Your Grades Won’t Define You

Many of our younger readers will this week have received their GCSE and A-Level results, some of you will have got what you wanted, others won’t have. But no matter what you got, those results won’t define you, they’re a mark of where you’ve got to, not where you’re going.

I don’t want to turn this into a Jeremy Clarkson style ‘I got a C and 2Us’ because many of you don’t have parents with a successful business to pay for your private education and equally don’t have contacts to go into your chosen field despite a lack of success in school.

However, I messed up my A-Levels really, I got a C and two Ds. Off the back of that I was rejected from my course and offered a different one. Because all I really knew was that I wanted to go to Nottingham Trent I accepted it without really considering what that course was. I can’t actually remember what it was, it was something like Child Welfare but after two introductory sessions I knew I hated it. The people on the course were great but I knew it wasn’t for me. 

Changing Course

Still determined that I wanted to stay at Nottingham Trent I spoke to one of my A-Level teachers from St Ninians who said I should transfer my course to something I’d prefer. The biggest advantage I had here is that universities exist to make money so they don’t want to see £9,000 of Manx gov funding walk out the door so I was put in touch with the careers adviser who sat down with me and looked at courses with spaces and put me in contact with the course leader of Sociology and Politics. A day worth of paperwork later I had swapped courses and settled into the smallest course at NTU SocPol which consisted of just 30 odd of us. 

From there I had three brilliant years at uni, I didn’t go in all the time, but I lived with a great bunch of people, got a degree and then had no idea what to do next. Deciding I wanted to stay in Nottingham I did a Masters Degree, again I was rejected from my initial application which was for a journalism course. Instead, I ended up on an International Relations course and again had a great year, got a decent grade and headed back to the island. 


From there I had no idea what to do with my degrees but I had worked at McDonald’s for six years and had said once I graduated I was going to find something else so I ended up getting a temp job in a bank through an agency, I worked with some great people but it wasn’t for me and when they said my contract wasn’t going to be extended I wasn’t that disappointed. 

I Was Shite

After leaving the banking world, I found a job I liked the sound of, trainee journalist at Isle of Man Newspapers. So I applied for that and after an interviewing and sitting a grammar test (this actually happened) I entered the world of journalism. Now, my writing then was not the free flowing Shakespearean quality that it is now, it was in all honestly utter shite and large swathes of my work was being re-written. But over time I got better at it and using my knowledge of random information combined with the patience and guidance of editor Richard Butt, deputy Jackie Darbyshire and chief reporter Adrian Darbyshire I got reasonably good at it and now I write for Gef. 

The point, if indeed there is one, of this long winding tale is that I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was 18 and when I finally worked out that I wanted to be a journalist at 21 I had the door firmly slammed in my face by NTU’s admissions board, who I only mildly despise. But Richard took a chance on me and here I am now working under the leadership of Emma Cox.

Take Your Own Route

That was my route to doing a job that I love. I have mates who went to uni and did courses which are far different from what they do now. One of them did a degree focussed on business, he’s now working as a carer and was one of those who stepped up to work with the NHS when their own care staff were moved to working in the hospital during the pandemic. The Emma I mentioned earlier never went to uni and is now the boss of an online magazine producing pages of quality content week after week. Equally I have another mate who studied lighting and tech and now works at a world famous theatre. But university isn’t some key to success, yes it can help, but I have mates who left school at 16 and are doing more jobs that are far more important for our society than journalism.

Essentially what I’m trying to say is whatever grades you have, in a few years it won’t matter. Whether you’re going on in your education or going into work, experience and character will ultimately be more valuable than a piece of paper and a nice picture on your nan’s fireplace and if you think a door has been closed on a career because you’re 16 and you didn’t get a good enough grade in English Literature or French, you’re wrong. 

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