Friday, 5 September 2014

What did you study at school?

Did you study a language at school? Did you enjoy English and getting into the nitty-gritty of grammar, spelling and punctuation? Or did you get into the sciences?

Speaking for myself, I was hopeless at science and maths. While I studied them for a couple of years because they were mandatory, I didn't enjoy them and didn't do as well as many others in my class.

My forte was language.

I loved, and still do love language.

I dabbled in a number of languages over the journey, including a little bit of Swahili, you see I had a rather confused childhood. I spoke English and German as a child, and although I know I spoke some Italian - Sicilian dialect to be exact - I lost the knack and after a number of years of not speaking it, I remembered only Christmas carols and nursery rhymes.

At school, I studied French in seriousness, loved geography, history and English literature.

After school I went on to study Applied Languages and renewed my acquaintance with Italian, which came flooding back. Once they'd wrangled the dialect out of me, I rapidly and eagerly grasped it.

So why am I telling you all this?

Well, simply because I've been giving it some thought lately in regard to a nephew of mine who finished school and went to university for a short time, before dropping out quite early because he didn't know what he wanted to be.

Sitting in a cafe with him recently, he asked what he should do to figure out where he belonged in the world, what career he should strive for.

My advice to him was to think about the subjects he did at school and consider which ones he was good at and which ones he enjoyed - they're probably the same ones!

Now, I consider this good advice because, unlike many people I know, I love my career - I absolutely love what I do! But it took me a long time to figure that out.

Back in the eighties, when I left school - yep I'm that old - going to university wasn't as common as it is these days. For me and most of my friends, it was about finding a job, and right quick!

We had no idea what we wanted to do - I certainly didn't. I ended up working in retail and was there for two years. In the end, they offered me a managerial position, but even though I didn't know what I wanted to do, I knew that retail wasn't my true path.

One day, I rather accidentally ended up landing a job at a financial services company. It was October 1987 - that's right! Stock market crash. Well I was hooked. And I was lucky too because many of my contemporaries struggled a lot longer before finding their niche.

I have, to date, enjoyed a financial services career spanning more than two decades. When I'm not writing novels, I still work in FinServ - as those in the biz call it!

Remember, I'm not good at maths, so don't think this industry is all about the numbers. I'm good with words, so I dealt with customers, trained financial advisers and wrote technical banking and financial material.

These days I write articles for financial magazines and still write technical material for banks and investment companies.

So, looking back on the subjects I studied and did well at in school, if you'd told me I'd carve a rewarding career out of the financial industry I would have scoffed. But it's true - I have.

Which is why I asked all those questions at the start of this post.

When you spend so many hours a day doing a job, it's so very important that you enjoy what you do.

If you're one of the millions of people around the world who don't enjoy their job or are suffering that old square peg-round hole feeling, go back to the beginning.

Ask yourself what you enjoyed, what were you good at? Then start thinking about how you can make a living from it.

And just maybe - as in my case - there's a budding writer within you screaming for release!

As for Calin my nephew, I know that he'll do well whatever path he takes because he's prepared to work, learn and he's a smart kid. Like many young people, it will just take time to figure out what he wants to be.

What ultimately makes him happy.

Did you enjoy languages, literature, etc at school?

Just in case, check out this great competition - from the people at Waterline. It could be the start you're looking for.

Until next week - do what makes you happy. Perhaps there's a best seller inside you!

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