‘m always amazed when I hear of children who know exactly what they want to do when they grow up, and follow it through without hesitation.
When I started secondary school I met a girl called Rebecca who wanted to be a doctor. She never wavered from this ambition and the last I heard she had indeed become a doctor.
It was completely different for me – I had only a vague idea of what adults did at work, and an entire childhood without television and a reading habit centred on Enid Blyton and Biggles did nothing to change that – right up until I left school I had no idea what I wanted to “be”, so much so that I simultaneously applied to be an accounts trainee and an engineer at British Gas.
So how did I get into bookkeeping and accounts?
The simple answer is that my school careers officer suggested it! How boring, you might think, but the fact is our school careers officer was a formidable woman who worked very hard at getting to know her students and then making things happen with prospective employers. I remember being impressed at how organised she was and I’m still trying to replicate that today.
The long answer is more complicated. My very first job was as a trainee accountant at the head office of what was then known as Southern Electricity Board. Soon after I arrived privatisation took its course and before long I was working at a Plc and watching the atmosphere change from government department to corporate finance. By the time I left, some three years later, I had worked out the corporate world did not suit me at all.
When I relocated to Nottingham, I signed up with an agency and was sent to a tiny office on Trent Lane. It was interesting and varied work and before long I had become a permanent member of staff – or so I thought!
After a year or two the owner decided to retire and sold off his various premises one by one as franchises, leaving me alone at “head office” with very little to do. It was his suggestion that I go freelance (thanks, Barry!) that set me on the road to accounting practice and he became my very first customer.
For three years I worked as a freelance bookkeeper, picking up a small but regular client base that kept me fairly busy. Unlike my first job in industry, this was an interesting time. I found I loved the variety of working at more than one business and the insight it gave me into different lives. Each time I turned up at someone’s premises it was like picking up a book and stepping into a different world!
This is the aspect of my work that I still enjoy the most – working with a wide variety of people in all sorts of fascinating roles. From plumber to portrait painter, from farrier to physiotherapist, from architect to air conditioning – they all have different requirements and it helps keep my work a constant source of fascination.
I may not have nursed a childhood ambition to be an accountant, but it turns out I get to taste lots of different careers every week and that suits me just fine!