How did you get where you are today?

Work. Most of just gotta do it. But just how exactly did you get where you are today? How did you get on the proverbial ladder? What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had to do?

“A career is something you enjoy in retrospect.” So said the dad of an old schooldays friend of mine, once upon a time. How many of us end up where we think we might when we’re young? How many of us would have dreamed when we were young that we’d end up where are?

I had a very interesting Twitter exchange the other day about when careers advice goes wrong.

My Twitter friend, eminent QC and constant font of wit and wisdom in 140 characters or fewer, Sean Jones, was tweeting to fellow legal leading light Emma Dixon of a careers aptitude test he undertook back in 1983, which suggested to him that his true vocation was that of jeweller. History records that things worked out a little differently. Jewellery’s loss is the legal profession’s game (and would the wonder that is the #billablehour campaign have happened were Sean to be found doubled up squintulently over rubies and emeralds?).

This developed into an exchange with Emma about careers and the random circumstances that can bring them into existence. She shared a fascinating run of tweets with me about how she “fell into the law entirely by accident.” Emma has very kindly permitted me to reproduce her words here:

“Well, I was planning to study medicine at uni but was talked into doing maths instead by my school careers adviser.
I think this was because they already had lots of girls doing medicine rather than
because I was unsuited to it in any way!
I
didn’t really enjoy the maths course but it did give me lots of free
time in which I got involved with human rights and feminist causes:
Amnesty International, Tibet support group, running the college Women’s
Group, volunteering at the women’s refuge. When I graduated I was
pretty clear none of the careers directly using maths appealed. I didn’t
want to be a banker. I didn’t want to make money,
I wanted to change the world! Well, I had a friend whose dad was a QC who suggested I try the Bar.

"After
Cambridge I went off to Paris for the year to escape and consider my
options. In that time I popped back to London to do a week’s
minipupillage at what is now Blackstone Chambers. On the first day I
met Anthony Lester (@Odysseus_Trust) &
he took me to lunch, asked me what I was interested in. "Sex
discrimination
and human rights” I replied. I had never heard of Anthony Lester and
knew literally nothing about that or any other area of law!

"Anthony told me he was the architect of the SDA
and talked to me about an Article 10 ECHR case he had recently done deciding local authorities couldn’t sue for libel.

"I was hooked.

"The rest is history. :)”

What
I love about Emma’s story is that she is so clearly cut out for the
legal profession, yet it so nearly didn’t happen. Our working
lives, and indeed our daily lives, are full of chance, opportunity and
paths taken and untaken at every moment. I’d venture that when examined
closely, the path any of us have taken to where we are today was by no
means linear or predictable in any way.

How did you get where you are today? Give it a moment’s thought today. And please do consider getting in touch and letting me know about your particular path to where you are this moment… and where you might like to go next?

  • If #BillableHour is new to you, please do click on this link, pick yourself up off the floor at just how much Sean Jones’ brainchild has generated in donations so far, and then please kindly consider donating.
  • Image from The Good Wife as tweeted via its official account. I make no claim to the copyright for this image, and will remove it immediately if required.

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