Fancy a Career in Snow Sculpting?

The Head's Study

Our first snow day moving seamlessly to Teams (after an obligatory spot of snow well-being) reminds us of how adaptable and agile we have all become since lockdown learning. So too in the careers market, a topic that we have been discussing with students as we mark our Careers Week. Monday’s lively whole school assembly was an entertaining insight into the varied and bizarre jobs many staff have had, from quality control in a confectionary company (Mr Moyle) to driving tankers at sea (Miss Cornick). The message was be open minded and realise that whilst you may not always want to persuade commuters at Victoria station to sign up for life insurance (me), every job enriches you with transferable skills.

Having a dedicated in-house careers advisor at Royal High School marks us out from other schools in many ways. This means that careers advice and exploration is not just a one hour meeting in Year 11 but more of an on-going journey. Our highly qualified Careers Advisor Mel Whalley oversees our careers pathway to ensure career discussions start in Key Stage 2 with young girls bursting with enthusiasm and curiosity. By Year 9 individual sessions catch girls when they are wonderfully open-minded away from the exam pressures that can make careers feel like one more to do list. By Year 10 regular discussions and opportunities encourage girls to view career optimisation as a lifelong activity, something that is so key to this generation who are predicted to have many more careers, let alone jobs, than we ever have.

This was brought to life yesterday in a spirited conversation with one of our alumnae. She had gone from studying sciences at Sixth Form to dentistry at university before moving to marketing and ultimately being Head of Brand at Red Bull. Most recently Imogen Puddick jointly founded a consultancy specialising in employee engagement. Imogen has had a true ‘squiggly career’ about which she has kindly offered to come and talk to our girls whilst also doing a spot of team building for our new prefects.

Conversations with Mel Whalley who can challenge and support students, and outside speakers such as Imogen sharing journeys and insights, are two strands of an impactful career provision. The pioneering opportunities offered by the powerful GDST network are another, for instance the LEAD (Leadership and Entrepreneurship Advanced Diploma) ‘real world skill’ course for Year 12. GDST works with the London School of Economics (LSE) to create the course, plan speakers and find mentors, freeing up Mel to focus on lessons for our Year 12 who have opted for this as part of their enrichment studies.

The fourth essential strand to meaningful careers education is work experience. This is only possible with help from parents and Mel is meeting with one interested in building links with others interested in helping. However, the most useful aspect of work experience is girls having to go out and find a placement: being proactive, writing an introductory email, getting rejected, having to write more and persuade someone to take them. These are all essential skills to career management that we encourage girls to learn from the supportive environment of school.

So where does this leave our students when they come in from their snow creations and settle back to the routine of studies? Remind them to look up and see the bigger picture. It is never too early to start a careers pathway notebook, jotting down ideas, research, contacts - anything and anyone that might be formative in finding the right route for your daughter and a career that ‘makes you whistle on your daily commute’ as Imogen Pudduck so succinctly puts it, something that Lolo and I definitely did through our fairy-tale snow scape this morning.