It’s National Careers Week 2021 and we’re talking about the impact of careers advice. From leaving school to returning to work or even switching up your career at any age, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Running form 1st-6th March 2021, National Careers Week highlights the wealth of advice and support on offer, across the UK, when it comes to considering your future in employment. Traditionally aimed at parents to help steer their teens through the hugely transformative stage of education to work, or education to higher or further education, National Careers Week is celebrating its 10th anniversary of guidance.

We’ve had some great responses to our NCW social media questions and polls already this week, and it seems that if you went to school any time before 2000, it’s agreed that careers advice was pretty lacking in enthusiasm. Join in the conversation, here.

From dreams of being archaeologists, vets, and Olympic athletes, to five-minute careers questionnaires in the school library and naff posters to take home. It was hardly inspiring. Attitudes to ‘careers’ have changed immeasurably in the last 30 years. A career used to mean leaving school or university, getting an entry-level job, and spending your working life at that one company or business.

Luckily, things have changed dramatically since then and access to information and sign-posting services have improved. But what about if you’re not a school leaver? We believe quality careers advice is vital, whatever stage of the journey you’re at.

Here, we chat with Training and Accreditation Manager at The Women’s Organisation, Susan Hughes about her career aspirations, her journey and how The Women’s Organisation clients have adapted to digital change during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Well, I wanted to be a cameraman when I was at school. I say cameraman because that’s what it was in those days. I wanted to be a cameraman on Blue Peter! I never wanted to be a presenter or in front of the camera, but I wanted the adventures that they had, and I thought a really good way of doing that was behind the scenes. To me it was a career that would offer an awful lot of escape.”

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Susan remembers the careers advice she received at school wasn’t entirely supportive of her cameraman dream. She said: “I remember filling out a questionnaire and happened to mention I liked reading and so it suggested I become a librarian.

“The friend that went in before me said she liked baking and so she was advised to become a cook. It was a very limited and narrow range of careers advice back then.”

Susan said that on reflection the lack of knowledge and encouragement around creative careers resulted in her losing direction.

“When it comes to making these decisions, if you don’t know what routes to take and there isn’t a clear path for you it can feel like there are so many barriers in the way.”

“I didn’t have a clear career path. I managed to cobble together some A-levels and I went to university through Clearing. I saw that as a way of delaying the decision making of what career I was doing to pursue.”

While Susan relished the adventure of moving away from home and thoroughly enjoying the experience of university life, there is something she’d have done differently.

“Looking back now, I wish I had made more of a conscious decision on what course I was doing to study at university because I wouldn’t have done an academic. I’ve had chosen a more practical one. Rather than English and sociology, I’d have maybe done something more creative or arty.

“I think that if I’d have made some different choices then, with the right sort of advice, I might have still got here where I am today, but my journey would’ve been a lot different.”

Susan plays a pivot role in the adventures embarked upon by hundreds of women across the Liverpool City Region, every year.

“Working with the women who come on our courses and seeing the difference that it makes to them is easily the best thing about my job. They inspire me so much and they’re the ones that should be giving career advice because they have the imagination, they have the confidence and the passion in their voices when they talk. That’s what I think careers teachers and advisors should be offering.”

“A lot of the women who were meeting now are coming to us when they’re deciding to either change jobs or start their own business, they’ve realised you don’t have to just have one job, one career for life.

“They’ve come to a point in their lives, often when they’ve started a family or been made redundant or some other life changing event and they’ve thought, right this is what I’ve always wanted to do, and they’re going for it. It’s just brilliant to be part of that journey.

When it comes to offering business advice, Susan recommends attending a launchpad event from The Women’s Organisation. Twice monthly, this online panel event offers women an opportunity to explore their business advice and gain insight and inspiration from other women who have tread the same path.

Dedicated business advisors work alongside clients to delve deeper into all aspects of starting up a new venture while Susan and her colleagues on the training team deliver practical skills such as bookkeeping, marketing strategy, national insurance and more.

“If you’re in the position where you think the traditional career path isn’t for you, and you’re ready to explore your own business idea, the advice and support we offer is top notch.”

As we begin to navigate our way back to offices and workplaces across the UK in the coming months, Susan is eager to reach and support more women as they embark on their next steps, post-pandemic.

“I have been on my own adventure.  It’s not the Blue Peter cameraman adventure, but a different one and probably not as quickly as I could’ve done. There’s been a lot of dead ends and one-way streets, but I don’t think that’s always a bad thing because sometimes when you haven’t got a fixed idea, you’re more open to opportunities and suggestions and you’re a bit more flexible. I think that’s what’s got me where I am today.”

“Plus, if you see how rubbish I am at taking pictures you’d know that the cameraman dream would never have panned out!”

When it comes to enhancing your skills, boosting your confidence, and exploring the possibilities of a fresh start, quality careers advice can make all the difference. The services, training courses and workshops on offer from The Women’s Organisation can help you plan your next steps with confidence.

Find out more about our current training courses and workshops here.

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