“What do you want to do with your life?”
“What career do you want?”
These are questions I remember being bombarded with at school from people who have no clue about having a proper job (i.e. teachers and career officers). I really don’t think the school method of preparing children for life was helpful.
I am going to guess (based on a sample of friends, acquaintance, work colleagues and family) that 90% have never known what we want to do and the chosen ‘career’ we are on is just by luck or what we fell into.
I am not against having plans or ambitions (after all the world will always need doctors, farmers, engineers etc) but I think in many respects it is better to be flexible in what we want to do and adapt to the opportunity that presents.
I say this learning the hard way. My first serious ‘what do I want to do with my life’ was to be a speech therapist. Which in reflection is pretty stupid. I think I may have been presented with that career choice by doing some career test. It was either that or I said it on a whim to keep the idiot career officer at school quiet.
This aspiration probably didn’t even last a month. Since transferring from the glorified baby sitting service called ‘school’ to being an adult I can think of 3 careers that I have wanted to get into:
- Web Design
- Sport Centre Management
- Environment Industry
Out of all the time spent visiting career officers, going to job fairs at University and picking up useless pamphlets the closest to any of these ambitions was a six month placement that had no job at the end of it.
How much time and money did I spend trying to attain qualifications for roles that never transpired?
The answer is a lot.
Now I work in Project Management, which I fell into by pure luck and is developing into a nice career. Do you no how much I have spent on that?
To be fair, I did projects as a university student and in my graduate placement I managed a project, which probably helped me get my start in that sector.
But I never dreamed of working on projects. I never deliberately did a university course that broke down the theory of project management into a load of impractical modules that had no real job benefit.
It was pure chance – I had picked up some experience and lots of dead-end admin jobs that meant I had suitable experience for a job I applied for out of pure luck – because I was motivated to finish an application.
I would not be surprised if I had deliberately tried to get into project management, I am guessing that I would have ended up falling into something else by pure luck, such as a sanitary towel bin salesman.
Recent stats from the UK say that the average graduate expects to have a starting salary of £26,000. Maybe if you did a STEM subject.
For the rest of us it is a battle for the graduate positions (considering that employers will prioritise those who went to the Elite Universities and students from ‘money’ families who can rely their ‘old man’s’ network connections to get a decent starting job.
The leftovers who don’t get those opportunities have to find a way to work up, while working posts that they are over qualified for. And there is a skill where you have to do the best to aspire to work your way up without pissing off coworkers who are resentful or jealous and will guilt you by saying things like “what you think you’re better than us?”
As I started this ripping on the school system for encouraging us to pull careers out of a hat. I thought I would suggest a (perhaps slightly idealistic) different approach:
More of: Encouraging children to be dynamic in their dreams – have an ambition (I wanna be an actor… yeah but what if you don’t make it, what next…)
Don’t discourage the dreams: As children we always have impossible to reach dreams that have a bi-product of money, fame, status (i.e. actors, sports starts, musicians). And there is this thing where we say “You can do anything if you put your mind to it”. Well you can’t. Accept the dreams but encourage a Plan B or Plan C or Plan D etc etc…
Be dynamic: Teach kids to be dynamic in there approach to careers, sure you may wish to work in Career A, but end up in Career B – teach them to make the most of the opportunities in Career B, so they end up in Career C, which is actually not what they originally thought of, but it is not bad.
Career Officers out: As you probably guessed I hate Career Officers. Perhaps it is all the useless advice, perhaps it is that time when I told the career officer I wanted to work in IT but she had no clue how to advise me. But Careers Officers can’t advise on anything but the highs and lows of being a Career Officer. More involvement with people with actually jobs
University is not the only path: I remember my finally year at college, they activiley forced us to complete University applications. I resisted because I didn’t know what I wanted to study. The college was motivated by future students who would see impressive ‘X’ number went to University – regardless of how many dropped out or studied a useless degree and now tend a bar on minimum wage.
I am not against the idea of education for the sake of education, but if you want to study History you might want to get a library membership and a job, its much better than having a student loan you can’t pay off.
More mentors for first jobs: When I had my first job I had no clue how to utilise the experience I had. I didn’t know how to move onto the next job or take the initiative to gain the extra experience to move up. I generally found that I was stuck at the bottom being told I didn’t have the experience to do a slightly senior role. It would have been great if someone had mentored me.
Focus on practical skills: One of the scariest things about leaving school is that I had no clue how to live in an adult world. I wouldn’t understand the concept of paying bills, I had no DIY skills. How did the school get me ready? I once made a acrylic egg cup. I still have no clue how to put up a shelf. Not a career development, but how does it help?
Less of useless career officers, stupid pamphlets (to work in customer service you should be social – duh..) and teachers who only became teachers because they thought “I don’t know what to do with my life, teachers get a decent salary…”
So those are my thoughts, Career Officers and Teachers – please post any hate mail below, thanks.