bit of multitasking. Dipping my toes into a range of jobs helped me realise this. Recognising my strengths and values is an ongoing process – not one I had all figured out in 2016.

This might sound like a contradiction, but alongside everyday variety, I need stability too. Temping could be stressful at times – there was always a risk my hours could be cut, and constant job hunting was exhausting. Simplistic as it may be, I value having regular work and a paycheque I can rely on. Go ahead and embrace those so-called contradictions – there’s a balance there somewhere that will work for you.

While I won’t be leaving Careers any time soon, I am excited to find out what my future holds. There’s no set path, and although that can be scary at times, it can also be hugely liberating. With my customer service and information experience – and obvious love of literature – I think one day I’d like to try working for a public library. I guess we’ll see what happens!

Posted in: Advice, Career Choice


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