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Chris Targett
31 March 2016

We have recently lost two iconic individuals, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Reading the posts and articles on social media and in various newspapers there is a recurring theme, in particular with regards to David Bowie. Various voices have repeated and echoed how he was a role model as well as an accomplished musician and performer. The key point being that as a role model he showed others what was possible in how they could live their lives, whether it was as an outsider or representing the rights of those who were perceived as “different.”

Reflecting on this influence and what it might mean for us and careers work, it sheds light on a hidden aspect of “work experience” and our myriad encounters with the world of work. We often overlook the importance of the mentors we meet at work who provide us with a foundation to grow from. These mentors provide us with an insight into what is possible in how we can live our lives; seeing how they live their lives can give us confidence in our own, especially in our formative years as teenagers when our thoughts, feelings and identity remains in a constant flux.

These encounters with work and “people who work” often starts with our teachers where we see what they do but, not necessarily how they live. With our parents and carers we often see the opposite, seeing how they live and work to raise their families but not always their work outside the home. As we grow up we are in danger of picking up an incomplete picture of the world of work, unless our encounters with adults show us both how people live AND how they work, including the relationship and balance between the two.

In the broadest sense, this was some of the magic of Bowie as we saw his life and work... a complete picture. In particular for those who didn’t “fit” neatly into society, there was the sense that they could see the possibility of who they could become and how they could be. Thinking of my own previous experiences in education, I have seen the importance of such role models in areas including Music, Visual and the Dramatic Arts as well as Sport. Being shown a sense of what might be possible can have an important impact on the growing mind and individual, giving students hope and inspiration.

So what does this have to do with traditional “work experience”? I would argue that when offering experiences of work we should offer the whole picture, including how particular jobs impact on how we live and the opportunities we may have along the way, as well as compromises certain occupations may require. We should go further, so students can gain a greater insight into the people they could be. Experiences of work should include individuals from all walks of life, not just a selected few or a cherry picked cross section of “aspirational” or “traditional careers”. Let’s see the Musicians celebrated as much as the Lawyers and the eternal World Travellers lauded as much as our Engineers. It is in presenting our diversity that students can gain a greater insight into the lives of others, gain a tolerance for those whose lives are different to their own and explore the possibilities of who they can become, as well as what they could do.

There are places in this world for the quirky and traditional, our geeks and our freaks, for all manner of individuals. Let us show them this, so that as they grow our students don’t miss this important insight and feel that they have no place in the world.

Written by: Chris Targett

Originally published on the CXK blog, Thursday 21st January 2016

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