Robyn Slingsby was laughed at when she told the school careers adviser she wanted to be a journalist. Here she questions how useful careers advice actually is and why advisers are keen to put a dampener on young ambitions...
I remember pretty much getting laughed out of the room when I announced to my school careers adviser I wanted to be a journalist, aged 16. Apparently I was aiming too high and when I said I at least wanted to give it a try, the poor woman didn’t have any help to offer me. She was as clueless as I was and so I was left to find out this information all on my lonesome. And after bombarding all the local newspapers in my area with letters and phone calls, two years later, aged 18, I got my first job as a trainee reporter and I’ve never looked back. Not so unachievable after all.
So, how helpful is careers advice? I did one of those computer tests when I was about 14, the ones where you answer a load of multiple choice questions and at the end it churns out your ideal career. I was suited to being a dog groomer apparently, even though I’m not overly fussed about animals.
Having just done a quick survey around the office, my colleagues have received a mixed lot of careers advice too. One colleague – now a press officer - was told she should be a prison warden, another not to follow her dream of being a lawyer because her backchat would see her in contempt of court. Others say they never really had any proper careers advice when they were at school or college and were left to find their own way into the world of work.
Things have no doubt changed a great deal since I was at school, but just the other week careers advisers came under fire for not doing enough to push girls towards well paid jobs and regularly get stick for putting a dampener on youngster’s ambitions.
I interviewed Tanni Grey-Thomspon the other week, the UK’s best known Paralymic athlete and an honorary graduate of The Open University, who was told by a careers adviser that she shouldn’t bother with university and would be more suited to a job answering telephones. Good job she didn’t listen eh?
While careers advisers have to manage the expectations of the young and when a lad says he wants to be a professional footballer, the odds are probably against it, but pushing them into something entirely inappropriate isn’t the way to do it. Why not inform them of the pitfalls, the stiff competition and huge slog ahead of them? And if they still want to go ahead, what’s the harm in trying?
Kids don’t need their dreams pulling from under them, they need encouragement. Because at that age it’s very easy to believe someone when they say you can’t do something. But if you don’t try, you just don’t know do you?