Yesterday, I had the absolute privilege of being invited to a wonderful school event held in Bloomfield Collegiate. Pupils in Year 10 are currently participating in a ‘Careers Week’ at school, and so the ‘Aspire’ event was organised to encourage the girls to think about their creative interests, transferable skills and their individual strengths as well as taking into consideration that many of the careers that they will step into in the future don’t yet exist! Exciting!
From the moment I arrived at the school reception, I was made to feel extremely welcome by event organiser and Languages teacher at Bloomfield, Eleanor Anderson. She introduced the speakers to one another and explained the format of the day so setting us all at ease. I was among a group of talented local people from the Creative Arts sector, past pupils and wonderful entrepreneurs. Admittedly, I felt a little out of my depth when I heard some of their amazing stories and achievements and just hoped I wouldn’t let the pupils down. I didn’t have too long to dwell on my doubts as we were soon ushered outside into the glorious sunshine for some photographs along with several pupils and Principal, Dr Darrin Barr.
As we gathered for pictures and chatted, I noticed pupils walking around, toing and froing from class to class, and I was struck by the relaxed atmosphere at Bloomfield. I was unfamiliar with the school, but had heard great things about it, and I was so impressed by the positive vibe and friendly ambience.
Eleanor told us she was inspired to host the event following a module the pupils had studied in French lessons on the theme of ‘Employability’ and how she was keen to create a space for the girls to start thinking about their own passions and abilities – a real role model herself, Eleanor, is dedicated to motivating the girls to find their own unique pathway in life on both a personal and professional level. Eleanor’s own career path has not been traditionally linear – however, with jobs in Paris within the waste-water industry, many years working in PR, then embarking once again on studies while raising a family, she has entered into the teaching profession with a wealth of workplace and general life experience as well having utilised her language skills within her various employment roles. During her welcome talk, Eleanor invited the pupils to remember it is worth keep their options open when it comes to career choices, to realise that learning is a life-long process and that many of the skills picked up along the way are transferable.
Having set the positive and relaxed tone for the day, Eleanor then welcomed Mimi Turtle, Chief Executive of the Strand Arts Centre, to the stage. Mimi spoke about her own education, her various jobs and work experience and her strategic role in setting up the superb Strand Arts Centre. To hear Mimi talk so passionately about her own education and career journey, as well as her vision for the growth and development of the Strand Arts Centre, was truly inspiring and I can only imagine that the pupils listening so attentively garnered much from her knowledge, her positivity and her words of encouragement to keep their options open.
Following Mimi’s talk, we then split into groups, where each of us spoke to around 10 pupils at a time. As well as myself, Client Director of Thrive, Fiona Bell, past pupil Lauren Allison, who is the Founder and Executive Director at Sulby Media, entrepreneur and owner of Best Buds Belfast, Caitlin McGinnis, Susan Rafferty, architect at Povall Worthington and John Rubery, former Invest NI and European Commission in Brussels employee, were present. What a varied and interesting party to be included in!
I had been asked to talk about my blog, Every Treasure, my own education which includes studying French, English and History to A-Level, followed by a degree in Journalism as well as my current studies with the Open University in English Literature and Language. The girls listened so politely and attentively as I chatted about my time working as a newspaper reporter, my years spent at home as a full-time Mummy to my 3 sons, and how the itch to write and create never left me and the little poems I would write when I found a few spare minutes between changing nappies and cleaning sticky faces. How, as the boys grew and our love for the outdoors blossomed, I had the idea to set up a blog to document our family adventures as well as create a space for me to have some fun creatively. I talked about reaching the final of the 2018 UK Blog Awards and the way it has caused me to focus on what I truly enjoy in life – being outdoors and writing.
The girls laughed when I explained that my own career isn’t traditional in the sense that I work part-time for Cancer Focus NI, study part-time with the OU, blog part-time, lead family hikes into the Mournes on a bi-monthly basis and am still here to help my boys with their homeworks each afternoon. I think they wondered how I managed to squeeze it all in, and at times it is a challenge, but it works for me and my family and I believe the many skills I have picked up over the years in the classroom, lecture hall, various work experience placements, staying at home with kids, in the workplace and as a blogger have led me to the place I am at today – enjoying life and looking towards a career in teaching once I complete my own studies. I think the girls appreciated that learning doesn’t end when we leave school or University and that it is a life-long process and that knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life when you are aged 13 or 14 is not essential! At 36 I am still discovering what it is that makes me truly tick and I don’t believe that anything learned along the way goes to waste!
The girls enjoyed being able to look at my blog site and then asked me lots of questions about how school had helped prepare me, what motivated me to start the blog, what keeps me going and for any advice I could give them. I left them with this quote from American Author, Robert Collier:
‘Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.’
I explained to them in our modern times that success is often equated with a trophy or a title…the end goal. However, getting up each day, putting on your positive head, finding something you are good at, practicing, nurturing skills, showing up, continuing to learn and grow, to question, to wonder, to step out and bravely try new things, to not limit yourself, to believe in your passions and the things that bring you maximum joy and to chase after them wholeheartedly, well, that is the true marker of success.
To finish the event, former pupil, Lauren Allison was invited to the stage to share a few tips and words of advice. Lauren is hugely successful in her own career in the IT industry and she spoke sincerely to the girls about working at things you enjoy as well as advising on good time-management and organisation, keeping focused and not wasting our precious time – a great piece of advice for us all no less!
It was a real privilege to chat with the pupils at Bloomfield Collegiate – such an enthusiastic and energetic bunch of girls with masses of potential who I have no doubt among them will be the movers and shakers of the future! Huge thanks to Eleanor for inviting me to be among the speakers at the ‘Aspire’ event and for making me feel so welcome. It was a super morning and I loved every moment of it.