Friday 24 June 2011

The Friday Column

When I grow up I want to be.....

Today's Friday Column is focusing on Careers Advice and my experience of it...

I have to admit to being a little bit jealous of those people who know exactly what they want to do in life and set out to do it. In my experience, however, I think that those people are in the minority and the vast majority of people do not know what they want to do 'when they grow up' and need some guidance.  
Of course there are a lucky few who manage to stumble into fabulous jobs or a career by chance or through contacts, some find their niche again by being in the right place at the right time and through sheer hard work and perseverance but many people dread Monday morning and their daily grind.

I was one of those crying out for advice...

I went to an all girl's private school and there the expectation was of high achievement and the head mistress at the time decided that we should not fulfill the traditional female role and all aspire to acquiring professional jobs. 

Aged 13 I watched a televison programme on how forensic science helped catch criminals and it all sounded so fascinating and satisfying that I then focused on this for a career (albeit briefly!). As chance would have it, a week later one of the teachers was holding a mini careers lesson and asked us if we had any jobs/careers in mind, I mentioned becoming a forensic scientist and she got all excited and then uttered the words 'of course you have to excel at science'.  There ended that dream.. I actually didn't really like science at all and certainly wasn't great at it. 

By the time I was 16 I had a good idea of the kind of things I was good at .. English, Drama and History (where memory came in useful). I had this romantic notion that I wanted to be a novelist. I loved writing and this seemed like the natural choice. When a careers adviser visited the school I mentioned this and she told me it was so refreshing to hear, that all the other girls had told her they wanted to be Doctors or Lawyers. She gave me a few leaflets on various jobs where good writing skills would be an advantage and went on her merry way.

One of the suggestions was a career in advertising, well that sounded fun and exciting! In my leaving interview with the headmistress I mentioned that I wanted to go into advertising and she made a throwaway comment 'Oh you have to be good at art'. Eeek, I was dreadful at art. Another choice shot down in an instant.

Around this time I was watching LA Law on TV and the lawyers were all glamorous, life seemed exciting and at the same time the bad guys were put away or punished appropriately. This career seemed to suit my personality and my ability. I studied law at 'A' level and then went on to obtain a good degree in the subject. 

Whilst I was at University I ended up on the jury of an Old Bailey murder trial. I was fascinated by it and yet by the end I was so frustrated. I got to see the mechanics of the legal profession but when it came down to it I realised the verdict was out of your control.

I did enjoy law a lot but I felt that I would enjoy doing something a bit more creative more. I visited the careers adviser at the University but was just given a few photocopied sheets on various subjects that I had expressed an interest in and was once again left to my own devices. I felt disappointed because I felt that a bit more digging might have found out what I would really be good at and then guidance on how to find and apply for these roles would have been great. In fact that is what I thought careers advice was.

In those days the internet was just emerging so pretty much everything was done offline, I would imagine these days it would be easier for students to do their own research on these things.

I had a few jobs in retail whilst at School and University, I had a short stint in recruitment and then gained a place on a graduate training programme. While I was working at this company I found that a role in product management was a good match. I think that I would love to work in product management for a cosmetics company as that is where my interest and passion lies. Alternatively, I know that I would enjoy writing articles as my passion for writing has never diminished. I recently assisted proofreading and editing a book on the Beauty Salon Industry which I enjoyed immensely. 

There were so many roles out there that were not mentioned when I went for careers advice and yet they existed!

My advice - Consider what you are good at, what kind of things motivate and drive you. Read What Colour Is Your Parachute for some great tips. Try and obtain some work experience in areas of interest and make lots of contacts. These days it is most definitely not a job for life so there is so far more scope to try lots of different things. There are lots of courses available to learn new skills and improve existing skills for job development and progression.

What was your experience of careers advice and what advice would you give someone starting out?


  1. Really interesting piece, thanks for posting. Sounds like you would make a great careers adviser yourself. What was the book you proofread and when will It be out?? Have a great weekend.

  2. I love this post. It's so hard to know what you want to do when you're young and I often felt that doing one thing excluded others completely. Though I always loved writing, I did English not a journalism degree so I'd have more scope, though often feel I'm trapped if I want to change career. Love your honesty.

    Starting out, I think trial and error is great- make the most of school offers and try jobs you like the sound of, don't just take the easy dads office route.


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