Years ending in a three may not sound auspicious; Olympics and world cups happen on even dates in the calendar.
Yet milestone events in my career have happened on the following ten-year pattern (with a keyword to summarise each ten-year phase):
1983: I was completing a Master’s degree (my second History degree) and looking for work. By September I was a history teacher. I did not know it at the time, but this was not a new start, but rather an end point to many years in educational institutions (though I’ve since returned to teaching – see below).
1993: I tried many things in my twenties. Having been a teacher, I became a writer, publisher, editor and journalist before moving into PR consultancy work. In 1993 a left a consultancy job to become an independent public relations consultant.
2003: The independent role enabled me to take on interim contracts as an in-house PR manager and as a consultancy director, so expanding my experience. It also allowed me to make a transition from being a PR consultant to being a professional trainer in the same field. In 2003 I became a full-time university lecturer.
2013: I’m certainly feeling restless, and the pattern suggests it’s time for a new direction.
2023: In another ten years I’ll be approaching normal retirement age, though I won’t be alone in needing to supplement my various occupational pensions with some ongoing paid work.
As a former roguish teaching colleague put it: ‘do as I say, not as I do’. I don’t claim to be a role model in my career choices, but I do think there’s a lesson for any student in the brevity of a working life: four or five decades is all you get, even if you’re Sir Alex Ferguson.
Young people feel that life is endless – and so their greatest fear is boredom. Older people know how brief it can be, and that the greatest fear is living with regrets.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change any of the major decisions I’ve made. I gained a breadth of experience in my twenties that’s still useful (learning typesetting on an early computer was a good training for the later arrival of the web and HTML). Since my thirties, I’ve gained a depth of experience in public relations (from a practice, professional training and academic teaching perspective).
I recall a friend producing my horoscope back in the 1980s on a primitive Amstrad computer. It predicted among other things that I’d make my living out of ‘writing or teaching’. I may still be sceptical about horoscopes, but it’s proven to be a very accurate prediction of my working life. Whether it’s because of the stars or because of my personality, there certainly has been a pattern to my working life.