Contributed by Vicki Jordan, Placements Advisor, Southampton Business School
“Make the most of every opportunity” is something commonly said to students embarking on a placement or a graduate career. I can remember careers advisors and parents telling me this many years ago but no-one really explained what this meant. I thought it was obvious, help colleagues, exceed customer expectations and your good work will be recognised and rewarded by a promotion within your team.
What I didn’t realise was that the career ladder metaphor is no longer relevant in 21st century careers. In my experience, a career at its worst is more like a messy spider’s web and at best a large and vibrant ever increasing jigsaw.
I started my career teaching Modern Languages, I wanted a career that had a clear progression route to a leadership position. Early on in my career, I was trusted with a number of school wide projects. When I returned part time following the birth of my first child, I was told I would be delivering some Year 9 Careers classes as well . I felt I was being punished for returning part time and although I liked delivering the lessons, I felt completely unprepared and unqualified. The following academic year I was asked to continue with careers <groan> and start delivering GCSE Business Studies <are you kidding me?> . I was ready for the challenge of setting up my own department and writing schemes of work from scratch but again I wasn’t terribly confident in my subject knowledge so it was a sharp learning curve. As it was an Applied GCSE course I was responsible for building links with local companies to bring the content to life. I enjoyed developing these links but often it took up too much of my time when I should have been marking books and planning my lessons.
More recently I joined the University in an Outreach role; I had decided that I needed to find a different career ladder! My new ‘career’ was to create opportunities for children aged 10-18 to explore the possibility of going on to Higher Education. This built on my skills and experiences of introducing the Primary Languages curriculum, teaching careers, arranging residential school trips whilst also giving me new experiences. One project involved working with sixth formers in Hackney and significant alumni of the University who worked in places like Whitehall and Canary Wharf. I’d never been to Canary Wharf and didn’t know what a CFO was in those days! It was hard work keeping the project on track with senior execs who were extremely enthusiastic yet short of time. There always seemed to be a change of PA, diary conflicts or a new company policy that I had to negotiate. Again I enjoyed developing these relationships but I was a bit jealous of my colleagues who only had to deal with academics down the corridor or across campus! Continue Reading →