I’m speaking at a school tomorrow, talking about my “day job” and how young people thinking about a career in the same area might progress towards it. I’d prepared slides with the academic requirements and ideas of the sort of roles available. I’d also prepared a slide with ideas for gaining experience, firstly to see if this really is a career they want to pursue, and secondly and to begin to acquire skills and knowledge of the area.
I did wonder how to put across to them though the intangibles that go into finding work you love. It’s also day 7 of Celestine’s Positive Affirmation Challenge (http://personalexcellence.co) and the theme is opportunity-“I can find or make opportunities and make things happen”.
For example, in my line of work, you have to spend 2 years in a training role, under the direction of a qualified practitioner. I was ready to begin training during the last large recession, around 1992, and these were not easy roles to find then, as now. So I went to a local practitioner on “work experience”. I sent in my CV, pestered them by telephone and agreed I would spend 2 weeks without pay in the summer, helping them out and learning things. And I just never left. I kept working and kept quiet and finally they agreed to pay me (possibly through guilt!) and 3 months after I started my work experience, I was given a formal traineeship, which let me begin my career.
I was lucky in that I was able to support myself and live with my parents through the 3 months that I wasn’t paid. I viewed it as my opportunity to get my foot in the door, or as valuable experience for somewhere else. But how does a young person without that support manage? The world is different now. Is t still possible to find or create opportunities?
I think it is. Sometimes maybe by the more indirect route-rather than focus wholly on one way to a goal, be prepared to consider different paths. At the moment I am trying to find a PhD placement but accept that a fully funded placement for 3 years is going to be hard to find. So I am considering studying over 5 years and working part-time to fund my own living expenses. Back at the start of my career, I accept I would have had the fixed mindset “I must find a grant and do it in 3 years” but now I’m old enough to accept that the ideal isn’t always possible. It doesn’t mean that the whole thing isn’t possible though.
One of my mother’s favourite sayings is that we each make our own luck. She doesn’t actually believe in luck, she believes in working hard, taking opportunities and making the most of them.
So tomorrow I hope to encourage the young people I meet to look for and take opportunities, however far off the beaten track they may seem. Who knows where they may take us and the unexpected treasures we may find there.