My story so far: Choosing work instead of university

I am a passionate writer and have been for as long as I can remember.

Some of my earliest memories are rewriting fairytales like Cinderella and Rapunzel at primary school so that the stories were more ‘cool’ (or what only a 10 year old would think was cool – apparently Cinderella’s Price Charming should have been in the form of a ‘funky DJ’). One summer holiday I kept myself entertained throughout the majority of the six weeks by writing about the adventures of a dog and a frog who were best friends.

From then on, English was my favourite subject and I knew that I wanted to be a writer. But at 16 years old, a time where my peers were not only applying for college but starting to discuss university, I realised that I didn’t want to wait. The idea of university, despite the amazing qualifications, opportunities and endless parties all week round, didn’t really appeal to me.

It was working my way up the career ladder, seeing my writing in a magazine, earning money, gaining experience and learning along the way that excited me. So I decided I was going to make it happen, as best as a teenager could, and I undertook a number of work experience placements during the six week summer holiday. These were in industries including marketing, PR, advertising and broadcasting and all helped me to understand the range of careers for the aspiring writer, beyond simply being an author or journalist.

At this age I also began blogging and could nearly always be found typing away in my room for hours on end, emptying my thoughts until I had something I could be proud of.

After I finished my GCSEs and started sixth form, I attended a careers convention, something that I didn’t think I would get much out of, apart from a few free pens, notepads and business cards – you know the sort. However, this was where I met a Midlands based marketing and design agency. I explained about my passion for writing and desire to have a career based on being creative and a few months later, I was doing a week’s work experience.

One week turned into three and during this time, I made every effort to move away from the ‘work experience girl’ label and build a name for Sarah Mullaney. I worked closely alongside the company’s copywriter at the time, writing news stories for their websites and email campaigns to clients, as well as learning about digital marketing and graphic design.

After two weeks of work experience, I was called into the company’s boardroom by its managing director for what I thought was a review, and I was completely surprised but delighted to be offered full time position for as soon as I finished my A-Levels. I would be working between the sales and creative teams until I found my feet and would gradually start doing more and more copywriting. Needless to say I was in complete shock and so too were my family – I rang my dad on my way home that evening and he just kept screaming “Whaaaaaat?! Oh my GOOOOD!” down the phone.

I started work in June 2014 and I have not looked back since. Starting full time work at 18 years old took some time to adjust to, and it wasn’t easy when everyone else I knew seemed to be going to university and doing everything differently. There didn’t seem to be any support online either for those who didn’t want to go to university (a key reason I started this blog). But I have gained such a strong understanding of my craft – of writing, designing, creating social media strategies and more, all thanks to real life experiences in the working environment.

I am now 20 years old and am the company’s main copywriter and digital marketing coordinator. I’ve been featured online and in print and have just finished my final exams for a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing, equivalent to a BA (Hons) degree.

But life is short and it’s not just about work. It’s about those magical moments and crazy adventures that simultaneously put a grin on your face and light a fire in your eyes.

So I’m working on creating a good work life balance where I ultimately put my personal happiness first and accept that switching off is ok. You’ll soon find out on this blog that I can be a worrier and I can put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. But I always say that I’m a working woman who’s a work in progress and I’m slowly learning to accept my flaws and work with them, rather than against them, to be a better, happier version of myself.

I’ve reached a point where I am constantly learning and constantly dreaming.

The more I write, the more I dream of one day being a writer in cities like Manchester, London or even New York. Having my own book published or even my own agency. The sky’s the limit and whilst I can’t wait to see what the future holds, I can’t wait to have even more fun getting there.

What do you dream of doing?

Sarah x

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  • Lola Adewuya July 9, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    What a great and inspiring post! I admire you for taking the risk of a more unconventional route and making it into something great. Everyone needs a little bit of that courage and ambition in their hearts. I share a lot of the same memories as you, knowing I wanted to be a writer at a young age too. This post shows me that I can make something of myself as young as I am and be taken seriously as long as I show bravery and confidence. I can’t wait to see where life takes you. Congratulations!
    -Lots of Love, Lola

    • Sarah Mullaney July 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Thank you so much Lola this really made my day! It was scary but I was lucky to have the support of friends and family 🙂 It’s so great to experience that feeling of loving to write from an early age, isn’t it? I find writing so therapeutic. Thank you so much and yes you can definitely do it! Just believe in yourself and don’t let anyone tell you anything otherwise. I look forward to hearing your stories too 🙂

      Sarah xx

  • Teri May July 12, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    I LOVE this post! Even though I went to uni because I knew learning and getting a degree was super important to me, I’m now graduated with no clear career path in mind. I can’t help wondering what was the point? I actually think making the decision not to go to uni and to commit to a career is so brave and the way you’ve progressed is so inspirational. You should be so proud of yourself!

    Teri-May xx

    • October 15, 2016 at 7:55 am

      Thank you so so much Teri! It’s been very hard in places but ultimately the right decision for me 🙂

      Sarah xx

  • Ella July 27, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    This is such an inspiring post! It’s so great to see people doing alternative things to university. I know when I was in college, I felt pressured into going down the university route, even though I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to. I’m glad I went in the end, because I would never have been brave enough to move across the country on my own otherwise, and I also wouldn’t have met my friends and boyfriend I have today. But yeah, I definitely think things like apprenticeships and full time work need to be show as viable options to teenagers, so not every career even really needs a degree.

    You should be proud, you’ve done so well! x

    • Sarah Mullaney July 16, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Ella this somehow went into my spam folder and I have no idea why – so I’m SO sorry it’s taken me so so long to see this and respond! Thank you so much for your comment, it sounds like you had a great experience of uni and that’s so brave to move across the country on your own – I know I couldn’t do that even now! Yeah I think colleges are starting to plug them more then when I was at school, I just wish the stigma of them being for less intelligent people would disappear lol.

      Thanks again and it sounds like you’ve done great too! 🙂

      Sarah xx