Given the recent UK election outcome, which career should I pursue?
May 10, 2015 3:38 AM   Subscribe

As a current unemployed ambitious 34 year old woman whom is currently feeling the anxiety of a tough job market and uncertain career path, can anyone provide any advice as to the best strategic choice for picking a career path which will provide some degree of financial security and job satisfaction? I am struggling to make a definitive choice despite racking my brains for nearly 12 months since losing a full time job.

I'm extremeley concerned about the future of my career during the next 5 years, or indeed the next 15.

I've been racking my brains for 12 months now attempting to figure what the best career choice is I can make in providing some degree of security. If anything, the job market in the UK is going to become more competitive, increasingly tough and worringly pessimistic.

I'm 34 and currently unemployed. After graduating in 2013 with a degree in Business as a mature student, I secured a permanent job in real estate within the commercial sector. Athough I was only a sales negotiator, and worked directly to the Head of Commercial (small department), I had so many responsibilities within my role and made a positive change in the 10 months I was there. I honestly loved my job and was contemplating doing a part time Masters in Surveying with a view to becoming RICS qualified after a few years. It was a plan that provided me optimism, happiness and a sense of identity. I was laid of for reasons unknown, out of the blue, yet if i am being honest with myself, I think it was politically and socially motivated. One of the senior members of staff who most people didn't like in the company, took a disliking to me (because I had a bit of a 'bite' to my defense mechanisms) and whilst she wasn't in charge of hiring or firing, she certainly influenced the owners of the company to make operational decisions. Anyhow, it was a very upsetting day as you can imagine, and since then, my self esteem has been shot to pieces and I have little faith in working for employers who can lay off staff depsite their measurable high levels of productivity (my immediate boss provided me an excellent reference and said he didn't agree with the firing - via text).

So since May 2014, I have undertaken sporadic very short term contracts through agencies. We are talking 5 weeks at most, and in total, I have worked 15 weeks out of the last 52 weeks. Thankfully, I have survived on the little savings I have (there's none left now), and I am currently living with a friend and her husband until I secure more longer term/permanent work. To note, I have mostly lived in houseshares the last 10 years of my life, I am not engaged, nor have children.

So at 34, I am desperately worried about the direction of my career. I've thought about pursuing the teaching route (my PGCE would be subsidised, thus reachable given my financial situation), but I do not see myself teaching children - adults yes - but not children, but I see this route as a career which would provide some security given the demand in teachers lately. This may change given the current UK election outcome however.

Then I thought about Quantity Surveying - they're is definitely a shortage of them in the UK, and in New Zealand/Australia. Well paid and it's a 'career'. It's not my passion obviously, but i possess the business acumen and logical approach to number crunching. I could do a post-graduate conversion course, completed over 2 years, but i'd need to save for it during the next year (pending the work situation obviously). It's a strategic option which would provide a path.

My passion lays within the creativity arenas. I'm tech savvy, occasionally using Adobe Illustrator to produce artwork (albeit just a starter at present), and I regularly paint and study Typography and branding. Have always been very artistic since *this high* but regretfully didn't pursue this option when I was younger (degree in Graphic Design for example). The problem with the creative route is that the market is saturated with experienced creatives, so despite briefly and intermittently contemplating starting a business within the branding/print design arena, my slap-in-the-face reality check reminds me it's not feasible nor viable to start a business in the current climate - I need a relatively long term secure income. My boyfriend is just in the process of starting up a t-shirt design company (he hand draws the images from scratch), and I'm envious of his optimism and entrepreneurial positive attitude. Then again, his parents are allowing him the freedom to stay at home whilst he pursues his venture. I'm your typical working northern labour girl, and his family are all conservatives - financially secure and either run their own business or married a partner who is financially secure.

Career Background:

- 1997 - 2001: Worked as an agency temp for 4 years working for over 20 different sized companies within different sectors. Very bouyant economy and always found work.
- 2001 - 2011: Worked for a large public sector department for 10 years undertaking 3 different job roles. Procurement, IT training and Estates Facilties. I was never in a management role, and found it difficult to progress to management level, as did most people to be fair.
- 2010 - 2013 - Left said public sector to pursue a degree at a great university. Best thing I had ever done in my life. Very life-affirming and rewarding. Excelled within essays, reports, group work and won a Vice Chancellor award in recognition of my efforts as a mature student within my faculty.
- 2013 - 2014 - Secure a permanent job within Commercial Real Estate. Positive time for me, was happy and fulfilled doing a job I loved and offered a career path.
- 2014 - Was laid off from my job.

I am placing myself under so much pressure to have a plan and find a career path where there is supply outstrips demand (not hugely, but more often than not in my job search, it's not uncommon for me to see job adverts for Surveyors, teachers, writers, nurses, physios, etc).

I would love to pursue a career within writing of some sort or another, for example, a technical or commercial writer. I have looked into what I need, shall we say, to increase my marketability for attaining such jobs, and there is an association for technical writers in the UK who have provided links to accredited companies who can provide qualifications. Research, analysis, problem-solving and writing are the areas where I excel the most and equally would very much enjoying doing as a job. My friend was lucky enough to get a temp job within local government as an Intelligence Researcher (she was half way through her masters when she decided to quit and go for this job). I did apply, but sadly my credit history let me down (criteria was understandably strict). Other to that, I passed every other criteria.

Digressing, can anyone please provide any advice as to what would be a logical and a within-reach career choice in my present situation? For the present moment, securing any job at the moment would be a means to an end, so I can save up and pay for the qualifications needed to pursue the career I would like.

I am pretty scared and anxious at present.

Many thanks, I really do appreciate any advice you have.
posted by emma33UK to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Given that you enjoyed the real estate job and that you are willing to do some more training, do you think you might want to become a licensed conveyancer? You can earn during the training process and it is a stable and fairly secure job. It's not a lot of money, and you would need to see if you would enjoy the legal side, but it might be an option to consider.

(I definitely think going into teaching for job security and without enthusiasm is a mistake. It's a gruelling and thankless job in the current environment and my sense, from friends who are teachers, is that you can only get through it with a passionate sense of vocation.)
posted by Aravis76 at 4:11 AM on May 10, 2015

Response by poster: Hi Aravis, thank you for taking the time to reply.

Licenced convenyancer, as in, a qualified estate agent? When I was working within the commercial side of real estate, I witnessed the work of my colleagues within the residential arm of the business and have to say it's not really challenging enough for me. By considering becoming a chartered surveyor (building or quantity), it allows me to really strive for success (becoming Chartered).

Yes, you are correct in regards to the teaching profession and explains why I haven't taken this seriously as an option.

The real estate route seems plausible given that i've worked within either estate and facilities management or real estate for most of my career, so that is definitely something to give further consideration too. The only thing I was slightly apprehensive about was my age and gender within a male-oriented industry but, that's upto me to prove it shouldn't be a barrier to entry.

Thanks again :)
posted by emma33UK at 5:02 AM on May 10, 2015

Not an estate agent, but rather the person who handles the legal aspects of the transaction. It's similar to becoming a solicitor, really, but the training is less expensive and time-consuming (although the flip side of that is that you earn less than many solicitors). I believe conveyancers do work with both commercial and residential property -- I suppose the main question would be whether the legal side is of any interest to you.
posted by Aravis76 at 6:04 AM on May 10, 2015

Seconding that teaching is hard work but there are various routes you could take. Keep an eye on local FE/Sixth Form colleges a mixed Media/Business specialism would tick a few boxes in the current climate and there are a few salaried Trainee Teacher positions out there at the moment.

The FE experience is very different from your stereotypical secondary school teaching gig too - much less crowd control, somewhat less micromanagement by leadership, kids who actually want to be there etc etc.
posted by brilliantmistake at 6:19 AM on May 10, 2015

I am from a quantity surveying background so can give you some thoughts from a QS / real estate perspective under a couple of headings:

Location - are you able to disclose where you are based? As I think this will influence things a lot.

I work in London and here the market as a whole is very positive, and this is reflected in there being a real drive for recruitment at the moment. As widely reported the residential sector has been strong recently, and the general consensus is that 5 more years of Tories will mean the commercial really starts to roar as well.

The recession has meant that people were really put off joining the industry from 2009 -13 and so now there is a particular shortage of good graduates / newly chartered surveyors. This is obviously good for people who can fill those roles.

However from what I hear anecdotally whilst growth is picking up outside London it isn't anything like the same, and is still recovering from really tough times in the recession.

So I would say your prospects are quite different depending on where you are based (or prepared to move to).

RICS / training - for either general practice surveying or QSing you really need to be chartered with the RICS, and not being chartered at 34 will mark you out as being a bit unusual. Given that you have a degree you just need to do a post graduate diploma, which is less than a masters, and can run concurrently whilst you get your 2 years experience for the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) to become chartered. Places such as the College of Estate Management let you do the diploma as distance learning.

The ideal would be to find a firm that will pay your fees for the diploma and let you study for it on a day release basis whilst working for them. Again I imagine this will be easier somewhere like London where the market is busy.

I didn't do a surveying degree originally and was fortunate enough to find an employer that offered this sort of arrangement (pre-recession!). Learning in the classroom and working on real projects at the same time is ideal and you really can develop fast.

Also you do want to look for somewhere that really supports you through the APC. At my current firm there is a big focus on presentations, forums, mock interviews and the like to get the grads up to speed as soon as possible which seems to work really well.

Skillset - Your artistic background sounds quite atypical for a QS, however the business acumen and logical approach are exactly what you need.

Also, whilst you your first couple of years will be mostly measurement, crunching the numbers in cost plans and such things, after that the profession widens out a lot and so much more of the job is about being able to communicate what you've done and what you want other people to do, think logically and strategically through a project and so on. This is where I think coming from a non QS background has helped me hugely and I imagine could be similar for you.

Overall - As you say there is a general shortage of good QSs, and to be honest there is a general shortage of intelligent and well rounded people in the property / construction world so personally I always want to see more and hope you consider surveying further! Feel free to memail me with any queries (especially if you are looking at any particular QS firms).
posted by Albondiga at 7:19 AM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also is it possible to elaborate on why you enjoyed your sales negotiator job so much?
posted by Albondiga at 7:22 AM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you can tolerate the public sector again and want to continue with the goal of becoming RICS qualified you could try the Valuation Office Agency. They are closing lots of offices around the country at the moment, but actually they are going to be in need of surveyors in the coming years as they have a lot of older staff nearing retirement. I think they are recruiting - check Civil Service Jobs. They support staff going for professional qualifications. They are good for job security, have been around for ever, but they have a pretty low score for employee engagement at the moment (check out the annual report if you're interested, on
posted by tinwhiskers at 11:29 AM on May 10, 2015

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