Given how precarious journalism in general and freelancing in particular have become in the last decade or so, I’ve often found myself contemplating a career change. This job is something I’ve clung to with the ferocity of a label queen finding a Versace in TK Maxx and when times get tough, as they sometimes do, I seek out new avenues and explore new directions with the dogged survival instinct of a Sherpa in the Himalayas.
I know of others who have thrown in the towel and gone off to do their dream job, like opening a pet store or retraining as a florist. Trouble is, this is my dream job and when I ask myself ‘What else could you do if the worst came to the worst?’ I’m left scratching my head.
Aside from watching telly, going to the movies or thrilling to West End musicals - all of which are part and parcel of my career anyway - I get a lot of joy from building LEGO (don’t scoff; it’s great for managing anxiety) but I’m not sure how I could make that particular hobby pay.
In fact, when I visited the LEGO HQ in Billund, Denmark, last year on assignment for a magazine I showed one of the bigwigs my own designs and got an encouraging ‘Very imaginative’. But when I cheerfully asked ‘Can I have a job, please?’ I was met with a grin and a ‘There’s a very long queue’.
I’ve scratched my head so often trying to come up with alternative professions to plough I’m convinced that it’s the reason for my hair loss rather than a genetic predisposition to thinning locks that only one of my three brothers has somehow skipped (the lucky swine). Apparently we bald or balding men have more testosterone and are therefore more macho than the fully-maned males we’re so envious of, but my extensive Barbra Streisand collection and multiple ticket stubs for repeat visits to the Kinky Boots musical tell a different story.
My conclusion after all this mulling over possible new career paths: There’s nothing else I’d be any good at.
The government begs to differ.
I’ve just done the National Careers Service questionnaire on gov.uk, the one which invites you to ‘Discover your skills and careers’ by completing a quick assessment, and it seems there are LOADS of employment options waiting for me should my current career wither and die.
These include but are not limited to:
GP practice manager, running the business side of doctors’ surgeries.
Local government officer.
Montessori teacher, helping very young children gain confidence.
WTAF? I don’t have a single skill set for any of the above. Doctors’ surgeries scare me, as indeed does the thought of being at someone else’s every wish and command. The local government one is a baffler. And teaching? I’m a firm believer in never working with children or animals because they scare me too.
It gets funnier. Apparently I’d also be good for:
Fitness instructor? Seriously? My idea of strenuous exercise is venturing from the sofa to the kitchen for a Bourbon biscuit, although I do like long walks and talking so why didn’t Tour Guide come up in the results?
PE teacher makes no sense for someone who, regular readers will already know, refused to do a forward roll at school for health and safety reasons (‘Sorry Sir but I decline on the grounds I could break my neck’) and hasn’t attempted one since.
Then there’s lifeguard, which makes even less sense for someone who can only swim a couple of lengths with his head rigidly above water before getting stitch and who looks terrible in Speedos.
Just when you thought the choices couldn’t get more exciting, varied or just plain wrong there’s also:
Royal Marines officer, leading teams of commandos in combat situations at sea and on land.
To which I say, in order:
I don’t look good in Navy stripes either.
Only if the cast of Chicago are in the same prison doing the Cell Block Tango.
I don’t decorate cakes, I eat them.
My signature dish is chilli con carne courtesy of Sainsbury’s mince, Uncle Ben’s sauce and a slow cooker.
See above about never working with children or animals.
The National Careers Service results - which also include emergency medical dispatcher, sports scientist and receptionist (for what exactly?) - are mystifying. But then so is the questionnaire itself. It doesn’t ask about exam results and qualifications, details of current and previous jobs, your age or how you identify, not to mention fitness levels or if you have a fear of children, animals and Speedos.
No, it challenges you to ponder things like:
Are you comfortable telling people what to do? (Not if they’re taller than me.)
Do you make decisions quickly? (I’ll get back to you on that)
Are you competitive? (Only when it comes to seeing Kinky Boots more times than anyone else.)
Do you like meeting new people? (Indeed I do, unless they’re in a bad mood, need money or don't like Kinky Boots.)
Do you like working out complicated things? (I’ve finally mastered the Sky Q remote, if that’s what you mean.)
For ‘I like working with my hands or tools’ I checked off STRONGLY DISAGREE so why is one of my new career options meat process worker? It wasn’t ‘I like working with meat’, for Fray Bentos’s sake!
Microbrewer sounds interesting, but I’d choose Pinot Grigio over pale ale any day except maybe a sweltering hot lunchtime in Manhattan. Or a Manhattan, straight up with two cherries, any time where it’s legally allowed to sell them.
The funniest result of all: Football referee.
I know nothing about football, except that the players all have lovely hair, get paid a lot and fall to the pitch screaming in agony if one of the opposing team so much as grazes past them.
The only match I’ve ever been to was Weymouth F.C. and the only thing I enjoyed about that was the Bovril at half time.
Then when I interviewed Gary Lineker and the conversation strayed from Walkers Crisps to the World Cup I tried to impress him by saying my favourite player was Nessi from Argentina.
His raised eyebrow said it all.