I first met Open University careers adviser Andy Howells at last year’s science summer school at Sussex. Careers advice is one of the many support services that the OU provides for its students and, as I was then several months into my post redundancy career break, it made sense to take the opportunity to talk things over with a professional.
As it turned out, Andy is based in my home region (the OU, like HMG, persists in maintaining the geographical fiction that Oxford is in the south of England rather that the midlands) and so last Tuesday saw me heading off to the OU’s offices on Boars’ Hill to review my lack of progress.
My previous experience of careers advice was five minute interview in the Careers Room (née The Little Old Art Room) when I was 14 or 15 and consisted of:
“We need more women engineers. I’ll put you down for engineering.”
Although I had heard of George Stevenson and had even read a particularly interesting biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, I didn’t really have much idea what an engineer was or whether I wanted to be one. Unfortunately, the fact that the the careers adviser was also my maths teacher meant that argument wasn’t an option.
The OU approach is to get you to review your needs, achievements, interests and values through preparatory exercises and the interview itself. We concluded that I should be actively seeking a permanent part-time job, which would prevent me from becoming unemployable in the long term, whilst topping up my income and enabling me to complete my studies.
On the way out, I picked up a couple of prospectuses to help me plan the next step on the road to my degree. Now let me see … Science, Maths & Computing and … oh look … they do Engineeering.