By Frazer Sparham •

What We Wish We'd Known Before Starting University

September’s rolled around and you know what that means? Another academic year starts. The streets of Leeds’ student hot spots, Hyde Park and Headingley, start to fill up again and as students start to descend, a few of us here at Parallax look back on our time at university. We had a good old reminisce and then sat down to think about what we’d do differently if we were to start it all over again, knowing what we know now.

Jess – Content Specialist

Jess Studied Communications at the University of Leeds.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’d have even gone to University if more people had actually told me that wasn’t the only option. I think like most people I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I went with the hope that it would guide me – a pretty expensive punt! I studied Communications and I wish that I’d actually used my University’s resources, and I really wish I had got into the student newspaper, the music library, or film and editing societies. Back then there was no such thing as Instagram and I didn’t feel as if the University really made much effort to reel me in to these things either – so I wish I’d known to go looking for them.”

Frazer – Designer

Frazer studied Graphic & Communication Design at the University of Leeds.

“If I were to start university again, I’d definitely had got involved and provided my design skills to clubs and societies earlier to get more well rounded training than my classes and coursework. It wasn’t until the second year, following being turned down for an internship with a small, boutique design agency that I began to experiment and push my design skills outside of university work and help publish the Leeds University Student Newspaper: The Gryphon, as well as designing for the Leeds Surf Society. This taught me so many important working skills that classes and university work tended to lack. Skills such as: working in a multi-skilled team (In this case working with a lot of journalists and helping them bring their stories to life), how to properly prepare a design for printers and working to strict deadlines.”

Olivia – Designer

Olivia studied Graphic & Communication Design at the University of Leeds.

“Before starting university, I wish I’d have known not to compare myself and my skills to other people on my course. Everybody has different styles and specialisms, and it’s rare that you can be good at everything, especially on such a subjective course. It wasn’t until after my placement year that I began to be more confident, and care less about what others thought about my work. If I had this realisation sooner, I would’ve been a lot happier in my studies and probably would’ve taken on more opportunities.”

Amy – Office Manager

Amy Studied film at Queen Margaret’s University in Edinburgh

“At 18 my life was simple, get good grades at school. I’d never given the job market much thought. I wish I had. If I’d understood the realities of working in industry, I could have made my adult life a lot easier. I studied film at Uni, which I loved and still enjoy as a hobby now, but after graduating I realised how impossibly hard it was to get a paid job. After trying for months, I realised I wasn’t willing to work for nothing, in an industry filled with far more talented people than me, so I turned away and looked elsewhere. Had I known (or been told) the practicalities of that world, I wouldn’t have chosen my uni course. I also wish I’d appreciated my natural strengths. I don’t think I fully respected my natural ability to connect with people. It wasn’t until 7 years after graduating that I realised being a people-person is an actually skill, and could indicate where my talent might lie. I learned more about people focused jobs, and what I might want to work as, and at aged 28 I started re-training. I loved Uni, but I wished I’d have studied the right course for me.”

Tom – Associate Director

Tom studied Architecture & Law at De Montfort University.

“The key takeaway from me, and something I’d have liked to have known before uni, is that almost regardless of your degree, there is such a wide range of jobs available for you to get in to. Even if you study a more ‘traditional’ subjects such as Architecture or Law, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you’ll end up. There are so many different types of creative/design jobs, or completely other professions that you can get into with a degree. I think it’s important to try a few things (and potentially get work experience in different areas) to see if you can find something that really interests you or that you’re passionate about. It’s unlikely that you’ll end up going into a ‘job for life’ which was the historical expectation after university, and it’s easier now more than ever to be able to chop and change jobs later in life so I’d bear that in mind too.”

Lucy – Account Executive

Lucy studied Media, Communications and Cultures at Leeds Beckett.

“If I was to take anything away from my time at uni it would be that grad schemes aren’t the be-all and end-all! During my time at Leeds Beckett, I was filled with the idea that once you graduated, grad schemes with top name brands are ‘the best’ type of employment you can go into. Turns out, they’re really competitive, they don’t consider any of your experiences or personality and you’re put through a load of tests (after working your butt off at uni!) and once the 2-3 years are up, you’re not guaranteed a job either. The bottom line is, go and find an employer that wants to find out about you. There are so many jobs you can go into and you’ll find the smaller companies will help you develop and be more creative, highlighting what it is you’re really good at.”

Olly – Front End Developer

Olly studied English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London

“When I was 18 I was probably less mature than I thought I was. I wanted a career that would make me look glamorous and high achieving and I had very much been sold on the idea of working in entertainment for those reasons. Ultimately that was a terrible fit for me but having studied English Literature I didn’t feel pigeon-holed, and I think that sense of openness to new experiences gave me the confidence to teach myself front-end development. I probably knew that studying humanities wasn’t going to streamline me

…But university isn’t the only route

While these nuggets of wisdom may focus on the members of staff who went to university, that’s only one of many pathways to working in digital, or any creative industry as well! You may be interested to know that the large majority of Parallax never went to university.

It’s also worth noting – for any budding digital experts out there – that some of our staff often hold talks and careers advice sessions at the Leeds City College and we frequently take on work experience students from college level to help them decide their future or get their foot in the door.

If you’re thinking about pivoting into digital or are already working in the sector and fancy a change of pace, feel free to send drop us an email for career advice or check out our job vacancies here.