• Anna Lee, Adult Learning Manager

Four Books that Changed my Career

Along with many others in the country, our Adult Learning team are working from home right now, constantly seeking ways to keep a bit of social interaction going and offer snippets of respite from back-to-back meetings or time spent working on solitary projects.

This week, Alison stepped up to the challenge of providing an activity for the English and Maths team Friday tea-break, with a short quiz about… tea! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I knew more than I realised about history and traditions surrounding tea, but it also opened up an unexpected discussion about how my career had evolved. Responding to the question, “What is the name traditionally given to a Japanese person who is trained as a hostess of tea ceremonies?” I discovered that my literary explorations of my younger years had finally come in useful!

As we discussed that the term Geisha has taken on a modern meaning which is somewhat removed from the traditional role, I told my colleagues how I had picked up a copy of Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha from a newsstand on my way home from work one night and how this encouraged me to explore more about worlds far from home, initially by reading other, less well-known, texts on the same theme. This interest extended into occasionally reading other novels set in the Far East, covering a range of historical periods.

Fast-forward about five years and I was perusing the bookshelves in the shop of the Eden Project during a holiday in Cornwall. Reflecting of the wide array of plants from around the world that are on display, the book selection included Lonely Planet guides. This time, the one for Korea took my attention and I bought it and got reading. By the time I returned home from the holiday, I’d decided that I needed a change; I wanted to explore the world and also explore other career choices.

I purchased copy of Teach Yourself Korean and signed up with a reputable agency that would provide me with training, support me to find a suitable job teaching English in Korea and be on hand to help as needed during a year abroad. I’d never ventured overseas without my family before and the prospect of going so far for a year seemed like an enormous step. However, the money I invested in the training was probably the best I’ve ever spent. I loved my experience abroad, gained promotions during my time away and ended up staying for three years before returning home to retrain as a teacher of post-compulsory education (adult learning).

Today, as we have a focus on the support that our Adult Learning Service can offer to those who may be seeking a career change, exploring new work following redundancy or identifying first steps getting into a job as an adult, I hope that my story shows how inspiration can come from the most unexpected of sources or encounters. Things don’t always happen as a flash of inspiration; sometimes they come as the result of thoughts or circumstances which develop slowly over time. One of the most valuable things that you can do when you’re considering employment choices is to take time to think. Rather than focussing too heavily on the immediate problems of the moment, also try to weave in time to take a solitary walk and ponder more slowly on what it is you really want, what really inspires you or what skills you already have that could be developed or used for something new.

As with my initial stimulus of that book at the train station newsstand, it is important to dig a bit deeper and a bit wider to see how an idea can be a good fit for you. My interest was piqued by a book about historical Japanese culture, tea ceremonies and artistic pursuits – quite a long way from teaching English in modern-day Korea. Likewise, you may be inspired by a hospital drama you have seen on TV, tempted by the idea of helping others and feeling that your work really makes a difference. However, there are a huge range of options that are actually a good fit for this motivation. Medical roles requiring significant training will obviously spring to mind, but at the other extreme there are non-clinical roles such as befrienders who may be paid to work in the home of a person with a disability, providing basic care functions but also companionship and practical support around the home. Both roles help others and make a difference, but with very different training requirements and suiting very different personalities and working preferences too.

If you are exploring your career and want help to think through your options, we’re here for you. Book for one of our Employment Advice Appointments at www.worcestershire.gov.uk/adultlearning; one of our qualified staff will discuss your needs, interests and skills and signpost you to suitable training and support.

If you already know what you want to do but have missing English or maths qualifications holding you back, a better start might be to book for an English and Maths Qualifications Appointment using the same link.

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