Finding a purpose, making the right career choice is a process not a knee jerk reaction to external pressure.

Finding your special purpose, it sounds like a rather twee way to describe locating one’s nether regions but actually it’s both that and understanding who you are and what you want to do. Too often students are shuttled through the various academic gates without being given enough time to breathe and actually figure out what they want to spend their lives doing. You’re a long time dead, yes, but working until 68, or 75 as will likely become the new norm, will probably feel a whole lot longer if you hate what you do.

I’ve been immensely critical of what schools are offering in terms of their careers and university advice and I’m absolutely sure that is right. The facts back up the view but more importantly pretty much every students I’ve ever spoken to has had a negative experience. They range from ‘meh’ to actively endangering student welfare. Embarking on a degree, an apprenticeship, a graduate scheme, going straight into work shouldn’t be a Heath Robinson gimcrack affair that ultimately fails at the first hurdle. Obviously the drop out rate from university offers at least some evidence that schools are failing in their attempts to provide decent careers advice. All the powers that be are scrabbling around trying to find a way to prevent people dropping out rather than exploring why, they are looking at their socio-economic factors, race, prejudice, cost and so on but actually it may just be that a bunch of people were corralled unthinkingly into courses that actually won’t take them where they want to go.

found it
Finding your calling, your vocation, the right career for you isn’t always easy and is often in unexpected places.

Which is why it’s important to find your special purpose. Statistically you will spend more of your waking life at work, with your colleagues than you will at home with your family or friends. If you’re going to do something for 40 plus years make sure it’s something that matters to you, that you can take pride and pleasure in. I won’t be prescriptive, nothing has any value but that which you place upon it. If a living can be made mentoring Mongolian throat singers and you want to make that the focus of your life’s work then have at it.

As we go into the summer holidays alongside getting work experience that will enhance your CV, bolster your application or personal statement, you should be thinking about what aspects of that work experience really speak to you. If you always thought you wanted to work within the law, try and get exposure to a range of ways of practicing it. Is it advocacy you are after, is it the minutiae of case law and contractual disputes, is it in trying to help kids, prisoners, charities? Do you want to be a ruthless divorce lawyer who empties rich people’s pockets? Whatever it is you think you want to do, find out if you really do.

The greatest value work experience can offer is that it allows you to sample, canapé-like, a range of professions in a consequence free environment. It allows you to explore what you want to do and who you want to be. If that’s not worth dragging yourself off the sofa for then I don’t know what is.

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