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Tw. Li. In.

Diverse skills and attitudes needed to find work in an uncertain world

Part I explored the first 11 years of working life for me, finding and succeeding in very diverse industries. Part II of my reflection leads me to my third proper ‘job’ – having kids (not me personally, my wife did the hard work) and being a full time parent (ok, possibly not an industry (?) but it really was an exhausting and full time job!). My wife and I decided that we wanted one of us to be at home to look after our children. We decided that we would have to manage on one salary for a while and as her salary was higher than mine it made sense for me to stay at home. I actually found this ‘role’ incredibly difficult for a number of reasons (not least of which was that I can’t stand ironing!).

I like to feel I am in control, but looking after tiny human beings with no definitive instruction manual was completely alien to me. Yes, I read some books and attended some of the groups, but nothing seemed to give me the answers I was looking for. However, both my children (now 16 and 18) are still alive and they are turning into pretty decent young adults, so I can’t have failed completely in this role… (though I’ll make a final evaluation of my performance in this role in a few years time).

Research and planning is important, but sometimes you just have to go with gut feeling. You have to be willing to throw yourself into things with your heart and soul. Oh and I really do not like ironing!

And finally, 13 years ago I literally fell, by chance, into my forth and current industry – namely, workplace learning and careers guidance. I moved from Essex to Northamptonshire and was looking for work. I attended a careers advice session hoping to get some interview skills support. Two hours later I got a phone call from that organisation asking if I wanted a job selling NVQs (I mean, come on Dad – it really does come knocking on your door). I quickly realised that selling wasn’t really my thing, but since then I have been a careers advisor, a tutor, an assessor, a coach, a mentor, a quality assurer, a manager and a director. I got my roles through research, targeted and speculative job hunting; getting the right qualifications and accreditations; being in the right place at the right time; taking a chance; networking; and just having to adapt to changing situations. I have also benefitted greatly from having two strong mentors (Jayne Wise and Rebecca ‘Beccy’ Tarbox), who provided me with the right balance of nurturing, support, challenge and belief to enable me to grow in confidence and progress in my roles. They have both had a huge amount of influence in my life and I thank them both for that.

And now my career path in this industry continues to evolve. In the past 6 months, I have launched a small workplace learning business with Beccy and taken on a Project Manager role at Diversiti UK with Garry Connor and his team. Both of these opportunities have essentially come through my existing network and reconnecting with people on LinkedIn. Diversiti UK is a great business with a big heart, helping businesses understand cultural diversity and awareness and embrace the positive impact of equality legislation. It also works hard to support individuals to have equal opportunities and to make the most of their potential through excellent training programmes that help people find and sustain work.

Build strong networks; listen to others; learn new skills and gain qualifications; research, prepare and target; be driven and self motivated; demonstrate willingness (to try new things, to be willing to change); make your own luck; value equality and diversity.

I recognise that my career trajectory isn’t for everyone, some people will have clear career paths mapped out, whereas others may want to stay in a particular industry. However, an enlightening moment for me was when I attended a workshop for careers advisors with the well regarded and excellent careers tutor Liane Hambly. I was expressing my concerns about not having a grand career plan for the next 10 years (thinking there was something wrong with me). She explained to me ‘planned happenstance theory’, and that many people don’t have that grand plan. What is more important for many is recognising and taking advantages of opportunities as they come your way.

Regardless of what your career plans are however, it would be unwise to think that any job is for life any more. The current levels of uncertainty, unpredictability, globalisation and change required in the workplace suggest that a positive and proactive approach to flexibility and a willingness to learn, try new things, to be tolerant of differences, and to change and adapt would be sensible strategies for anyone. We need to take the chances when they come and we need to make our own luck. We need to build a strong network of family, friends and colleagues who we can help and who in turn can help us. We need to be self motivated, believe in ourselves and be true to our values. If we have these things in place, we should be able to ride out any storm…