No Uni? No problem!

In 2001 I finished college and headed for University.

I settled on St Martin’s College in Lancaster to study Drama. To my horror, my timetable was surprisingly full of Dance classes – the next Billy Elliot I was not.

To cut a long story short, I attended St Martins for just under a year.


Why did I sign up to University in the first place?

At the time, it was just what you did. This was drilled in to you throughout your school life, your college life and in some cases even your home life.

Do I regret my time at University? No.

Some of you will have decided not to go to university this year and I hope this either resonates with you or gives you food for thought as you start your career years earlier than some of your peers.


I learnt in one week, what couldn’t be taught 3 years!

After leaving University I had a few odd jobs, and in early 2003 I started working at Central Trust, a finance company in Norwich. It wasn’t long before I understood what hard work was, what team spirit meant and what it felt like to be part of something special. I made new friends and my confidence and excitement for life was at an all-time high. No studying, no reading books, just learning how to be the best person you can be and being the best employee for the company you work for.

Now, I’m not saying that University is the ‘wrong’ choice. Far from it. For many, it’s the pathway to their dream career. For me, however, the first week at Central Trust taught me so much, I felt challenged, committed and confident to take on anything that was thrown my way and I’ve never looked back.


At the age of 21 I was managing my first sales team

If you go to University, by the time you reach 21 you’re either leaving or entering your final year. For me, I was starting my new role as Team Leader at Central Trust. I didn’t have a degree in business, I didn’t have a qualification in leadership – I simply had life skills, enthusiasm and drive.

Not staying at University meant I was able to build a career within a company that cared about me, wanted me to do well and wanted me to succeed – I was already a good few rungs up the career ladder by the time some of my friends left university in 2006.


Where would I be had I stayed at University?

I don’t know is the honest answer. I could have gone on to be a successful actor or a teacher (certainly not a dancer). Chances are that I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now though.

What I do know is that I love my job, the company I work for and the people I work with. Without spending those 3 core years at Central Trust I wouldn’t be the Head of Talent & Organisational Development at Indigo Swan, I wouldn’t have the passion to get up, come to work and make a difference to the lives of the people I work with and the company I work for. So much happens between the ages of 18 and 21, you learn so much, you develop your skill set, you want to learn, you want to succeed, you want to be noticed and you want to make a difference. I could have done this at University, but I didn’t, I did it in a place of work and I thrived, I loved it, I made a difference and so can you.


Here are a few comments from some of our swans who didn’t attend University.


“If I went to university I’d only have a few years behind me now, but I have 8 years instead. I’ve worked for a Government Minister, a Law firm and a hotel. Through all these experiences I have met lots of people from all different backgrounds which has allowed me to flourish in my current role.”

Alex Wiseman – Client Relationship and Engagement Executive


“At 16 years old I landed myself a job at a local accountancy practise in Norwich City Centre, and my career reaped the following benefits in doing so:

  • From day one I was learning on the job and, unlike many of my friends, getting paid for it – bonus!
  • I was exposed to the ‘real world’ and a professional environment at a younger age. 
  • Full financial support of my qualifications.
  • Unlimited expertise and guidance to support my professional development.

The early experience I gained in numerous industries and with diverse individuals was invaluable.”

 Hayley Leech – Head of Finance


“Not going to uni meant I had to earn money by doing anything that was offered. Working on a factory production line in the summer wearing overalls and a hair net makes me value, even today, current conditions and just how lucky we all are at Indigo Swan.

There’s an initial advantage in having a university education. However, I’ve seen enough examples to know if you work hard and have the right attitude, you can make it to where you want to be.”   

 Lee Hart – Head of Knowhow


So… should you go to University?

When someone next tells you to go to university, ask yourself these questions;

  • What would you study?
  • What would you do with your degree?
  • Could you learn more and have more fun getting a job?


If the answer to the first two takes some thought, then it’s not for you. The third question you won’t know the answer to, but you’ll have a lot of fun finding out.


Posted by James Groves in Swannings