Careers advice… for 10-year-olds?!

Dude is puzzled by news that the Government is planning to encourage kids to start planning their career at primary school.

“If I don’t know what I’m going to end up doing ‘When I grow up’, how on earth is a 10-year-old meant to know?” you cry.

Indeed.

However, Dude feels kneejerk criticism of this plan is a little harsh since Ed Balls’ idea clearly comes from a good place.

It is indeed worrying – scrap that, it’s tragic – that little  kids with big dreams seem to lose their ambition as they go through the school system.

It seems the poor little sausages get it drummed out of them, somewhere along the line.

However, Dude is concerned (as ever!) that (yet again!) the most important and useful message is being missed here.

When will the careers establishment wake up and smell the uber-strength double espresso?

A career is no longer something we can ‘plan’ in the way people once did. Now, it’s something we just have to ‘navigate’ as we go along.

As you lot have discovered on graduating into this swamp of uncertainty, the world of work  is simply changing too fast for there to be any guarantees for any of us anymore. Clinging to the old, outdated model of career advice is pointless.

Instead, we will simply have to learn to pick up skills, make smart moves and create opportunities as we go along. Above all, we need to learn to stay flexible.

Case in point. When I chose to be a journalist aged 22, I knew it would be hard to get in – which it was. But what I didn’t expect was for eight years later (I’m 30 now), the entire industry would be thrown into crisis due to a double whammy of the recession (big brands’ advertising budgets have va-moosed overnight) and the digital revolution (free online access to information and entertainment means consumers no longer feel they should have to pay for content. Kind of a bummer when you’re one of the people who generates that content!).

However, the disintegration of the industry I thought I’d be in for life has coincided with a crisis in the graduate careers world, something that I happened to write a book about a couple of years ago and feel even more passionately about now (largely because everyone else seems to be doing such a horrendous job of serving you lot).

So these days I’m splitting my time between developing projects in this space and writing for the handful of my old journalism clients who still have a budget to pay me. And actually, it’s kind of fun!

The same has happened in the music industry. And the book publishing industry. And now public sector spending is about to be cut… We’re all going to have to learn to think on our feet and keep finding a little space for ourselves to add value to an employer who thinks our talents are worth paying for.

To be honest, that’s the best career advice you can give a 10-year-old.

The news that there is no longer any such thing as a ‘safe’ career could be seen as scary for people trying to help young people crack the world of work.

Dude disagrees.

Why? Because for young people, the idea of a ‘job for life’ was always a giant yawn. Actually, it sounded borderline horrific. The start of their career felt like the end of the party.

The pressure to choose a career aged 22 has for many years been ridiculous, especially as most grads leave uni without a clue where their true talents lie because – guess what – they haven’t really done anything yet. (They’ve been busy studying, remember?).

And it’s still ridiculous now. Ask a graduate what they want to do with the rest of their life and they’ll say ‘Errr… Oh God… I haven’t decided yet… Urgh….’

Ask them what they might like to do for the next couple of years – and you’ll get a totally different response. ‘I’d like to see what PR is like,’ they might say. Or, ‘My cousin works for a property company and I’ve always liked the sound of that.’

Shortening the timescale makes it a far more reasonable, manageable question for young people to tackle. They’re bright, they’re adaptable, they’ll figure the rest out as they go along.

Young people aren’t afraid that jobs for life are over – they weren’t that fussed about them in the first place. To them, being asked to choose a job for life is far scarier than being told they’ll just have to work it out as they go.

When you look at it like this, Dude reckons that there’s no news here that a 10-year-old can’t handle.

: )

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