I went through most of my teenage years not having a clue what I wanted to do after school. I enjoyed school – apart from lunch breaks and doing cross-country in the snow. There was a structure to it, you knew what was expected of you, and I thought learning was fun, especially languages (mine were French and German).
So I thought I’d probably want to do something with languages – but the only things people could suggest to me were things like becoming an interpreter.
I did do a bit of that voluntarily for some friends and it was a lot of fun. Well most of the time. The bit where they started talking about each other and I had to decide whether I was going to claim not to have understood or let the worst of it get lost in realtime creative translation was less fun, but that didn’t happen all the time.
It wasn’t what I wanted to do though. It was definitely rewarding, because I knew the people needed my skills to be able to understand each other properly. That felt good because I was helping them. But in the traditional sense, you only ever get to interpret other people’s words without having your own voice. I didn’t want to do that full-time.
As a small child it was easy. I wanted to be a teacher. I would have my own class and teach them things. While others were building pirate ships and fortresses with their lego, I designed my school!
I’d wrote my own activities too! I had a ring binder with activities when I was about 9 or 10 and a timetable to make sure all of the subjects were covered.
The rules of my games were usually to involved and complicated to explain to others, and if something’s too much effort to share, I usually don’t bother!
I did spend time with others, but my own games were things I could only really play on my own. I enjoyed learning and using the things I’d learned.
I didn’t lack imagination, but as I grew older, I saw the flaw in my plan – I’d have to work with children. I didn’t want to work with children, so I gave up on the idea, finished my education, got a job, and forgot all about being a teacher.
I won’t go through my CV here – I had a number of jobs before settling as a Communication Manager – still working with language, but only English. I kept up my interest in German (and a couple of other languages too) by developing a network of friends online and working voluntarily for an online community platform.
I remember getting the flu and having way too much time on my hands. You know how it is – you’re not well enough to get up and do stuff, but you’re done with lying in bed. So I sat at my laptop and filled out a questionnaire that a friend had sent to me. Really I think it was for people who were just starting out on their career. I’d got about 10 years behind me by this point, but I was feeling that something was missing. I was getting more of a sense of fulfilment out of my voluntary work than my day job, and the 3-hour commute was making me miserable. Of course when you’re not well, everything seems that much worse.
But that was an important first step for me. I kept thinking about my answers and how I still found myself teaching people things in my spare time. My friends, people that I’d met online – and they were learning too, so I can’t have been that bad at it! It set me thinking that to be a teacher, you don’t just have to work with children. You can work with adults too.
With that realisation, it didn’t take long for the rest of the plan to start taking shape. I got some teaching qualifications while I was still working. I got myself some teaching experience too before setting up on my own.
The basic website that I set up in 2012 looked nothing like my site now, but you have to start somewhere and build on what you have. I attended courses about setting up your own business, tax returns, marketing, and thought about where I could find my first customers.
My first student was someone I’d already been helping. That made things easier – I knew I liked her and that we could work well together. The next was the partner of someone whom I already knew. I hadn’t met her before, but we had someone who introduced us. The third person was a complete stranger, and it went on from there!
I left my Communications Manager job and have been developing English with Kirsty ever since, teaching English to (mainly German-speaking) adults. The commute is a thing of the past too because all of my training happens online. Helping people to learn and to use the skills they have gives me job satisfaction, and I’ve met so many fascinating people. No two days are the same!
I do a number of other things in addition to language training, which is a story for another day, but the point I wanted to make is that I came full circle. It just took me a long time to realise that I could have what I wanted if I thought a bit more creatively. You don’t have to give up on your dreams if you’re willing to spend a bit more time figuring out the details of how you can make them work.
The job that I have now probably didn’t exist when I was considering my career options. I don’t remember being encouraged to really think creatively at that time about my skills and the needs that I could fulfil. I was also given some pretty dire career advice, but we’re responsible for our own choices and it all worked out in the end.
I was employed for over 11 years before deciding to become self-employed in 2012, and although I didn’t love everything about those 11 years, I met some great people and learned a lot of valuable lessons that I can draw upon now.
So tell me – what did you want to be when you were a child, and what are you doing now? Is there any connection?
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