“If you really want to do something you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn

Leapfrog Postcard

I received an email from someone asking about their chances of having a complete change in career direction. I think like many people, they have had the time (really had the time!) during lockdown to look at the job they are doing and realised it is not really what they want, or it may be they are faced head on with the loss of their job or the prospect that redundancy might just be around the corner.

The email I received included the line “… being young and not thinking of the future I barely showed up to my exams, which I now realise was a big mistake. Therefore my exam results were not what they could have been …” (which I read out to my 12 year old with an ‘I told you so’ look on my face and a ‘whatever’ look in response).

As part of my job, I get invited to the College of Further Education to help those finishing their courses to find a job. I give tips and advice on how and where to apply, how to write cover letters and CVs, how to manage interviews and what office/workplace etiquette entails. I get to meet young students finishing their diplomas who are just starting out and I also meet those wanting/having to get back into work after long periods out of the workplace. There are some that I meet who left school with little or no qualifications. The thing is, GSCEs take place at exactly the ‘wrong age’ for some – bullying/hormones/family breakdowns/bereavements – 16 is not a great age for many and thinking about what career path to take is not high on the agenda for some, but leaving school is – no matter what everyone around them is advising them.

Are you ‘stuck’ without any or enough qualifications? It is not the end of the world!

I know plenty of very successful people who left school with little or no qualifications. They started at the bottom, proved themselves and got promotions (earning whilst learning), showcased their natural intelligence, showed strong work ethic, the right attitude and they moved up the ladder. I know others who, like the candidate who emailed me, took the first job going and years later feels regret at not getting their head down to get those GCSEs. GCSEs and A Levels can make the journey to the jobs you want much easier, but not having them does not make it impossible; it just might take a bit longer, with the route a little windier.

The thing is, we learn something and gain something from every job (good or bad). Did we look at problems, have ideas and come up with solutions? Did we manage to get people around us to do what needed to be done? Did we listen, understand and help our colleagues/our boss? Did we have to teach anyone a part of the job? Did we have to talk to a lot of people and did we ever go the extra mile to help someone? Did we have to complete tasks in a certain time? Did we need to be organised? All these are examples of transferable skills: Critical thinking, communication, leadership, management, organisation, time management…

Brought up your children, but don’t think you have anything to bring to the table? Of course you do! Surely being a parent you have to be able to negotiate, lead, mentor, listen, communicate, teach, budget, timetable events, organise, multi task… and much more! Don’t forget all you do outside of work and raising a family – sports? Drama clubs? Crafts, volunteer work? Charity? Make a list of ALL that you do - in work, outside of work, all extracurricular activities and then take a good look at everything you can do.

TRANSFERABLE SKILLS + THE RIGHT ATTITUDE can still get you to the same place as qualifications.

A lack of confidence and fear can hit people who have been in the same job for years and want a change (and indeed those who have not worked for many years or have been made redundant). They doubt themselves, they don’t think they are good enough, that no one will want them, that they have not got the qualifications… all negative thoughts when in fact, there are many positives to consider.

I have been sat opposite those who are highly qualified and those who have no qualifications. There are those with impressive qualifications that have left me (and clients) flat and those with no qualifications and poor looking CVs that have massively impressed – something about them stands out. I can meet people who start off quiet and shy, monosyllabic, lacking in confidence, but get them talking about what they would really like to do in an ideal world and their whole demeanour changes, faces light up, they get chatty – they get passionate! They know what they want to do – they just think they can’t get there, so no point in trying.

There are various ways of getting to where you really want to be. You can look at taking the key qualifications you need to get back on the right path (evening classes/online), for those where a ‘minimum GCSE’ requirement is necessary. You can try to get volunteer/unpaid work experience in the area you want to get into, gain experience and get noticed; you can try a ‘foot in the door’ role – one where you can learn from the ground up. It won’t be the exact role you want to start with, but you can still get to it via other routes and gather a whole heap of practical hands-on skills and knowledge on the way – invaluable!

All is not lost! There are routes available and any of the team here at Leapfrog would be happy to advise what would be best for you.

Fiona Smiling