Catherine Ritchie

Pave Your Own Path

Another friendly reminder – don’t compare yourself to others. Pave your own path.

It’s that weird time between finishing your final exam and graduation. An inevitable period of questioning your position in this world, and questioning all that is to come. You hope that the four years you undertook at university was worth it, and try to avoid talking about ‘the next steps’ with your friends and family.

I was one of the highest achievers from first to fourth year in my course. Passing almost every year with distinction, working with the university on extracurricular projects and working as a student rep for my class. I also completed an Erasmus placement abroad, and excelled in an industry placement. I even won an informal award from my classmates – The Leadership Award – in recognition of my services to the class for four years. But what does this mean for me now?

I made many friends at university as someone who knew everyone. But towards the end of my time at university, my friends were also often the high achievers and were all moving on to big jobs in global corporations, or continuing study at Masters level. I knew studying a Masters was not for me. I couldn’t afford it, even if I wanted to. I decided to move to London the day after my final coursework submission, on a train with all my worldly possessions.

I knew this period of time would be difficult for me, especially as someone who is highly driven and likes to be busy. It frustrates me that others know the path they will walk next, and I don’t. But if there is one lesson I have learnt in the past few years of my life, it’s that we are all walking our own path. We are all navigating a different map. Each and every person you know and have ever met, walks a different path. No one journey is the same. I know not to compare myself to others, but to embrace uncertainty, pave my own path and build my own future.

~

I knew I would begin to think about the value of my degree and what I want to do with it. My degree is in Management with Marketing, which is useful if you want to pursue a career in marketing. This was my intention until I began to realise what is most important to me in the business world – people in the workplace.

As an extremely passionate and emotional person, my time in industry and my education began to highlight that I held more concern for the people and how they would achieve business objectives than for the business objectives themselves. I knew that the business environment where I gained experience, was unique – a flexible, open, collaborative and friendly environment, far from what I had learnt to expect. I began to wonder why this wasn’t the norm. People were happy, willing to go the extra mile and referred to colleagues as friends. People wanted to come into work, take on new projects and new responsibilities, reaping positive results for the company and employees, harmoniously.

As I’m sure you can imagine, my interest in people should have interested me in studying human resources (HR) at university, not marketing. However, I would argue (alongside many others) that the role of HR does not serve the emotional, collaborative or creative spirit of the workforce. I would argue that an entirely separate business function should engage employees this way. This is a conversation I am looking to explore, regardless of my formal qualifications because I have gained much, much more experience than what is determined by my degree classification.

We must remember to follow our passions, and fight for the right to learn and explore. To challenge ourselves, and the system and what we’ve grown to accept as the norm. We must always remember that our paths can take unexpected twists and turns, and that there is nothing wrong with an alternative route. We are only what we let define us. We must pave our own path and build the future we want for ourselves.

Copyright Catherine Ritchie 2018