In this post Oliver, an ex mature student who has also shared his story on our blog, will explain what led him to return to education at the age of 26: the feeling of being stuck in a job (hospitality) he did not like.
If you are interested in reading some successful stories of people from all ages who have returned to education to change their lives, here is a summary: mature student stories UK.
In any case, let’s now leave it to Oliver to explain his feelings and advice.
I’m stuck in a job I don’t like
Unfortunately, I know the feeling of being stuck in a job very, extremely, well. I spent years working in the hospitality and customer service industry.
During those years I moved from place to place: from cafes to restaurants, from events to hotels, always looking for the perfect work environment.
However, at the end I was left with the same feeling: being stuck in a job.
In all honesty, I liked certain aspects of working in hospitality. I met a lot of people and made some really good friends too, we really had fun together.
I believe this is already an aspect that “traps” you in that industry. It is the nature of the job and the relationship you establish with the entire environment; always working hard, helping each other and having that smiley face with customers.
It basically becomes your second home. You spend more time there than in your actual flat due to the weird crazy patterns of the industry.
Almost all your friends are there, you eat there, you plan your life from there. Sometimes at the end of my shift I would ask myself: “why don’t I sleep here? In a few hours I’ll have to commute back here anyway!“
Should I progress my career in hospitality?
At a certain point, I started to fancy the idea of becoming a manager, I mean who wouldn’t? Imagine being the general manager of a luxury hotel or a fine dining restaurant.
I’m not talking about small places here, but about big chains where the big players are. I used to call it a “clean” job.
What I mean by that is that you wear a nice suit and have nothing to do with what happens at the “back of house”.
Of course it is a highly skilled job that comes with a lot of pressure and an important decision-making. Not an easy job at all, but I would have loved it!
However, the more time I spent dreaming of those positions, the more I realised I was never going to get there. At least not without a qualification (I called it “the piece of paper”).
Stuck in a job, no qualifications = no climb-up power
All I was able to achieve were positions like team leader, supervisor, shift leader and all these roles that pretty much are the same thing.
More pressure and responsibilities for few extra quid, was that really worth the effort? More importantly, was that the best path to get to the top?
As I’m sure you know, sometimes it is possible to climb up the ladder without qualifications, but it might take ages to get to the top managerial roles!
Lucky you if you can resist doing a job you don’t like for all those years in the same place. I tell you that because it’s facts, it’s statistics, the staff turnover in the hospitality industry is mental.
Not even to mention everything that happens during those years of climbing up. People getting the position instead of you only because they have been there for longer.
The company hiring external people in order “to avoid internal grievances” (laughable in my opinion); or others from completely different departments or backgrounds because of their “experience and transferrable skills”.
The list can go on and on and I am sure you are already thinking “this happened to me”. I felt stuck in my job and I could not see a way out, not even a way up!
“The hospitality vortex”
I truly believe that all the above feeds what I call the “hospitality vortex”. What I mean is that the majority of people end up quitting their job in the hope to find a better work environment.
Guess what happens? Firstly, you are most likely to look for, and find, a job in the same industry. This is because of your skillset and experience.
Consequentially, you end up switching from a place to another and resetting your years of being in the company, your “climb-up power”.
Then you live in loop the same situations over and over again. It’s a vortex, you are not simply stuck in a job, you are trapped in the hospitality vortex.
Luckily it does not always work like that, some people are successful in climbing up the pyramid quite quickly. Others find the perfect environment very soon.
Most of the time these people knew already what they wanted to do in their lives before starting. I have met many people that studied and worked hard for a career in hospitality because they loved it.
They had relevant degrees or attended specific academies to become experts in their fields, earning very good salaries.
The hospitality industry can lead to very rewarding careers and satisfaction for those who are really interested in that sector!
However, if you are reading this, you feel like I felt. Some people need real life experience to understand what is for them and what is not.
Complaints after complaints and feeling stuck in my job
So I was there, complaining to myself for the crazy shift patterns, waking up early in the morning or finishing late at night.
Almost impossible to plan simple things in the long run because of the rota unpredictability. The weekends? Not existent mainly, rarely going out with colleagues, and when you get the weekend off, they are most likely working.
Festive periods when everybody else is off? Forget about it, they coincided with my busiest time at work. I was getting used to that routine, like living in a cage.
Salary? Among the lowest in the job market, always around the minimum wage or slightly above; relying on customer tips was a bit humiliating at times, also considering you never know how much you will get.
Overall enough to “survive” I would say, pay rent, bills, food, some pints with colleagues, rare nights out and and very little savings.
So many times I thought: “I don’t like my job, I really want to quit my job, tomorrow I’ll come in and tell my manager I’m leaving and you’ll never see me again!”.
I was making up this scenario in my mind, but I knew it would never happen like this. So the next day I would get ready, put that fake smile on my face and go to work.
Should I return to education and change career?
It sucked, I could not see a way up to a better job within the hospitality industry. I was lacking the necessary qualifications for that.
At the same time, I could not see a way out towards other industries because I was lacking qualifications, same reason!
This situation fed my desire to get some proper education, I needed to change my life before it’d be too late! I could not see a future for me, not at all!
I also made many mistakes during that period, I “rushed it”. What do I mean? I was too eager to change job and I wanted to do it quickly.
I started a high-level IT course (very expensive and non refundable) despite not having a real interest for it. Results?
I dropped out after a month and lost my money. That was a good lesson, always follow your interests! So I went back to consult my…ambitions!
My ambitions were the key here. I wanted to be the one attending the conference, not serving at it; be the hotel guest, not the porter; be the manager in charge, not a simple worker.
I started to build those ambitions. So I decided to return to education as a mature student, I started university at 26!
It all happened very quickly, I enquired to my local college and started an access course. This was compulsory since I did not meet the requirements to enrol directly into university.
Then it was time to choose my degree, my “new career”. I didn’t want to be limited to hospitality, the idea of a complete career change was fascinating.
At the same time, I wanted to study something that could also lead me to becoming a top hospitality manager in case I wanted to.
This is why I went for an International Business & Finance degree. Firstly, A business background would leave the doors open for a high-level career in hospitality in case I wanted to go back.
On top of that, a finance background would lead me to a completely different industry, in a world that I always found fascinating. I wasn’t going to be stuck in a job anymore!
My advice for those who are feeling stuck in their job
If you are feeling stuck in your job or career, and don’t know what to do, my advice is simple: let your ambitions drive you where you want.
Some people like having humble jobs with fewer responsibilities. They are generally willing to do any jobs, have fun with their friends or go back home to their loved ones and that’s it.
I have met of a lot of them, there is nothing wrong with that!
I just could not imagine myself doing that for my entire life. We are all different, that’s a beautiful thing! However, if you are reading this post there must be a reason..
Do not hold back your ambitions, find a way to realise them. What do you need for that? Qualifications? Go get them, which does not necessarily mean university!
I was willing to commit to that, but depending on your interests there might be other ways. Also remember not to rush it like I did with IT!
Why you should go back to study? Simple:
You like the industry you are in? Perfect, now not only you have the experience, but also the so required qualifications.
Use those to chase the position YOU WANT and the salary you deserve! If you are not given the role in a reasonable time or for stupid excuses, change workplace, they don’t deserve you there.
You don’t like the industry you are currently working in? Perfect, I guess you will study something completely different that you really like, a complete change of career.
Things do not go well at the beginning? Or maybe un unpredicted crisis is impacting your industry? No problem, you can go back to your old industry (or any really) but this time with a powerful qualification.
Remember that ambitious companies are always looking for skilled workers!
You can beat the stuck vortex too!
I did it, I changed all that with education. I found a job in finance for a multinational few months after graduating.
If I look back to where I was.. I’m on the other side now, going for dinner at nice restaurants with my colleagues, travelling and staying in hotels, attending conferences and events.
It feels good, not going to lie. You can do it too, whether you decide to start university or any other higher-level course, change your life (and job) if you are unhappy. Education always wins, YOU CAN DO IT TOO!
Thanks Oliver for sharing!
Thanks Oliver for sharing your feelings and some great advice too! There is nothing wrong in not knowing what to do in life, not everybody has to follow the same path.
Many people end up feeling stuck, it is not unusual. The real problem is when that situation leads to depression and unhappiness, then it needs to be addressed.
We hope the stories we are collecting and publishing on the blog can make you realise that you are not alone!
Thank you for reading and supporting this independent blog. It’s never too late, best of luck!
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“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford