I’m so delighted to have Karen Bleakley guest posting for me this week. She has written the perfect post to share with your teens who are struggling to decide on a future career. Some teens have a clear idea of what they want to do whilst others struggle to find a direction. The wonderful message from Karen’s post is that you don’t need to panic! So, without further ceremony……over to Karen!
It’s a question we’ve all heard. And for some people who have a calling to be a doctor or a vet or a racing driver or a teacher, it can be an easy question to answer.
When someone asked me what I wanted to be, I used to say I wanted to be a writer. Everybody’s response was always: “So, do you want to be a journalist or a novelist?”
I didn’t want to be either. But I loved crafting content and English Lit was my favourite subject.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone around who knew there were more options beyond being a journalist or a novelist. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was being raised in a society where regular education and regular jobs were highly valued by parents and teachers – there was no encouragement to step outside the box and learn entrepreneurial skills. I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was as a teenager. It was a very different era – before the internet exploded (now you have all of these guys to learn from FOR FREE!).
What did my career journey look like?
When I stepped out of education (that had really done nothing to prepare me for the world of work), I found myself a trainee admin job. It taught me computer skills and organisation skills that have been so valuable to me. After a couple of years, I was able to apply those skills to working in event management for a film festival. That satisfied my creativity while also honing my project management skills and giving me an insight into marketing and copywriting.
My next step took me further into project management where I developed my marketing skills and learnt about grant applications and websites.
After 12 years of working, I finally became self-employed as a web project manager, then when I had kids I switched to doing freelance writing. Throughout my career, I’d been constantly learning. I did an Open University course and a PR course, and lots of mini courses in marketing and copywriting.
Where am I now?
Now, I earn my income in a mix of ways. I write about family travel for a magazine. I earn monthly fees from a non-fiction parenting book that I published last year. I run a family, travel and lifestyle blog and I’ve set up a migration website and Facebook community to help support UK families as they move to Australia. And I’m about to set up two Amazon niche websites to promote products that are listed on Amazon where I will earn a commission from any sales (so I don’t actually have to sell or post the items – I only write about them and show people the best buys). I have irons in a lot of fires but all of them involve writing.
What I do online now didn’t happen overnight – it has been an evolution that has taken place over 20 years. But had I known this sort of writing career was available to me many years ago, I’m certain I’d have made the transition to working online on my own projects much sooner.
If you’re a teenager today, you have so many more opportunities open to you than I did. There are stacks of learning resources available online for free. There are hundreds of online entrepreneurs teaching the basics to launch your first online business or your first product. There are even kids out there teaching other kids how to make a living online. And you should read and watch as much of it as you can.
But online learning isn’t enough to get you the career of your dreams. I know 100% that I’m only able to do what I do now because I gained experience in the world of work first.
What work should you do?
Work, if you’re doing it right, shouldn’t feel like work. You spend so much of your life at work that it needs to be fun. If you don’t enjoy it, I think you’re in the wrong job. If you love what you do, you’ll love expanding your mind and learning as much as you can around the subject. As you learn, you’ll grow and you’re career options will open out in front of you. It’s like a ladder. If I hadn’t taken my first ‘boring’ admin job, I’d never have been employed by the film festival. Without that experience, I’d never have been employed as a council project manager and that was the job that spring-boarded me to going freelance (not to mention funded many incredible travel experiences including taking a five-week Caribbean cruise and a round the world backpacking trip – being self-employed can allow you to earn more for less work and gives you freedom, if you do it right). And all of the combined skills I’d developed allowed me to then be a freelance digital writer which then went on to lead to magazine work and further online projects too…
What would I tell my teenage self if I could go back in time?
I’d tell myself that you can have the career of your dreams, even if you aren’t sure exactly what that career looks like yet. You just need to take it a step at a time and keep learning along the way. And the most important advice I’d give would be to seek out the support from someone who is where you want to be in five or ten years’ time. Do work experience or offer to help them out as a way to get to know them and learn from them. Surround yourself with people who are ahead of you, who are more successful than you and who earn more than you because you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with and this is the best way to move forward.
But just remember one thing: The journey is just as important as the destination.