Katy sent this in to us saying ‘I’m sending this in before I get annoyed with myself about how preachy it sounds’. I happen to think it’s the opposite of preachy. I think it’s open minded, positive, and really pretty inspiring. Katy has followed the path that so many of us have – Worked hard at school, chose sensible A- Levels, on to Uni, and then a job related to the degree you worked hard for…because, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Katy argues not, and she argues it well…
I’ve always hated people trying to pin me down about what I want to do when I grow up. When I was 12 we played this ‘game’ in PSHE called the Real Game. It was this ridiculous game whereby you got assigned a career with a salary, and had to plan your time and money and how you would spend them when you were grown up. You know, alongside putting a condom on a banana…
12 year old me was not impressed with a teacher making me pick me career path and how I would spend my spare time when I was an adult. I told them I dreamt of being a ballerina. Any of you who have met me know why that is ridiculous.
Ever since then, picking A levels or a course at uni, people have asked me what I want to do. My answer has always been “I don’t know, why do I have to know?” And I stick by that. Why do you have to know? I picked my subjects and uni course based on what I loved. I still love Geography, I love glaciers and rivers and hills and being able to look at the world around me and explain it. I never had a career path in mind, and I hated people expecting me to.
So somehow I missed it when I started expecting myself to follow a certain path. I got good A levels, went to do Geography at university, graduated etc… Then thought because I had a geography degree, and had knowledge in modelling and statistics and environmental change had to do something that involved all of those things.
And that’s what I did. I joined a sustainable energy company and did research for them. I enjoyed it in the main part, or at least didn’t hate it. I used knowledge I’d gained and I guess I was making a difference to people, which is a nice motivator. It was so what I should be doing.
But I was bored. Partially it was the office 9 to 5, sitting at my desk all day. Partially it was my supervisors feeling they could do the job quicker than they could explain it to me, so I didn’t have enough to do. I think mainly it was not talking to people. It’s easy to be in your own world all day, ploughing through statistics. Temptingly easy, even now… I knew I could do it, and carry on doing it, and I was clever and qualified to do it so why shouldn’t I?
But when my contract came to an end I knew I didn’t love it. I knew I didn’t want to do it forever. So I let myself open up. I considered every job I saw. I looked for anything that interested me, that I thought I could do, that I could get to while still living with my husband and that paid me enough to live on. Not too difficult a set of criteria, you’d think? But a whole 5 unemployed, salary-less months later… Maybe so.
So why am I writing this post? Well, I found it. A job I have been in a grand total of one week, but that I love so far. I have gone from what I thought I should be doing to something completely different.
I currently work for a major wine retailer in the UK. I applied because I love wine, that’s pretty much it! I don’t know or pretend to know a lot about wine, but I know I like it. The job is as a trainee manager, so some responsibility from the offset, and involves lots of training including the WSET level 3 award and chance to do a diploma in wine. So it’s challenging me and expanding my knowledge, which is important to me.
If anyone had told me through my years of education that I would essentially be doing a job that involved driving a van full of boxes of wine to deliver, stacking boxes of wine piles high in a store, sweeping and cleaning and carrying and generally being a retail dogsbody, I’d have not believed them. Surely this is beneath me, or not suited to me, not what I should be doing.
Well, past version of me, you’re wrong. Maybe it’s not using every skill I’ve ever learnt, maybe I’ll forget how to program a climate model or measure the characteristics of a river. What I am doing is enjoying myself, keeping busy, learning a lot, introducing a lot of variety and activity and ambition into my life. I’m no longer sitting at a desk being bored and counting down the day. I’m up, I have things to do all day. I’m developing some definite muscles on my upper arms, I can now drive a van and properly taste a wine. I can sell.
I spend my whole day talking to people who are interested in something I’m also interested in. I deliver to people who are happy to see me bringing in boxes of wine and ask me in for a cup of tea. I am using my whole self and not counting down the hours and days til I have time off.
Why did no-one ever tell me? Why did I never let myself think that maybe, just maybe, what you’ve already done isn’t everything you have to be. Why limit yourself? Why let your previous choices dictate all of your future ones?
I can now genuinely say how much of a difference it is making to my life to do a job I really enjoy rather than one that’s OK, that pays the bills and gets me through the day.
This isn’t a rant against office jobs or for retail jobs. I’m not trying to be prescriptive. I just don’t think I realised how my preconceptions about what I should do were holding me back. How much I was holding back myself. Don’t do that. Do something you love.