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Cheers For Careers

Stuart Bailie | 18:12 UK time, Saturday, 10 October 2009

My generation was one of the last to bum a ride on the Welfare State - three years at college on a vocational trail of fun, learning and self-absorption. At the time I was reasonably sure that I would be some kind of jobbing rock and roller before the course was out, but with hindsight, that was rather silly. As a bonus, I read masses of delightful books before emerging with a First in English Lit and the slightly alarming idea that I would need to find paid employment.

Therefore I sought out the careers office. They were remarkably kind to me, given that I'd not darkened their doors in the preceding years. And a very charming lady called Andrea Henderson got me to fill in a massive questionnaire, which was then fed into an old-fangled card-index computer. After some delay, the machine gave me a dramatic steer: Stu Bailie, landscape gardener.

I think my reaction gave Andrea the impression that I wasn't really a topsoil and manure kind of a guy. "I think you want to be creative," she figured. "And if you want to be creative, there's no point looking for jobs in the paper. You have to knock on doors."

That was one of my Top Ten moments of perfect clarity. She had divined my style in minutes and gave me a totally graphic solution to my working life. Pretty soon I would be knocking those doors and extending the brass neck. The positive responses outnumbered the kickbacks, and while the culture back then was still heavily in favour of job security, I enjoyed the loose nature of it all.

Occasionally I meet some whey-faced youth who cannot decide between college media course and 'real' life. I give them a summary of Andrea's suggestion and tell them that you can generally learn all the valuable stuff on the hoof and that the media graduates tend to be full of rigid, academic and impractical stuff. In my experience they need to be deprogrammed after their course. Which doesn't mean that you can't have a couple of years doing the student thing. Just don't be looking for the final destination in the Jobs Vacant section.

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