A few years ago, when I was working at a girls’ boarding school, I was asked at least once a year to give a careers talk to the pupils, because I was one of the few members of staff whose career had included extensive time away from a school environment.
Amongst other things, I’d been a journalist and a PR consultant. This experience meant I could speak with authority about the value of “transferable skills”, as the jargon put it.These are skills that would be of as much use in one job as another – number management, working with people, planning, and so on, as opposed to the ability to manufacture a Ford Escort car, say, which would only be of any use to an employee of the Ford Motor Company.
Before my talk, to be given under the watchful eye of the careers teacher, I made sure to do my homework. I put together an impressive collection of evidence of my previous careers to use as visual aids. Slamming down on the desk a big exhibition catalogue that I’d once edited would be very useful for waking up any girls who had nodded off.
I also took along a very interesting press cutting that I’d spotted in a national daily. This article predictied that by the time the current generation of schoolchildren had grown up, the notion of a “job for life” or even a career for life would be outmoded. Instead, the average worker of the future would be likely to do an estimated 17 jobs during his or her career. It would also become the norm to do more than one job at a time, with at least one of these being pursued from the home rather than in a separate workplace.
I duly photocopied this article and distributed it among the girls, just after I’d startled them by describing my first transferable skill: teaching myself to touch-type. They exchanged disbelieving looks at my description of my electric typewriter, which in those days passed for high-tech.
From the security of that full-time job in the school, I had no inkling that within less than 10 years I’d have a portfolio career myself – a concept that at the time had terrified me as much as it had the girls. Now, viewing the notion from the other side of the fence , I can’t believe that I survived working in just one job for so long without a crushing sense of claustrophobia.
This complete about-face didn’t really strike me until I was interviewed recently by a terrific online magazine called Bea, which was set up as the antidote to the typical women’s newstand publication. I love its strapline: “BEA… whoever you want to be”. And, do you know, I think I am now doing just that.
Click here to read their article all about, er, me…. (and lots of other great articles on a huge range of topics). And be amazed at how much I fit in to each day. I know I am. No wonder I’m always tired…