This week students await their A-Level results with great expectation. I remember feeling like that too. I had two conditional offers from universities and was all set to go and study to be a physiotherapist. Then I got my results - my grades were lower than expected and I found myself in UCAS Clearing.
If that day you had told me that four years later I would be working for the International Tennis Federation as an Assistant Research Officer, based in Valencia, I wouldn't have believed you! I was just so disappointed on results day - my whole family had been to university and I knew how important it was in terms of maximising my career options, so the idea that I might not have that opportunity really worried me.
I was never in any doubt that I still wanted to go to university, so I had to calm down and look at my options.
I spent a lot of time looking at the Clearing list for physiotherapy courses, as that had been my first choice, but unfortunately there were no spaces. I switched my attention to Sports Science, as the A-Level requirements were similar, and I spotted a Sport and Exercise Science course at the University of Bedfordshire. I spoke to a member of the admissions team who explained the content of the course and it sounded just what I wanted to study. I sent over the necessary paperwork immediately.
I had a fantastic experience of university. I settled into the course really easily and everyone was really supportive. I had the same set of tutors throughout my course so I got to know them really well and vice versa. They were very approachable and helped me outside my course too, including helping me secure work experience.
I was really keen to hit the ground running, particularly given the circumstances in which I got in to university; I was just delighted to be there. I think meeting new people and networking is the number one thing - if you don't ask you don't get. I did whatever I could to speak to whoever I could, to get my foot in the door.
With this approach I was able to gain experience in tennis, my favourite sport, I was the university's Tennis Ambassador and Tennis Coordinator, and I volunteered as part of the university's 'Get into Sport' scheme. I was also awarded a Gold Sport Coach Scholarship which meant that the university paid for my Level 2 coaching qualification.
The experience I gained was vital in securing my current position at the International Tennis Federation. I was able to work in a great variety of roles at university, from coaching junior players to widening tennis participation among the students. This experience, coupled with my university qualifications, meant I had a really strong CV when I left.
So from the setback of a disappointing results day, I am now in position to support the tennis stars of the future, developing tennis coaching worldwide and overseeing 'Tennis iCoach' - a huge online library of resources for players, coaches, parents and Sports Science practitioners.
It is easy to be disheartened when you are faced with disappointment. Your dream job may seem a long way off, but it is crucial to keep persisting and to remember that with a positive outlook, anything is possible.
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