From books to bones: how my career path (nearly) panned out

Lego librarian: career choicesDo you ever wonder what job or profession you might be doing now if your career had taken a different direction?

Perhaps if you’d got better grades at school or had accepted job offer A versus job offer B?

From time to time, I’ve pondered what alternative career path I might have followed. After all, how much of it is about the choices we make and how much is down to destiny?

But what got me really thinking about it were two recent blog posts by Charlee Sully and Michelle Abrahall. In comparison to these two creative types, my ‘tried but didn’t like’ and ‘near misses’ seem somewhat pedestrian. But I thought I’d document them anyway, so here goes…

Travel agent

Like most 15/16 year olds today I had to do a week’s compulsory work experience. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’ but as I’d chosen to study languages for ‘A’ levels I was set up with a placement at a local travel agency. However, a week spent tidying brochures, photocopying and making tea did nothing to inspire me to pursue a career in the travel industry.

Babysitter / chambermaid / gift shop assistant

Between the age of 14 and 18 these were my part-time and holiday jobs. Although on paper the first two should have prepared me for becoming a mother and homeowner, the reality of doing it full time – and unpaid – is completely different. And working in a shop, even an upmarket gift shop in the centre of Bath, made me realise that I wasn’t cut out for a career in retail.


As a child I was a real bookworm, so the idea of working in a library always appealed. Unfortunately I never got to try it out, but this unfulfilled wish is now being met once a fortnight through volunteering at the fabulous Tree House Bookshop in Kenilworth. Here I get to spend a whole morning tidying shelves and alphabetising secondhand books to my heart’s content. OCD, moi?


Box of bones from an archaeological dig

This is, without doubt, the odd one out. For some bizarre reason – which completely escapes me now – I applied to study Archaeology with German and Swedish at the University of Surrey. But I didn’t get the required grades, so ended up studying Modern Languages at Coventry Polytechnic instead. Who knows what I’d be doing now if I’d got a degree in Archaeology…

Languages teacher / interpreter / translator

These were the most obvious career choices after graduation, but none of them particularly appealed. No way was (am) I tough enough to be a secondary school teacher, and I prefer writing than speaking foreign languages so that ruled out interpreting. Of the three, the only jobs I did apply for were in translation, but it’s probably as well that I didn’t get offered them because I’m not sure I’d want to be doing it day in, day out.


As things turned out, my first ‘proper’ job was in Export Marketing. This then led to further in-house jobs in Marketing and Marketing Communications, which eventually resulted in me setting up shop as a freelance copywriter, editor and proofreader back in 1996.

So there you have it… my career path to date summarised in 500 words or so.

Over to you

Did you have any unusual or interesting jobs before the one you’re doing now? Is there an alternative career that you feel you missed out on? Or are yet to embark on perhaps? Do please share in the comments.

(image via and via)

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2 comments on “From books to bones: how my career path (nearly) panned out
  1. Anna Butler says:

    I had to pass on a job with a travel agency, and having also previously done work experience in the industry, I actually love it and was sad to have missed out.

    Had my schooling and home-life taken a different turn, I had ideas of becoming a lawyer. But that was not to be.

    At one point I considered becoming a graphic designer. However, before committing to 4 years of study, I decided to get a job in the industry instead to see if the actuality matched my perceptions. And in a round about way, it’s how I ended up becoming a copywriter 🙂

    • What a strange coincidence about the travel agency! And the link between lawyers and words is well established (as mentioned in my previous post) so it all fits together…

      Thanks for commenting Anna 🙂

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