Discovering an alternative route to employment

As you come to the end of your time at school there can be a lot of pressure to go to university or college, but taking an alternative route to a career can be just as effective.

Remember, you’re on your own path to success; and there is no wrong path.

Deciding what career you want to pursue isn’t always simple. Erin Bartley is a careers adviser at Skills Development Scotland.

Although it can be scary, there is a host of organisations and people there to help you Erin says: “Deciding what you want to do with your life can be a daunting prospect, but there is lots of advice and support out there.”


As you progress through school it might seem that going to college or university to study a traditional course is the done deal. What happens if you don’t want to be a lawyer, doctor or architect?

Artist Frank To always wanted to go to university but felt pressured to study a subject that was considered academic.

“I was the first generation of my family to go to uni,” says Frank. “There was a huge amount of pressure to tell kids to go to uni, it was always a race somehow.”

Frank was continually taught that the only way to guarantee yourself a job was to study something like business or architecture. “When it came to my Highers, I realised if I’m going to do a degree, I would do a nine to five and be miserable,” remembers Frank. “I had that feeling at 17 and then thought I didn’t want to do what was expected.”

Going against the grain doesn’t mean you can’t have the career you want, as Erin encourages: “There are lots of different pathways to literally hundreds of different jobs, and these routes aren’t always straightforward.”

Doing something you enjoy instead of what others think is practical should always be your priority – no matter what path it will take you on. “In the end I decided to go do art at uni because I was more passionate about that than anything else, but people say it’s difficult or impossible to pursue a career as an artist,” says Frank. “I think it was the fact that I wanted to prove those people wrong.”


Going to university or college isn’t always necessary to follow the career path you want. “While some jobs – such as medicine, dentistry and law – require a degree, there are plenty more which can be accessed straight from school,” explains Erin.

Starting a job after leaving school means you can learn new skills while you work and learn from people who are already in the job.

“There are entry-level jobs open to individuals leaving school,” says Erin. “Some companies offer training programmes you can undertake while you work that give you relevant learning to do your
role and progress.”

Building skills through work and experience can help build your CV, not to mention your people skills.

Scroll through #NoWrongPath on Twitter to see how others took an alternative route to their career


Pressure from friends, family or teachers can make an alternative career path seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing what you enjoy. “Don’t be pressured to do something you’re not comfortable with, whatever you choose it will eventually fall in to place,” urges Frank.

Before you talk to those around you, it is good to be sure of what you want to do Erin says: “Doing your research is a good way of reassuring parents or teachers that you’re thinking your options through carefully.” If you have already applied for university or college but have changed your mind that’s OK.

“There is absolutely no shame in changing your mind about a course or career – I changed my degree halfway through and it worked out brilliantly for me,” adds Erin. “I would advise that it’s sensible to have a plan before making the decision to switch.”

“Talk through your options with the people closest to you too, like your mum or dad or your friends,” she encourages. “Changing path can be a big decision, so it’s good to speak to other people and get their view.”


If you haven’t decided what you want to do, taking time out is a great option. After all, once high school is done you have been in education for at least 13 years. “Take time to try and learn who you are as a person – that could mean anything,” says Frank. “You could go and travel, that’s great to find out who you are.”

Taking some time for yourself can benefit you when you join the world of work.

“When you leave school, you might want to take time out to volunteer, do some different types of work experience, travel or a bit of all three to develop your skills and experience before deciding on a set path,” says Erin.

The skills you learn through experience will always benefit you when applying for a new job and you can never have too much work experience. “If you know what you want to do, and if that involves taking an alternative path, start putting the wheels in motion now,” recommends Erin. “Even if you don’t want to go on to college or university, the world of work and apprenticeships is competitive.”

“Get involved in different clubs at school, volunteer – make sure your application stands out,” she adds.

The best way to find out what you want to do is to trust your instincts Frank says: “Just go be bold, they’re the ones who always seem to make it work.”

Whatever your plans are for the future it is important to ask for help and support along the way to make sure it is the right choice for you.

For more information and advice on following the right career path for you visit Skills Development Scotland.

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