I’m not really the one to ask about career advice


When I was 4, just before I started school my Mum got a job as a stand-in cleaner at the local school. When I started school, she was able to become permanent and this was a perfect arrangement for us that lasted my entire school career. When I was 5 I wanted to be a cleaner just like my Mum. I was encouraged to set my sights a little higher, and there was no one higher than my Mum's boss so I wanted to be a Janitor.

My 3 older sisters left school at 16 to work in the local woollen mills. Perhaps like me at that time, they didn't know what types of jobs were available or maybe those jobs seemed like they were for other people. In my sisters' cases, I know that we were not a rich family in the financial sense and that they wanted to buy things like fashionable clothes and have fun nights out with their friends. The mills offered money in exchange for work and you didn't need an education to get it.

I think they knew this wasn't for them but it took them a few years and further study at college to find themselves on good career paths that they enjoy. As I was growing up, they all told me to stay in school and get an education and get a good job. As women who had returned to education as adults, they told me that it was harder as adults with other responsibilities such as homes, husbands and children.

I'm really lucky that I know what I like and I had a good idea of the direction I wanted to go in. When I was in primary school, my Dad and I programmed a basic card game into the computer and I knew I wanted to work in IT. I remember making a basic dating database for dolls lol! (I'm not sure if Sindy will ever forgive me for setting her up with Michael Jackson)

My niece has started college recently and I think she doesn't yet have an idea of what she wants to do as a career so the choices open to her are overwhelming, confusing and perhaps a little frustrating. She is studying art and building her portfolio for university which she plans to attend next year. I think she enjoys her course, but her lack of money (and the inherent problem of being unable to buy things) means that she is often swayed into flirting with the idea of dropping out and getting a job – any job. (And in today's climate, for high school leavers it's pretty limited to the service and retail industries, which is the normal market of the uni students looking for part-time work during their studies). It's a little bit like history repeating itself, since this is not unlike what her Mum did.

To my Niece: When it comes to this, you and I are different and whilst I would love to give you that one piece of great advice that would set you on your path to achieving your full potential, I'm lost. I will offer up this though; the world is a big place with lots of different and interesting people, places and opportunities. You are a creative, open-minded, adventurous and caring person and you won't let these opportunities pass you by. Maybe there's not just one career path out there for you. Maybe you're destined to be a sea-lion trainer, a makeup artist, an au-pair, a camp counsellor, then study at the open university before opening your own business. I might worry about you sometimes, but I know you'll be just fine.

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