Mike Vickers' Blog

February 17, 2012

I had a Dream

Filed under: Personal — derryvickers @ 9:34 pm

Sorry, not anything like Martin Luther King’s dramatic and world shattering dream.  It was just before dawn.  I was surrounded by young men, sorry they all seemed to be men, and I realised they were seeking words of wisdom on their future employment.  Why me, I cannot say.

But it made me think: back to my first job on finishing University – that was years ago and we were lucky – we who had graduated – perhaps 20% of the population.  I can recall turning down a number and choosing an organisation called Radio Research Station – a UK Government organisation committed to radio propagation.  In those days worldwide communication has carried out by high frequency radio transmission – no satellites – not many cable either.  HF radio was considered important in the days of Empire – even if Empire was disappearing.  I chose Radio Research Station because they were offering jobs to participate in the IGY (International Geophysical Year) and to go abroad.  I was scheduled to go to Singapore.  But the organisation was somewhat chaotic and although I told them I had graduated and could I start – they never got round to replying with an actual date.  After a couple of months of hearing nothing I ran them up and asked them did they still want me and they said Yes, so I said if I come on Monday next would that be OK and it was. So on Monday I turned up but by then the post in Singapore was filled.  I entered into Ionospheric research and analysing vertical ionograms and this was the early days of use of application of computers and I was hooked.  Computers and IT and their application became my life.  I went from job to job roughly at five year intervals; they included computer hardware design (including on a computer which for a few months was the world’s fastest), applications to publishing (incl Daily Mirror), hospital computing, space applications with the European Space Agency where I work with NASA, Oil Exploration and finally as a consultant with PA Consulting.  And Oh not quite the end, we have our own very small software applications development working with small UK businesses.

Sorry I have diverted; well not quite, what I have tried to get across is that of my working years finding a job that interested has always been easy.  But now it isn’t, graduates are having to work in low level jobs such as supermarkets.  Are there more graduates than before – well Yes but that is not the point.  There is far less work available.  With graduates bursting out of Chinese and Indian universities the competition is enormous.  Jobs are no longer permanent.  Luckily I was never sacked – I always chose to move – to meet another challenge – but I overstate.  It was always the look to do something new – a new experience – perhaps if I had gone to Singapore it would have been different – but then the IGY was only two years.

What can I suggest to the young graduates now?  Well go for what you want to do and press at it.  The first job will be hard to find but don’t go for the wrong job because that is the only one on offer.  When you get the job you want to be enthusiast and work hard, employers recognise enthusiasm rather than people just wanting occupation.  Move on when you are no longer challenged, life’s scope is very broad; get a thrill from what you do.    Think of overseas work, again the world is a big place; Nigeria was an experience well worth having.

Should you be employed or on your own?  Most of my jobs were as an employee and there was nothing wrong with that – the longest was working for PA Consulting Group – 10 years and I worked all over the place and I got my chance abroad, Nigeria, Norway, Cyprus and this was good, meeting different clients and helping to get what they wanted with their businesses.  And now as a small company – this is very challenging – there are no silos, you span all aspects of a business: the work itself, the planning, the staffing and of course the finances.

I realise I have not given much advice and been too egocentric but if I have given a flavour of life’s grandeur (a favourite expression of one of my favourite authors, the late Stephen Jay Gould) then I have succeeded in getting across that while the present times are difficult for the young – don’t give up and go for what you want.

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