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Old Girl Reveals Her Non-Linear Career

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As part of Year 10’s ‘World of Work’ series, Old Girl Judith Grazier (Class of 1979) returned to the Girls’ Division via Zoom to speak to pupils about her career, and impress upon the girls that career progress isn’t always in a straight line.

She began by stating that she had always thought that would be the case: at school she wanted to be a teacher, and imagined then that she would end up as a headteacher. After leaving Bolton School she trained as a middle school teacher with maths specialism at Warwick University. However, after teaching for three years and inspired by her friends in interesting jobs, she took a short break to train as a Chartered Accountant in Leeds.

Her ‘short break’ turned into ten years! She moved to London, where she worked in the training department, combining her teaching skills with accountancy. She then realised that she regretted never having lived or worked abroad. However, she said: ‘I don’t believe in regrets. If there’s something you wish you’d done, go and do it!’

Therefore, she applied for a job with an international element and for the next five years travelled all over the world. Judith reminisced fondly about her experiences, but also described the loneliness and exhaustion of this high-flying lifestyle.

She took a career break in her mid-30s to raise her two children, but when they started school she once again wanted a career. She retrained as a teacher, starting in a state primary school and then moving to teach accounting and business at A Level. She said that this was the point where her two work passions started to really combine. She set up an award-winning business school within the sixth form college where she worked, which helped give the students the real life skills needed to succeed in the commercial world.

As she approached retirement age, now an assistant head, Judith realised that she wanted more flexibility to prioritise her family and interests. She therefore approached Skills Builder Partnership, a not for profit organisation which helps schools to develop programmes to cultivate life skills in their pupils, and now works part time helping headteachers to plan, training teachers and encouraging businesses to speak to young people as part of these sessions.

She described her career as a wobbly, broken line with three highlights, none of which were necessarily the times when she had the highest job title or the best salary.

Looking back, Judith admitted that the one thing she would do differently would be to study for a qualification while raising her young children. She also talked about her memories of the Christmas Post when she was in Year 10 and said, ‘I wish I’d know then that it’s okay to be me, I could enjoy being me.’ However, she added, ‘That career graph is absolutely me. I love the business world but I also love teaching, and I didn’t have to choose! I brought them both together into one role.’ The one further piece of advice she gave was: ‘Going through your career, take ‘you’ with you.’

The floor was then opened to questions. Judith spoke about doing ‘everything’ when she was at school, taking part many different volunteering activities, and she encouraged the girls to do the same to develop their life skills. She talked more about her travels and being able to explore in her free time: ‘Bolton School had made me very independent so I was perfectly happy to drive somewhere and have a look. I came home with so many different experiences, sites I’d been to see, places I’d walked and travelled.’

She also elaborated on the challenges she has faced in her current role and as a teacher. Finally, she discussed that, although she has some small regrets, such as not becoming a headteacher, she wouldn’t swap her career path for anything.

Judith’s talk gave the Year 10 girls a very realistic view of how a career might pan out, and dispelled the notion that it always happens in a straight line. Her overview of everything she has achieved was also a great inspiration for all those watching.

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