If any one had asked me a couple of years ago to willingly enter an auditorium filled with over two hundred 13 year old girls, and deliver to them a presentation about my career, I would have laughed heartily before rejecting their offer.
However, after signing up with a wonderful organisation called Inspiring the Future, that’s exactly what I found myself doing earlier this year.
It was a cold and wet February morning when I dragged myself out of bed before sunrise, in order to travel to a school in south east London. Waiting there for me were the Year 8 students, no doubt looking forward to a day out of normal lessons. I was scheduled to speak after a doctor and before a midwife – sandwiched in the health services!
I’d prepared a slideshow for them, and wanted to demonstrate that a career wasn’t necessarily a straight forward affair. I’ve written about my career in another blog post, and was hopeful that I could perhaps inspire some of the students to think about the world of work as something that could be fun, and enable them to help others as opposed to purely a way to pay the bills.
I began by explaining a little about the career I’d longed for as a 13 year old – in the world of the first Gulf War, I desperately wanted to become a war correspondent for the BBC, just like Kate Adie. Obviously I didn’t do that, but I think I have achieved the elements to which I was most attracted. Travelling to many places was my dream as a child and I’ve lived in various places around the world as well as having backpacked around over sixty countries. The reporting part came in the form of two travel blogs, which were brilliant fun to write, and were the inspiration for me to start this one.
Throughout the talk, I encouraged the students to be unafraid of adapting themselves to new surroundings, or retraining when necessary to move into a new career. I also emphasised the importance of networking, and explained that a great way to do this was through volunteering.
As nervous as I was before the talk, it was nothing compared to the feeling of exposure during the questions afterwards! The students had many questions for me, some of them easy to answer, but others required me to dig deep into my feelings as a teenager in the past. Why didn’t I try to be a war correspondent? What stopped me from going to university straight after school?
I answered as truthfully as I could, and hopefully they didn’t think I was a loser for not achieving exactly what I’d wanted when I was their age!