What they should tell you, but don’t, about careers

The lack of girls in engineering jobs has been in the news again today, with the requisite wailing and wringing of hands about how traditionally male sectors can attract more female recruits. The trouble with most discussions on this subject though is that they’re founded on a false premise – that the careers advice given out rather halfheartedly to disinterested teenagers in schools (usually consisting of a computer program that tells everyone to take up midwifery) is remotely worth taking.

Here’s the stuff that league table obsessed schools and academies won’t tell you.

  • Follow your dream
    That your school think your lifelong ambition is unrealistic or too competitive is completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether or not you’re prepared to put the effort in. If there’s something you want to do more than anything else in the world, don’t let anybody else tell you it can’t be achieved. Go for it.
  • University isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
    Sure, it makes them look better if as many people as possible trot off on to post A-level degree courses, even if they do so utterly devoid of any sense of what to do with their lives. But then their statistics don’t show the drop out rate, or the crippling debt – even if they do turn out the most over-qualified call centre staff the local education authority has ever seen. If you have a burning interest in a subject, or need a degree to pick up your dream career (see above) then you’ll have the time of your life. Otherwise – stop. Think. A university education isn’t what it used to be and you can always come back to it later – which leads us nicely to…
  • if you don’t know what to do, give it some thought
    Bizarrely some people seem to put more thought into their first car than their first ‘proper job’. Get out there a bit, try some things, talk to people. Work out what you like and what you don’t like. Ask people what you’re good at. Dabble. Diversify. Then decide.
  • Mix and match
    The idea that you have to be one thing, and can’t be several things until you work out which one you like, is a strange one. When you’re a teenager it’s perfectly acceptable to walk next door’s dog while doing your paper-round. Continue that theme into adult life. Makes life interesting
  • It’s never too late
    Just because you’ve spent the five years since dropping out doing one thing, doesn’t mean you have to do it for the rest of your life. Even when it might seem complicated (mortgages will do that to you) there’s always a way. You’re only going to get one shot at life, don’t spend it doing something you hate.

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