Jackie Mellor Brownlee, an English Literature graduate, tells us about how she got her job as a website designer and how a ‘zig-zag’ careers isn’t necessarily a bad thing!
In common with lots of folk who start out with no particular job-path in mind, and end up doing something they love, ‘Career’ is a good verb to describe the zig-zag journey of ‘how I got my job’. Some of false starts, the occasional dead end, a massive dose of luck here and there; that’s what I see when I look back over the last twenty years.
I left the University of Leeds in 1995 with a 2:1 in English Literature, in the middle of a recession, and went back to live with my parents. Because I had a degree and could type at 50 words per minute, the temping agency skipped the watercress packing job-route and put me straight onto receptionist work. Most of the small companies in Winchester have had telephones answered, envelopes stuffed, and letters franked by me at one time or another. Quite often they offered me permanent work, but even if I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to do, I knew it wasn’t office management.
Eventually I had a couple of days’ work for a small technology company. They had a receptionist job going and the MD called me into his office to have a chat. He had my CV in front of him and the conversation went like this:
MD: ‘We have a job as receptionist open. Would you like to apply’
Jackie: ‘I could consider it; you should know that I’m really looking for something that will build on my degree’
MD: [Looks further down CV] Well… I see that you have an art degree
Jackie: [Thinks ‘Actually I have a Foundation Certificate in Art and Design. It says so quite clearly on my CV.’ Smiles and keeps silent]
MD: ‘Have you heard of the Internet?’
Jackie: ‘Yes, my Dad’s got it’ *
MD: ‘One of our managers is really keen for us to do websites. Would you like to be our web designer?’
Jackie: ‘Yes, why not’
It was that conversation that got me my first job as web designer. It was that job that enabled me to work through the dot.com boom as an interface designer. It was having experience as an interface designer that got me interested in User Experience, and the dot.com bust that gave me the redundancy money and the time to do a Masters in usability. The Masters degree took me into Consultancy, which was both the hardest and most enriching job experience I’ve ever had. For the last eight years I’ve had two children and worked as an independent User Experience consultant helping large organisations make their digital products better for their users.
Even though it might not have seemed like it at the time, the false starts, the dead ends, the hard work and the luck have always been moving me forward from that first job – taking me to something that is not just work, but a calling. It suits my personality, it pays well, and I love it.
I suppose you could call it a career (noun).