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My study and career path can’t be described, on any terms, as conventional. While I’m not at the level of “I got a Law degree but now I’m a scuba diving teacher in Bali”, people are often amazed by how I could have fit in so many different experiences and paths into my young life.

I have studied English literature and Drama as my Bachelors in sunny Cape Town, got rejected from three London drama schools in one evening, and in a twist of fate, moved in 2019 to Melbourne, Australia to study a Masters in Journalism.

I’ve been a writer, a video-journalist, a social media manager, a performer and actor, and a scholar.

Globally, non-linear career paths are becoming more common as young people navigate the changing work landscape and economy, and in some cases, breaking free of the old stigma of switching careers.

We’re growing our skills and adapting to a job market that has only become tougher thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A quote by the COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org Cheryl Sandberg is especially true now: “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

I got my required IELTS score and in a couple of months, a shiny new visa arrived in my inbox.

My career path has certainly shown this, particularly my most recent chapter which has been the most surprising of all.

It started with finishing my Masters at the end of 2020 and deciding to apply for my Temporary Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) in Australia. The visa required that I take an English proficiency test, and IELTS seemed like the best fit for me.

So on a warm summer’s day in January 2021, I took the first step of my new chapter and walked into the IELTS Queen Street test centre with an excited feeling in my gut. I got my required IELTS score and in a couple of months, a shiny new visa arrived in my inbox.

But in the months between my IELTS test and getting the visa, my world completely changed.

When One Door Closes

When we act on our own behalf - even taking a step as seemingly small as sitting an IELTS test - it opens us up to our potential to create lives that we only dreamed of before.

Having completed my Master of Journalism, I knew that if I wanted to make it as a journalist I would have to go through a trial by fire first as an intern.

Even if you’re willing to go through the trial, internships, especially the ones at major outlets like the ABC, are extremely competitive. With Covid budget cuts, the small supply of internships normally on offer became like the crumbs at the bottom of a chip bag, with more than 300 young journalists competing for the same greasy little crumb.

Somehow I did get an ABC interview for a rural internship. After a difficult 1 hour interview in which I did a pretend radio interview with 30 seconds to prepare and was asked to come up with more than 10 stories on the spot (I had prepared some, just not on the topic of mining), I didn’t make the cut.

Another interview for a job with an editor I knew also fell through.

We all love it when things go well in our lives, but I’ve never learnt more about myself and what I really wanted than when doors have slammed in my face.

It was another slammed door that caused me to pursue my Master of Journalism in Australia in the first place.

Should I tell you about how I flew to London to audition for an acting and directing Masters at three of my dream schools? I had prepared for months for these auditions after deciding I wanted to pursue theatre, but not long after three rejection emails arrived one evening in a single killing blow.

It was brutal and it took me a long time to recover my sense of hope again about my chosen career path.

But rejection of all kind asks us a question. How badly do I want this? Am I willing to fight for this? For some people, the answer is yes. And when they do eventually make it, the taste of success is that much better.

But for others, these big rejections are sometimes the push we need to say, “Actually, maybe I don’t want this. Maybe this is a message to change direction.”

A New Beginning

Not getting into the drama schools was my “aha” moment that maybe my second choice, a Master of Journalism in Melbourne, was a better fit for me.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. As a student journalist in Melbourne, I produced stories covering topics from regenerative agriculture, to new technologies in healthcare, to a deep dive into the Australian kombucha industry.

But when I couldn’t find a job after graduating, after months of applications and hardly any interviews while I waited for my visa, I was forced yet again to choose.

I adored the interviewing and creative aspect of journalism where I could tell stories that mattered. And I was good at it.

But did I really love the news and reporting aspect of it so much? Was I truly prepared for the story chasing and the busy newsrooms, the crazy pressure and emotional toll of being an intern and later a working journalist? Some people love the excitement of it, but with a lump in my throat, I realised I was not one of them.

What I really wanted was to be a world-class storyteller who uses writing, video and audio to tell important stories. My favourite stories as a journalist had been ones where I got to meet inspiring people providing solutions for their industries and some of the world’s most pressing issues.

And just as I decided to start my own freelance business supporting these exact kinds of clients as a writer, videographer and social media manager, my visa came through.

It was like the planets had finally aligned.

It’s never easy starting a business in a foreign country, but with my visa approved, I now had the freedom to build my skills as a freelancer and business owner, as well as a totally new vision for my career.

It’s been almost a year now and I’m grateful every day for this new path - and my own courage to go after it. Together with my freelance work, I was also offered a part-time role towards the end of 2021 as the marketing lead for a fun Melbourne-based startup.

I couldn’t have imagined any of this happening just a year ago. But it shows us that when we act on our own behalf - even taking a step as seemingly small as sitting an IELTS test - it opens us up to our potential to create lives that we only dreamed of before.

Learn more about IELTS for study and migration

About this Article

Published on February 22, 2022

About this Author

It Starts with IELTS: The Freedom to Change Your Path - profile - ANZ

Anthea is a spunky multi-platform journalist and social media specialist. Originally from South Africa, she is living in Melbourne, VIC.