Archive for the ‘career realities podcast’ Category

Career Realities podcast #1: the Painter/Teacher

January 4th, 2015 No comments

The first Career Realities interview is with painter Edwina Bracken. A former full-time (and then part-time) art teacher, Edwina has recently completed an MA at Glasgow’s School of Art. She talks about the difference between her expectations and the realities of a teaching career, and how she came to (just about) earn a living as a fine artist. (Apologies for a few glitches in the recording – a few Skype dropout beeps!)

The Career Realities podcast series attempts to uncover the hidden realities of day-to-day work culture in various careers – the hours, the workload, the shift patterns – and questions the often-repeated assumption that paid work is our primary source of life fulfillment.

(For a more extensive introduction to the Career Realities interviews see here.)

Podcast excerpts:

On combining a teaching career with your own painting work

I thought with the time off that you get with teaching I could fit my other art career in around the paid teaching work. That was my idea. […] So I went and did the course, and I was really overwhelmed at the scope of the job, it was a much heavier, labour intensive job than I had imagined from the outside. It was horrendously difficult to train.

I said to her [my mentor], ‘when does this become easy?’, and she said, ‘oh, after about three years’. […] But before that it was just full-on all the way, and every holiday we used to get sick.

[My own painting work] was non-existent. I didn’t do any painting or any of my own work for about five years. The teaching job was so intensive that the holiday time would come around and you would just fit in the other things that you would do in your life, […] the things that you didn’t have time when you were teaching.

I couldn’t move forward with my own art practice if I remained working within that stricture that the teaching job dictates. You know where you’re going to be on the 1st of September, you can’t really deviate from the plan, irrespective of being part-time.

On the psychological barriers to overcome when you quit a career

I felt I’d become slightly institutionalised because I’d worked in teaching for ten years, and on the one hand knowing where you’re going to be on the 1st of September can be quite frustrating, but on the other hand its really reassuring because you know you’re going to have a fixed income. So I had to come round to the idea that that was going to be a liberating experience. [Q: And was it?] Yes, it was great!

On deciding what paid work to take

I find that a lot of jobs that I would like to do are full-time jobs, and I can’t do them, because clearly I would have no time to make my work, research it and then put it out there. It can be a really tough call.

On advising my younger self

Look for a mentor. Because I think mentors are so valuable. Even if it’s not in art, just to look at how somebody can work for themselves, the way to manage your time and a work ethic. I don’t think it matters what it is you want to do, but you need to find some practical way into that.

Networking is crucial. I think sometimes it gets a really bad press. Sometimes people think it’s an ‘I’ll scratch your back you scratch mine.’ But your network is just who you can ask questions to, and then from there who do they know. Also speaking to people about what you are doing in any situation leads to networks, saying who you are and what you are doing and what you are interested in, and you never know where that leads.

More information about Edwina’s work can be found at, and you can contact her on Twitter @EdwinaBracken.

The Career Realities podcast

December 23rd, 2014 No comments

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At school and through university, my knowledge of the working life of adults was pretty much limited to their job titles: doctor, banker, call-centre operator. (Sometimes a job title told me even less: management consultant, quantum physicist, futures trader.) I knew something of what these jobs entailed: doctors cured sick people, bankers managed (or mis-managed) money, call-centre operators answered phone queries. But I knew very little at all of the work culture of these professions: of how much autonomy you had in your work, of the hours and shift patterns, of the burden of the workload – of any of the details of these professions that would, should I choose to follow one of these careers, have the most impact on the way I lived as an adult.

I stumbled forward into the careers that I pursued almost blind to what they would mean to my life, to how they would make me feel at the end of each working day. And discovered that, even though I found careers in highly sought-after professions, in television, film and publishing, these careers did very little for the kind of life I had hoped to lead. That is, one where I had  work that I found genuinely fulfilling. And so I eventually abandoned the idea of a full-time profession for the self-made career I describe in The Tyranny of Careers.

Some insight into the reality of work culture might have propelled me towards a self-made career much more quickly. So I have begun a new podcast series called Career Realities: interviews about the day-to-day realities of being a teacher, or designer, or computer programmer, of working in the music industry and of many other types of career. Most of my interviewees are people who have made a self-made career for themselves: one that combines paid work with work of their own that they find truly fulfilling, in contrast to the traditional careers they used to pursue. They’re not necessarily all ‘successful’, or exactly where they want to be with their work – but hopefully their interviews will give you some idea of the unpredictable ways in which we end up finding the work we love, and shed some light for others on the realities of full-time careers. And how you might go about avoiding them.

The Career Realities podcasts began in January 2015 – if you would like to be updated when they are broadcast, subscribe to the newsletter on this website. (There will also be notifications on my tumblr, Facebook and Twitter pages. Thank you for (future) listening. Or you can subscribe to the podcast itself: (iTunes | RSS)