The careers advice I received growing up was pathetic. I had a short interview, I filled in a little aptitude form and was promptly told I was terrible with words and that I should consider doing something practical. In fact, it was suggested that I become a librarian.
Having been a journalist for 32 years, it’s safe to say I didn’t follow any of that advice. Nobody took it seriously; it was all a bit of a joke.
Careers advice has come a long way since then. The idea that a career encompasses lots of different chapters and lots of different things is normal now but wasn’t then. Jobs for life are a thing of the past.
Normal not to know
The beginning of March is National Careers Week, and in the build up to this, I’ve been talking to students in my school about the beginnings of my own career in journalism. I’ve told them that at their age I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, and that this was – and still is - perfectly normal.
Our lives are long and there are plenty of chances to try different things before finding something we love. Picking a job is not a decision to be made in school. There will be so many jobs for young people which have not even been invented yet.
Instead the focus in schools should be on getting students ready for the world of work and giving them the soft and hard skills that employers seek but so seldom find.
I tell all my students that they must behave in my lessons professionally, as if they were in offices. I omit to mention that people in office environments are sometimes more immature than school children, but instead tell them that they must speak with conviction, or else no one will listen. Being able to talk in public is a vital skill that I wish I’d learnt in school. I think of my own nerves in my 40s when I started presenting to lots of people, and regretting that I’d never been taught how to do it.
Knowing what employers want
Creating new ways of behaving and encouraging students to speak and express is hugely important in their employability in the future. So I do go on and on about it.
This is one of the ways in which Now Teachers can be helpful. A lot of us have run huge teams and been involved in the recruitment of younger employees: we know what employers want. We know the importance of being able to look someone in the eye, shake their hand and say 'good morning' in a convincing way.
Beyond this, I think Now Teachers are well placed to close the gap between academic knowledge and its application in the real world.
When teaching a maths lesson on probability, I found myself explaining how car insurance is priced – based on my experience as a director on the board of a car insurance company. We then we had a general conversation about the risk factors in car crashes – it wasn’t remotely relevant to the syllabus but the class absolutely loved it. It's vital to tie learning to the real world.
During National Careers Week, Now Teachers will be continuing to share their skills with their charges, while bringing their former careers to the front. But we also want to blaze the trail for career-changers everywhere, because we should all celebrate life-long learning.
Change can feel unthinkable after so many years of doing one thing but our careers can change with our priorities, as mine has. And who knows? In ten years’ time I might want to become a librarian.
"I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, and that this was – and still is – perfectly normal".