All of your business: Back to school
Philip is the business editor at the Weekly Post. He has a background in law and languages and began his career providing corporate services to international companies in Denmark. He recently embarked on a humanities degree at Roskilde University.
Last year, six years after finishing university in my home country, I went back to school. This was the culmination of a process of realising that there was a significant gap between what I was qualified to do in Denmark and what I wanted to do.
When I was a teenager deciding what to study, career counsellors made it sound as though transferable skills were what counted when it came to getting a job. Especially with law, they said, there’s no end to what people with a law degree can do.
I don’t know how valid this advice would have been in the UK, but coming to Denmark after graduating, I definitely didn’t feel as though I had a carte blanche to take the job of my choice. On the contrary.
There were two main problems. Firstly, I only had a bachelor’s degree. This would have been enough to start the professional legal qualifications or start a job as a non-lawyer in Scotland, but in Denmark people would ask me “Why did you stop?” A master’s is definitely par for the course
The next problem was that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Paradoxically, I discovered this after (despite being a lowly bachelor) getting a job where my legal studies were relevant – something that requires a degree of luck as a foreigner in Denmark.
In many cases, transferable skills didn’t seem to cut it. I realised that writing that I was a law graduate, for example, on a job application to an advertising agency was tantamount to writing the application on a piece of toilet paper. That had been used.
I again feel that luck has been on my side, since my current employer gave me this job on the basis of those much vaunted transferable skills. But I don’t feel that I can always rely on the same happening in the future. I’ve come to think of looking for a job in Denmark without a relevant master’s as being like trying to sell a used car without having all the paperwork – it might drive alright, but potential buyers are wary.
That’s why I decided to go back to school.