Career podcasts: The five best for your commute from Safe For Work to The Broad Experience

Safe For Work

This podcast is all about finding work/life balance. Career experts Liz Dolan and Rico Gagliano offer advice on topics from avoiding burnout to how to fake illness when calling in sick, as well as helpful tips on how to progress in your career healthily and happily.

How to Be Awesome at Your Job

Having worked with organisations from Google to Goldman Sachs, the United Nations to Amazon, American “trainer-in-chief” Pete Mockaitis here interviews life coaches, such as Pamela McLean of the Hudson Institute, about subjects including how to improve your leadership, and productivity experts such as Erik Fisher on how to avoid distractions in the workplace.

Host Morra Aarons-Mele talks to women from the worlds of politics, business and psychology
Host Morra Aarons-Mele talks to women from the worlds of politics, business and psychology (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty)

Hiding in the Bathroom

Host Morra Aarons-Mele talks to women from the worlds of politics, business and psychology, and asks them how they created the careers they wanted. Guests have included Lisa Sugar, who turned her personal blog into global lifestyle media company PopSugar, and Fertility IQ founder Deborah Anderson-Bialis.

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How Did You Get Into That?

Grant Baldwin – who quit his job as a youth pastor when his wife was five months pregnant with the first of their three children, with little idea of what to do next – asks people from all walks of life about how they got into their careers, from small business owners and musicians to photographers and teachers.

The Broad Experience

Tackles some of the biggest problems facing women in the workplace, from race and class to the menopause and ageism, incompetent bosses and sexual harassment to the hell of networking and the power of negotiation. Enlightening – not just for women.

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How three career-changers made the brave decision to switch their professional paths

What would you do if you didn’t do what you do? Or, to put it more elegantly, if you were to change careers, how would you earn a crust and spend your days? In today’s i, there are three great stories of people switching professional paths.

Sir Bradley Wiggins is set to train as a social worker while Chloe Hamilton, formerly of this parish, is heading into the classroom next month to learn to teach. Meanwhile, Bucks Fizz alumna Jay Aston has been making her mind up to stand as an MP for the Brexit Party.

Run for your life, would be my response to the latter, although I take my hat off to Bradley and Chloe for their new ventures.

Typically, when three or more journalists get together, it’s only a matter of time before they start looking for the nearest bar or talking about what they’re going to do once they leave the news-gathering game.

Bradley Wiggins posing on the podium after the men's Team Pursuit finals track cycling event during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. (Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty)
Bradley Wiggins posing on the podium after the men’s Team Pursuit finals track cycling event during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 (Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty)

I have spent hours with colleagues discussing what my back-up career is. I’ve seen former comrades become novelists, flooring magnates, PR masterminds, copywriters, therapists and lecturers. One had a stint managing a swanky ice cream parlour, another has a sideline in bricklaying.

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I’m filled to the brim with admiration for their versatility and imagination, humbled by their gusto and guts in starting out in a new field. I’m also horribly jealous of their fresh starts – all I’ve ever really wanted to do is what I do now, and will have to be poked out of the door with a broom handle before I’d ever leave willingly. So please keep reading – I don’t have a plan B.

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Why I’m going back to school to learn to be a teacher after years of interviewing celebrities, election nights and a long commute

I’m standing at the front of a classroom, my heart beating madly. I feel ever so slightly light-headed. A couple of metres away, six Year Eight students are facing me, waiting for me to speak. I take a deep breath, and say, for the first time: “Hello, I’m Ms Hamilton.”

I’m in a micro-lesson, which forms part of my teacher-training interview. Every future trainee is asked to prepare a 15-minute session which they then deliver in front of a small group of students and an interviewer. For someone who hasn’t been in a classroom since the last bell rang on my secondary school education 10 years ago, it’s a daunting task – a bit like finding yourself on the start line of the Olympic 100m final. Wearing flippers.

It has seldom been more important that people are persuaded to retrain as teachers. With new trainees leaving the profession in their droves (the National Education Union warned earlier this year that one-fifth of newly qualified teachers plan to leave within the first two years), the Department for Education is doing everything it can to coax career-changers into the classroom. Large, tax-free bursaries, funded subject knowledge-refresher courses, and some canny adverts that claim teachers earn “more than you think” are all being used to persuade professionals to retrain.

Schemes such as Now Teach, set up by former journalist Lucy Kellaway, who had been at the Financial Times for 31 years when she decided to become a maths teacher, are designed to help those with years of work experience in other fields make the move into teaching. Kellaway herself is a big advocate of the patchwork career. “The finishing line is being stretched outwards, too, because we’re all living so much longer and because people’s pensions are rubbish,” she says, “so it makes it even more imperative that we have at least two if not three or four completely different careers in the course of our lives.”

Why I decided to embark on a second career

The decision to embark on my second career was one that crept up on me. I started work as a journalist straight out of university and the newsroom felt like the most glamorous place in the world. I loved the thrill of an approaching deadline and the adrenaline rush that comes with watching live news break. I once spent a day on the trail of a man who had spent five years dodging train fares worth £43,000. I slept in a portaledge, dangling from a cliff-face; was drawn naked for a feature; met and interviewed A-list celebrities; and covered election nights.

Chloe Hamilton with one of her A-list interviewees, Sir David Attenborough

But then I started to get the seven-year itch. It scary, admitting that you might not be entirely happy with a job many would scramble over hot coals for. But I found myself longing to immerse myself in real life, rather than peer at it from the outside with a notebook and pen in hand. A move out of London and a new long and expensive daily commute (no fare dodging for me), nudged me closer to my decision.

I looked into teaching while on my commute, almost daring myself to imagine another career. As a profession, it wasn’t completely unknown: my mum is a teacher and so was my grandmother. A good friend had left a job in marketing the previous year to retrain as a primary school teacher and she raved about it – although, crucially, without sugarcoating the very real challenges the job presents. Her reason for retraining was that she wanted to do something proactive.

‘Before I was a teacher I made zero difference to anyone’s life’

“I was struggling to reconcile receiving my wage at the end of the month knowing I’ve made zero difference to anyone’s life while working myself into the ground,” she told me. “I was fine with working in a stressful environment but I wasn’t fine with knowing things wouldn’t be any different if I didn’t turn up to work.”

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I also wanted to feel useful. Kellaway agrees, saying: “Even after a day when lessons haven’t gone very well, I’ve been scrambling to keep up all day, and I walk home feeling really tired, I still think I’ve done an honest day’s work. Which I don’t think you ever feel as a journalist, particularly.”

So earlier this year, I applied to do School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). This is designed to give new teachers the chance to learn on the job. At the end of the academic year I will, all being well, gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) as well as a PGCE.

What if people at dinner parties aren’t interested in my job?

Some things worry me about my new career. What if I can’t control a classroom or keep on top of the marking? What if I’m asked a question I don’t know the answer to? I worry disproportionately about being called “Miss” by students when I’ve always been a “Ms”. I don’t know what shoes to wear or how to handle staff-room politics. And for almost a decade, being a journalist has defined me. What if, in giving that up, I lose a part of myself? What if people at dinner parties aren’t as interested in my job? Vain, I know, but I’ve always relished telling strangers what I do for a living.

According to Lara Agnew, who left a career as a documentary film-maker two years ago to train as an English teacher with Now Teach, I needn’t worry. Agnew explains that people are actually much more interested in what she does now that she is a teacher. “It’s a bit like saying ‘I jumped out of an aeroplane aged 50’,” she says. “I think it’s the glamour of the unknown and probably the daring element [of retraining to teach] that people are quite curious about.”

The most common response to my career change has been people telling me, in hushed tones, how brave I am. Brave not only to step into the classroom in front of 30 unruly teenagers but to step out of the newsroom. I don’t feel brave at all, although maybe ask me again in a couple of weeks when I suspect I will be summoning up every ounce of courage before setting foot in my new school.

More people are building up a compilation of careers

The biggest thing I’ve realised during this process is that careers are not fixed. When I first started working, I thought a person had to choose a job and stick to it, for ever. In reality, more and more people are building up a compilation of careers, using their experiences in one field to propel them into another. In this way, I hope I can bring my journalism into my teaching – even if only by instilling in my students an interest in news and narratives. I hope to still write, but there’s a real thrill in adding another string to my bow.

More than anything, though, I can’t wait to learn again. Next month I will become both a student and a teacher, roles that I suspect I will play throughout my teaching career. Because I’m not sure you ever stop learning in the classroom, no matter which way you’re facing.

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‘I struggled with A-Levels and dropped out to do an apprenticeship – now I have my dream job’

Today, students up and down the country are collecting their GCSE results and debating their next steps. If you are not sure about A-levels, nowadays there are plenty of choices that can help you get ahead.

The ability to earn while you learn and fast-track your career are two of the main reasons young people choose apprenticeships, according to the research by In-Comm Training.

Sally Hughes began her A-levels and dropped out during the first year to instead pursue a higher apprenticeship (level 4) with a HNC in applied chemistry. After completing three years she has got a permanent role as a laboratory technician – which she describes as her “dream job”.

The 20-year-old, from Port Talbot, Wales, said: “I always enjoyed science-based subjects in school and so looked into ways to get a career with a science background. I presumed college was the only option when I left school.

The 20-year-old with her manager at Tata Steel, Mark Phillips (Photo: Huh John)
The 20-year-old with her manager at Tata Steel, Mark Phillips (Photo: Huh John)

“It wasn’t until I was struggling with my A-levels and my father told me about an apprenticeship at Tata Steel, that I realised I could start working in a field I was passionate about, while working towards a qualification. It was perfect.”

Enhanced skills

Sally says she found she found staying motivated in a full-time classroom setting a challenge.

“My course involved spending one day a week at college, then four days working at Tata Steel. I had been struggling to juggle my job as a waitress with studying my A-levels and I think I found the apprenticeship more motivating because I was learning things that I could immediately apply to a real world environment.

“That and you are being paid to attend college so it instills that extra self-discipline.”

Sally also feels taking a vocational route has enhanced her skills set.

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“It just worked for me learning through a mix of practical application and classroom theory. As an apprentice I was on rotation across all seven laboratories and I was given the opportunity to learn many different skills, working across different teams. It helped me develop transferable skills that I have brought with me to my role.”

Sally’s goal now is to complete a degree apprenticeship and perhaps a PhD.

Mathew Davies, technical training advisor at Tata Steel said: “We actively recruit apprentices as it’s difficult to find the talent we require in this complex industry. Our apprenticeship programmes ensure that we have a ready-made talent pool we can take up through the ranks to senior operator roles and team leaders.

“Sally has been a key part of the team since day one. It’s been great to see the progress she has made since joining Tata.”

Types of apprenticeships

Entry requirements for apprenticeships vary, but below is a guide:

  • Intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2) – generally considered to be the same level as five GCSE passes. Some employers ask for two or more GCSEs, although you may not need any formal qualifications. If you don’t have GCSEs in English and maths, you are usually required to take qualifications in these subjects.
  • Advanced apprenticeships (Level 3) – the same level as two A level passes. You will usually need at least five GCSEs with grades 9 to 4/A* to C, including English and maths. Some people who already have Level 3 qualifications, including A levels, choose the advanced apprenticeship route because if enables them to develop work-based skills and experience in a particular job and sector. This means some advanced apprenticeships are highly competitive.
  • Higher apprenticeships (Level 4 and above) – most apprentices gain an NVQ Level 4, HND, or foundation degree. Some offer the opportunity to progress to Level 7 (which is postgraduate degree level). Entry requirements can include at least five GCSEs grades A*-C (9 -4 on the new grading system), including English and maths, and Level 3 qualifications, including A levels, NVQs, or a BTEC. Some employers will  expect or require applicants to have studied subjects relevant to the apprenticeship.
  • Degree apprenticeships  (Levels 5 -7) – These are a new type of programme offered by some universities, so there are a limited number of vacancies. Students can achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of their apprenticeship.

Source: UCAS

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. Visit here for further information.

For details about opportunities in England click here, for Scotland here and Northern Ireland here.

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