The below is my interview with Londoner Emma Rosen, who tried out 25 different career options before the age of 25!
– Her project aims to promote portfolio careers, and highlight the importance of work experience for all ages (a key message coming out of my 100 interviews with graduates 10yrs on from uni)
– Some of the career options included Journalism, Property Development, TV Production, and Creative Marketing to name a few! She has been featured in BBC, Financial Times, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed and lots more…
– Her book is due out in January 2019, in the meantime you can read more about her experiences trying out 25 different career options on her website www.25before25.co.uk and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @25before25.
Hi Emma, fair play to you trying so many different career options – great idea! Lots of the people I interviewed for my book wanted to try out other career options but were too scared to actually make the change…
Yes, I think some people feel very stuck and trapped in their careers. The more time that you invest in your career the more you are less likely to go back and start again. Careers have become part of our identity, when you meet someone new you say my name is x, and I do y for a living. People then make certain assumptions about you based on that. Throwing that away can be quite a scary concept.
Why and how did you pick the 25 career options you did?
The 25 career options were really a list of things that I always wanted to do growing up; things that have always been lurking in the back of my head!
On your website (www.25before25.co.uk) you have ten attributes that you try and measure the different career options by, how did you come up with these?
I asked myself what did I want to get out of the workplace? For example, two things are:
1) Making a difference
I want to be doing something where I think strategically and look at the bigger picture. Whether what I do matters, or makes a difference has a big impact on my job satisfaction. I learnt that I found being a tiny cog in a massive machine difficult while working in the Civil Service. You are not really adding much value or making a difference to anyone. Whereas, in a start-up when there is only four of you, what you do really does matter!
Work environment is also a big thing for me. When people are in school or university, they don’t think about where they want to work; they just think they are going to work in an office. When I started in an office, I instantly knew it wasn’t for me. Being in the same place all day every day doesn’t suit me. I want some autonomy in where and how I work.
What advice would you give young people who mightn’t necessarily know what their career options are?
> Go and talk to as many people as you can.
I did a lot of Linkedin stalking; try to find people that you like the sound of their jobs/careers, and ask if you can take them out for a coffee. There is only so much you can learn about a job/career path by googling it. You need to talk to people to find out about what their role actually entails.
> Shadow people
Then based on these conversations, for the career options you are interested in exploring more, try to shadow people for 1 or 2 days. Shadow people in lots of different careers so that you can compare the good points and bad points of each one. That way you can see which ones you might really be interested in pursuing further.
> Give yourself as many career options as possible
Don’t just choose 1 or 2 careers you might be interested in; choose at least 5 or 6 career options. Lots of people are just grateful to get any opportunity. By exploring 5 or 6 different career options, then that will hopefully lead to multiple opportunities. You can then be much more objective in assessing which one is best and why, instead of being grateful. Having more career options helps to give you more of a bigger picture and to stop glamorising job by letting you see the downsides too – there is no such thing as a prince charming job!
What are the big things you learned from the whole experience of trying 25 different careers?
Go and ask people out for coffees. Find out about the careers you may be interested in. These conversations will help break down the assumptions you have about some careers. Sometimes if a firm has a shiny persuasive marketing dept., you get sucked in by that and know very little about the job you are taking.
2) Portfolio careers
These days, you don’t need to have one career for life. You can change your career, you can work part time, or as a contractor/freelance. There are so many different ways of doing different jobs at the same time. For example, you can work compressed hours as an accountant Mon-Thu, then have Friday off and the weekend to do an online jewellery design business.
Which were your favourite career options and why?
1) Travel Writer
I was lucky enough to be commissioned to go to Venezuela writing for Oasis Overland. It was very interesting. It wasn’t the safest trip I’ve ever done, the protests and riots started 3 or 4 days before I landed, so we were caught up in some of the protests!
2) Alpaca Farmer
I did this down in Cornwall, it was so cool. Alpacas’ are now getting bread in UK as the wool and meat is getting more and more popular.
I went to Transylvania and helped out on a roman excavation. It’s definitely one of the least glamourous things I’ve ever done; it was hard physical labour in the mud! If you enjoy travel, and thinking about how things came to be, it could be the one for you. Archaeologists are pretty much academics but in a very practical sense.
Could you see yourself doing any of the career options in 10yrs time?
I think there are different jobs for different stages of life. People nowadays will be making 2 or 3 career changes over course of our working life. I don’t think you don’t need to choose one thing for your career any longer. When I’m in my 40s with a family, I’m not sure I will want to do same thing as I was doing in my 20’s. We really need to change how we look at careers.
Which were your least favourite career options and why?
1) TV production
It’s strictly hierarchical, you have to do quite a few years of grunt work before you get a seat at the decision-making table. You tend to think TV is glamourous, whereas it’s actually quite old fashioned in a way.
I’m very dyslexic so sitting down and correcting peoples spelling mistakes all day long is my worst nightmare. There are more exciting parts of publishing but what I was doing was not for me.
3) Think Tank and Charity placements
These were very 9-5; do your job and go home. For me that is not the type of environment that I work best in.
If you were very creative, which career options would be good ones to pursue?
I’m writing a book about the whole 25before25 experience so I can call myself an Author! I love writing the book. I love the whole process, figuring out how it all works! There are massive drawbacks in terms of money mainly, but I love it. I really love it!
This was quite fun, but it was also quite stressful! I worked with a photographer who spent 6mths a year in Ibiza shooting weddings, getting quite well paid for each one. She then spent the other 6mths as a travel photographer, travelling around the world going wherever she wanted.
> Movie Extra
People do it professionally. It’s a career that could very easily fit around other stuff that you do for a living. There is a really broad range of people who do it, people of all ages and backgrounds.
What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked at one of your speaking events?
I mainly speak at schools and universities. The main question people ask is how do I apply this to my life? To answer this, I talk about the benefits of networking, then I give them the actual steps that you have to take to start doing it.
Young people haven’t had exposure to a broad range of careers. They see what their parents do, what their friends and older siblings do and that’s about it! That’s why networking is so important, it gives insight into all the other options available to you.
What advice would you give to young people who don’t know which career option is for them?
Network, and work shadow as much as possible. If you are in a job that you don’t like and want to change, use your annual leave, invest in your career like you would do other areas of your life. Use your evenings and weekends to do the networking. With a little bit of effort, you can slowly make career changes over a period of time.
For any young people out there who are struggling to get a work placement or don’t know how to get one, what advice would you give them?
No. of Applications
It depends on the approach you take. In some industries it’s a numbers game, you need to be very persistent. A good measure for me is how many rejections I’m getting. If I don’t get a lot of rejections, it tells me I haven’t applied to enough roles.
Size of Company
I’ve had a lot more success with small companies, ones that employ less than 10 people. There is no red tape, and no big HR dept., they can decide to take you on right then and there!
I used networking as a way to open doors. Have a coffee with people to find out more about their jobs, this opens a bit of a back-door entrance into other potential opportunities.
It’s just finding your unique selling point; everybody has one it’s just finding out what it is. Young people can leverage their knowledge of social media. All the businesses I went into I was shocked about how little they knew about social media, i.e. Instagram, Twitter, etc.
You can offer your knowledge of social media in exchange for a week’s work placement or job shadowing.
As someone who has done 25 work placements, what do you think is the optimum length of work placement?
I would say somewhere between a couple of days and a week. Let’s be honest you are not going to do much valuable work on a work placement. The whole idea of a work placement is so that you can decide whether you want to explore this career/profession more?
So, your time in the role just needs to be enough to see if you want to explore it more or not.
How much you get out of it depends on questions you ask. What you can do is take people out for a coffee, don’t just ask them about their roles, ask them questions about how the business and industry is going. This way you will get an objective opinion on what’s it like to work in the industry, not just that persons’ role.
If a young person is struggling to get a placement or a job, what advice would you give them?
Have a look at your CV and cover letter, as something is obviously not working there. Get as many pairs of eyes as possible on it; ask teachers, advisors, parents and other friends that are in jobs to see what they think of it? Can it be improved in any way? Also, ask how can I change what I’m doing in terms of looking and applying for jobs. I would also network as much as possible and see do the people in my network know people that may be able to help. Networks should be about building relationships for the long term. In some cases, you will effectively get some who will mentor you.
What did you think of your careers advisors in university?
I think there is a lack of exposure to really different, diverse jobs/careers when you are at university. The grad schemes look great, and a lot of companies sponsor the careers events so it’s easy to get sucked into what they are offering. To be honest, when you are a student you are living in the moment they don’t think about your career that much until you are in your final year of university.
Well done again Emma on highlighting the importance of work experience, it’s so important for young people in helping them figure out what they like and not get stuck in a job they are miserable in.
Good luck with the book (out in January 2019) and I would encourage readers to check out www.25before25.co.uk, some really interesting insights into 25 different career options in there! You can find Emma on Twitter , Instagram @25before25 and on Facebook at 25before25uk.
You can also check out some of my favourite articles from her website below: