Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it. – Theodore Roosevelt
This blog as been inspired by a conversation I had recently with a lovely German client of mine. After a day together, we went out for a pint and started chatting and she asked me what I studied at University. So I told her, I’ve got a BA and an MA in English Literature, and my specialism was postcolonial literature. She was baffled, “I thought you used to work as a manager in clinical trials?!” she exclaimed. I did, and now I’m a Learning & Business Development Consultant. It’s a funny old world, isn’t it?
My client explained to me that she got her degree in finance because at that time, in Germany, she was told that a degree like philosophy (which is what she actually wanted to study) would not get her a decent job at the end of it – and that got me thinking…
Certainly when I was at University I had no idea this is what I would be doing now. If I knew when I was 17, that my career would take me into L&D and business development, would I still have applied to study English Literature? I would hope so, I’ve had the privilege of learning about a subject I truly love, and when I studied literature I also studied history, politics, philosophy, gender, sexuality and cultural studies. I feel I’ve been incredibly lucky.
I’ve been very fortunate with my career journey and also in finding open-minded employers, willing to take a risk and give an un-experienced youngin’ a go. I do know that I’ve been fortunate, but I also think qualifications are what you make of them. Qualifications might get you into an interview, but on their own, they won’t get you the job. Interviewing well is one hell of an advantage.
I got into clinical trials (I was a technician in a lab) to pay for my Masters, but when I was at the lab I worked hard and tried to make an impression, and when I finished my Masters I was offered a supervisory role and then a management role. This is where I got my leadership experience, knowledge of working in a global environment, and HR training, which has been incredibly valuable to me in my current role.
Needless to say, if you want to be a dentist, don’t study English Literature – but, I would say, if you’re searching for your next employee, don’t discount someone who might be a little different to your usual candidate. They might bring with them a host of unexpected skills, experiences and talents. So far I’ve made a living out of being the youngest and least relevantly qualified candidate and I don’t think anyone has been too disappointed!
What do you guys think? Have any of you had a meandering career path like mine?