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School assistant
How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
My initial position was as part time first aider and was advertised via Scottish Borders Council. More hours became available as a school assistant and I applied and was successful and combine the role as first aider and office administration.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? (talk perhaps about education/choices/university, college, training or apprenticeships/ CPD or professional exams/job progression)
I have an ‘ONC’ is physiological measurement and worked at the ERI for 5 yrs so when the first aider position came up I was ‘qualified’ and experienced.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
All aspects of first aid, from pupils being sick, not feeling well to epilepsy and diabetes. not a day goes by without a lot of blood, cuts and grazes! the phone rings non-stop in the office with questions, queries, complaints and very strange requests! i have to make sure all pupils are registered and accounted for throughout the day. i have to carry out tasks directed by teachers and smt at the drop of a hat and therefore have to be organised and disciplined.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
No. I always wanted to be a PE teacher but didn’t have the qualifications to get into university.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
As long as it was a full-time job with propects in a well structured organisation and made me happy then they were happy. My parents have always had an excellent work ethic which was passed onto myself and siblings.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Even if you don’t have the necessary qualifications apply anyway! fill your applications with lots of enthusiasm and positivity. Experience, whether it’s voluntary or paid work always helps. Enrol on an evening class or open learning course.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
I could apply to work in other organisations within an office environment or apply to work in the care/medical sector.

If there is anything you have not covered about your area of expertise, please feel free to add here.
A lot of what goes on during my day cannot be planned and the day never ever goes the way you want it to go and I regularly go home with a spinning head! Working in close contact with the pupils is both very rewarding and very frustrating especially when they start crying or shouting at you! However, I do genuinely my job and don’t want to leave it until I retire!

Scientist
What do you do for a living?
Scientist at Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
Enjoyed Science at school. Chose a degree in Biochemistry. Careers advice was limited at this stage.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
Studied Biochemistry & Immunology at University of Strathclyde. Chose Strathclyde because my brother went there before me and it was nearest to home. (told you I didn’t have much careers advice). Didn’t know to try and find out which University was best for the subject I was interested in.

Finished 4 year honours degree and looked at options. With an honours degree it basically came down to a choice of a job in industry (Pharmaceutical companies Research & Development) or as a technician/research assistant within an academic laboratory. Without a postgraduate qualification options are limited as is career progression. On that basis I took a position that gave me the option to study for a PhD within the Medical School at the University of Aberdeen. PhD took 3 years to complete. I then took up a post-doctoral position at the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh. Obtained a Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust which gave me the opportunity to develop my own independent research program. Subsequently obtained a position at the Roslin Institute.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
These days I get little opportunity to work in the lab. My job now mostly involves directing research staff within my group, writing new funding proposals, preparing manuscripts for publication in scientific journals, supervising postgraduate students enrolled in Masters of PhD programs within the University and some teaching of undergraduate students studying to be Vets.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
I had no real idea when I was 18. All I knew by then to my disappointment was that I wasn’t good enough to be professional footballer!!

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
Probably to be a Priest!

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Look for opportunities for work experience in research labs during school holidays and if you have an idea of what subjects you are interested in then find which universities have good reputation in that subject. Visit departments on open days.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
Other options would have been to work in the Pharmaceutical Industry either in research or as a clinical research associate who helps liase with medics to run clinical trials of new drugs/therapies. Other options are to work in Scientific publishing or increasingly in the area of public understanding of science and public engagement. One other possibility might be in the area of Patent law and intellectual property.

Scottish Government lawyer
What do you do for a living?
Scottish Government lawyer

How did you get interested in what you do?

Through the study of history, which led to an interest in current affairs (history in progress…) and the decision to study law, and from there to the wish to use my legal skills to help shape current events.

School careers advice was very basic in my day – stuff along the lines of ‘you have the grades to do x, y or z’. University open days were however very useful and helped me to decide both what, and where to study. The best advice came from family and friends.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I did the ‘arts’ highers at school, coasted shamelesly in 6th year, and then completed a 4 year LL.B at Edinburgh University.
I took a year out before deciding to train as a lawyer, and worked in local government for half that year.
I then did the one year Diploma in Legal Practice at Edinburgh University, followed by a two year training contract leading to qualification as a solicitor.
I worked in private practice in Peebles for 10 years, before leaving to join the civil service where I have been for 11 years. I am now a senior principal (middle management).

The civil service has a very strong focus on continuing professional development, and I carry out many hours of training every year, including delivering a lot of training both internally and as a guest lecturer on EU law at Edinburgh Napier University.

(I also went back to college and completed a part time history degree. Still my first love…!)

Talk us through a day in your life
I lead the Environmental Protection Team in the Scottish Government Legal Directorate. The work is very varied and covers climate change, nature conservation (including genetically modified organisms and wildlife crime), pollution prevention and control, water industry and waste (including radioactive waste).

I discuss any ongoing issues with my team, mostly relating to compliance with the many EU directives regulation environmental matters such as the Water Framework Directive and the Waste Framework Directive.

I will check on progress in any of the court actions against SG that raise environmental issues, typically involving allegations of non-compliance with the nature protection rules in the Habitats Directive and the Wild Birds Directive. I will check or draft advice and instructions for the Advocates we use in such cases.

I will deal with any advisory work that has come up, typically making sure that the Scottish Ministers are acting within the law, and in particular making sure that what we do is devolved and is fully comptatible with human rights and with EU rules.

I will draft any new secondary legislation that is needed (also known as statutory instruments), and instruct specialied Parliamentary drafters to prepare any new primary legislation that is needed. Recent Acts of the Scottish Parliament handled by my team include the Wildlife and Natural Environmental (S) Act 2011 and the Water Resources (S) Act 2013. Was this your planned career when you were 18? Yes – I always wanted to work in Government. I just took the tourist route to get there…

What did your parents want you to do?
They wanted me to do what I wanted to do, and gave me very strong support when I was studying.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Take an interest in the world, particularly current affairs. Be outgoing – being a good lawyer needs an equal mix of good people skills and intellectual rigour. Above all, be prepared to work hard. If you do, the rewards will come.

What other career directions could you go in?
The legal profession is very varied, and legal skills are highly transferrable. I could move to another area of law quite easily, and probably will – the civil service encourgages staff to move around.

I could move into policy advice in the civil service, or advice delivery in the third sector. I worked for three years on secondment as the lead adviser on bankruptcy and court enforcement, including putting a large bill throught the Scottish Parliament (now the Banrkuptcy and Diligence (S) Act 2007).

I could move into legal research, perhaps at the Scottish Law Commission.

Anything you have not covered about your area of expertise?
A good lawyer will look to put something back into the pot. Many lawyers give free legal advice to people and to charities (called ‘pro
bono’ work – a smattering of latin is still useful…). I for example have worked for many years with the Citizens Advice Service, and am currently Chair of Peebles Citizens Advice Bureau.

We would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in volunteering with us

Social worker
What do you do for a living?
I am a qualified social worker with about 20 years experience. I have worked within residential care, including secure and close support facilities. I have worked in a busy practice team, specialising in child welfare and protection, have been in the voluntary sector, worked
within Youth Justice and now work with families.

How did you get interested in what you do?
I became interested in social work after working as a volunteer in a psychiatric hospital when I was an undergraduate student studying Fine Art. I organised art classes for some of the residents which culminated in us gaining sponsorship to exhibit their work in a gallery. I have to be honest that I am also very inquisitive about people. I think you have to be intersted in people to want to do this job. You have to make some really tough decisions and work under extreme pressure at times. I knew nothing at all about social work when I firsted started out, but it all just seemed to fit when I started working with young people and their families.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I had a great experience of school, studying O Levels and A Levels which led me to University to study a BA Hons in Fine Art. A fabulous experience – but one that didn’t really open up many job opportunities. I toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher but chose instead to do a Masters Degree in Social Work. This was a 2 year post grad but can also be done as an undergraduate course too over 4 years. You have a variety of placements to help you decide what area you would like to specialise in. I have also followed this up with a further qualifiaction from Stirling University in child protection and welfare. I am now working for the Family Decision Making Team which looks at bringing in the wider family network to support their families where there are concerns about the child.

Talk us through a day in your life
I work fulltime – but with very flexible hours to suit the needs of the families I work with. My minimum week is about 36 hours although it is often more than this. Sometimes I will spend all day out of the office travelling up and down the country meeting with family members helping them to become involved with family they may not have been in contact with for many years so they can contribute to the planning. It can be emotional and really tough, but can be incredibly rewarding too. Sometimes we have to do a bit of detective work to trace family members. I will meet with a variety of professionals involved with the young person – social workers. teachers, doctors, health visitors etc. I oraganise a Family Meeting and invite everyone to attend and support the family to come up with a plan that will meet the needs of the young person. We also have responsibilities for areas development and one of my key areas of interest is domestic violence.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
Absolutely not! I had visions of owning my own gallery – being a famous painter and living a very lavish and cultured life. However what I would say about Social Work is that I am NEVER bored and from time to time meet families and young people I have worked with in the past and am overwhelmed when they remember me and speak positively about the role I had in their life. That kind of feedback is priceless.

What did your parents want you to do?
My father was a police officer and my mother was a teacher. Both of them were very supportive of my choices and very focused on my education. Neither of them went to university and were extremely keen that I should have that opportunity – as I hope my children will.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
Get some life experience first. Go travelling if you can. Do some volunteer work too. Be clear that Social Work is an extremely demanding job and a very emotional one at times. You have to be confident and a good communicator. You have to be interested in people, but have a desire to see strengths in people and want to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

What other career directions could you go in?
To be honest I dont really know. I am very happy in my current post. Sometimes things happen for a reason and opportunities present themselves – when they do grab them.

Anything you have not covered about your area of expertise?
Not that I can think of. There are loads of different opportunities in social work – adults, criminal justice, Substance misuse, disabilities, older people, hospitals, courts etc etc. Lots of potential to learn new skills.

Software consultant
What do you do for a living?
I go into companies and help them improve their software development (consultancy) and I train software professionals

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?

I saw a computer at the Science Museum in 1975 and played with the BASIC programming language at school from 1977 onwards. While still at school I got a holiday job programming accountancy software for a small company. (My previous holiday job was as a cleaner at a service station – my salary went from 60p/hour to £3/hour and I never looked back!)

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?

I decided to study Computer Science at university. I was given advice about ‘good’ courses and chose to come to Edinburgh. Since graduating I have spent a lot of time reading books, learning new techniques, going to conferences and user groups, writing articles and speaking at events. All these things bring me into contact with interesting, knowledgable people and help me acquire new skills.

Most of my professional life has been spent as a ‘contractor’, doing short assignments for various employers, mainly in and around Edinburgh. I’ve also had some ‘permanent’ roles for companies like IBM and Amazon, although I’ve frequently spent longer with an employer as a contractor than I have as a permanent employee.

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?

Where to start. Every day is different at the moment.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?

Yes

What did your mum and dad want you to do?

They supported my choice

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Start programming at home. There are plenty of online resources.
Speak to people about becoming a programmer.
Look for a local computer club.

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?

Project management, business, innovation, quality assurance.

Solicitor
What do you do for a living?
I am a solicitor and partner in a law firm.

How did you get interested in what you do?
I had some family connections with the law. There wasn’t much career advice, though I remember speaking to a solicitor at a career’s evening at school. There are always lots of lawyers protrayed on TV and that might have had a subliminal influence too.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I was interested in English and History at school , but studied a wide range of subjects. I went to Edinburgh University for my law degree and post graduate diploma. I was then a trainee solicitor for two years in a law firm.

Talk us through a day in your life.
As a partner, I spend a lot of my time supervising other lawyers, answering questions about their work and checking what they do.

I also spend a fair amount of time helping to run the business, trying to get new clients for the firm. My legal work invloves defending accident claims against clients of the firm. That invloves reading a lot of paper work comprising accident reports, witness statments and working out whether there is a legal case or not. I also have to consider medical reports and records to work ouit the vlaue of cases and negotiate settlement of claims with other lawyers. One of the most interseting aspects of my job is visiting the scenes of accidents and taking statements from those invloved. I have visited submarines, aircraft carriers and fighter bases on my career. However, most of the time is spent writing letters to clients, drafting e mails, on the phone and in meetings. If cases don’t settle, then I will need to appear in court to argue the case or instruct an advocate ( a specialist in court appearances ) to do so. Not many cases end up in court and it is nerve wracking when they do.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
Pretty much.

What did your parents want you to do?
They never expressed a view, but I think they were pleased I chose this career.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
You will need to study very hard to get good grades to go on to study law. Although the legal profession has taken a beating in the last few years and traineeships and jobs for newly qualified lawyers are scarce, it is a degree well worth studying. There are many career options open to you other than being a lawyer. Even as a lawyer, you can have a hugely varied job – from criminal law, to famly law, from property law to multi milllion pound deals as corporate lawyer. If you do want to study law, I would start thinking about what you’d do afterwards early and think beyond simply being a lawyer.

What other career directions could you go in?
The law is hugely varied and most people will end up specialising in a few areas -criminal, family, property, wills and trusts, to name a few. You might start to think about that during your degree and in particualar, your traineeship. You can become an advocate ( who specialising in appearing in court) or a
judge. Beyond the legal profression, law is an excellent degree to have to enter a buiness career or the civil service. The actor, Gerard Butler, was a trainee at the firm I work in, so you could end up in Hollywood!

Speech and Language therapist
What do you do for a living?
Specialist Speech and Language Therapist for the deaf/Team co-ordinator.

What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
No advice from school.The idea came from a friend who was a nurse and she had wanted to be a Speech and Language Therapist but hadn’t made the grades.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
Obtained 4 highers. Applied to 3 universities to do the degree BSc in Speech Pathology and Therapy. Shadowed aSpeech and Language Therapist in her job. Wrote an essay on what I had found out about Speech Therapy and submitted it to the Universities. Had a day’s interview at the universities. Obtained a place. Did the an ordinary degree in 3 years,now 4 years with honours. Got a job straight after I qualified. Then specialised in deafness and did a 3 week course with an exam in London and did some signing qulifications in BSL and Paget Gorman signing. I did some management training over 2 weeks in my job and I do regular CPD and keep an on line diary to keep my HPC and to stay a member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Talk us through a day in your life.
Check e-mails and keep my computer diary and paper diary up to date.Book in children/patients.Phone parents and schools to bookrooms.Travel to various schools and Health Centres, assess and treat children with language and speech delay/disorder using various assessments.Children might have a communication difficulty or have a disabilty- downs syndrome,autism,deafness,cleft lip and palate. Liaise and demonstrate with the parents and school staff on how they should carry out the treatment over the intervening week before you see the child/patient again.Write up assessments and treatment notes for each patient and write reports. Prepare treatment e.g. make up programmes. Attend review meetings with other professionals about certain children that you work with, give advice about the children’s communication.Attend staff meetings and senior staff meetings and help make up policy documents, carry out staff appraisals and do statistics.

Was this your planned career when you were 18?
Yes

What did your parents want you to do?
Didn’t mind,gave me no direction.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
They must be good at English and Biology at Higher level. They need to be good communicators and be confident and outgoing.

What other career directions could you go in?
None it is quite a narrow field.