“So, what would you like to study in college?”
“Well, I’ve my heart set on journalism.”
“Hm… I think you should apply for a business degree. Have you looked at Commerce in UCD?”
“Em, I’ve never even studied business though…?”
This is a genuine, word-for-word conversation that I had with my guidance counselor five years ago when I was still struggling to fill out my CAO. Had I listened to her completely unsuitable advice I would now be the world’s most unenthusiastic businesswoman Ireland has ever known.
I’ve always thought that as modern society evolved that somewhere along the way, someone seriously made an absolute pig’s arse of it. To put the pressure of deciding your entire career path at 18 years of age, when you still suffer from rampant acne, don’t really understand how to cook frozen pizza and can only barely list off two or three things that don’t completely do your head in, is ludicrous.
Pick a job at eighteen that you won’t hate after forty years? I could barely pick what dinner I wanted at that age (still can’t in fact), and despite working hard at my Leaving Cert, spent most of sixth year taking excessively long naps.
Consequently, my advice to anyone struggling to settle on a profession at any age is: Don’t listen to naysayers berate the economy and tell you to study something ‘sensible’. Study something you’re passionate about, something you stay up until 3am watching documentaries about. I promise you your career will develop around it. When you’re sitting in front of a prospective and scary employer, passion counts for so much more than a few letters after your name in something your parents insisted you put at the top of your CAO.
Don’t take my word for it though. We rounded up the twelve best pieces of advice from readers, people in the office and the few young professionals who I graduated with:
1. “Don't accept or apply for a course you're not interested in, just for the sake of going to college. I know so many who dropped out of college midway because they accepted the first course they were offered even though it wasn't their desired area of study. Some managed to get the whole way through it and graduated with a degree in an area they had to interest in working. #BestDecisionIEverMade.” –June Devaney
2. “3 inches of false tan is not a good look”-Niamh Marshall
3. “You may think a degree is a waste of time as I did at 18 but you fimd out a lot of jobs offered want people with a degree. Now at 35 I am doing my degree.” – Ciara McCormack
4. “Get a part-time or weekend job while you study. It helps you become independent and gives you a chance to develop interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that you don't learn at college. It’s also important in order to understand the value of money and you don't truly learn that until you're spending your own.” – Sían Gilsenan
5. “Don't forget to take the time to experience all that life has to offer. While study is definitely important don't let life pass you by.” – Shirley Robbins
6. “Don’t spend all your money on clothes and cigarettes. Don’t start smoking, if you have give up. Work harder in college/school. Go to college in a new city where you won’t know people already or on Erasmus if you have the opportunity to. Make the most of your 3 months off to travel and go on J1. Enjoy your freedom. Stay in touch with your college classmates. Worry less.” Aifric Houlihan
7. “If you don't get the points you need for a course don't worry about it! There's always another way to get there and sometimes it’s the best thing that could have happened! Plus it could just mean an extra year of college cans.” – Luke O’Rourke
8. “Stop worrying, you'll be skinny when you're 24.” Lauren Cruise
9. "You don’t know all the answers to everything on the Leaving Cert, and especially not in life. You’d be mortified if you could hear me now, you’d say I was uncool and to shut up because you do know everything. You’re so ready for college and to grow up and spread your wings. Your girlfriends are the ones who see you through the next few years, I wish you could see now, how important they are. Part of me wishes I could shield you from what’s coming, the silly tears you’ll end up crying over nothing, the internal battles, the failures.” –Dairne Black
10. “Set targets and achieve them. If you don’t have any targets, then ask someone. Do more than just your course in college- get into a society and aim to be on the board, get involved in something. Get on the A team and become the chairperson of the society or the equivalent in any other sphere.” –Rory Crowley
11. “Live healthier. Literally take a day to plan out nutrition and lifestyle. You're an adult now and your metabolism/ responsibility to yourself and looking and feeling good is completely controlled by good choices. Stop eating kebabs! And I guess- Relationship are brutal. You're here to learn.” Damien Gerard
12. “Don't microwave wet cigarettes.” Michelle Doyle
A lot of older (and none the wiser) ex-18 year olds.