Careers ‘Advice’? Follow your dreams!

Sara Thornton (co-owner of Weathertrending) recently shared an article highlighting how one particular careers adviser in her past told her to ‘give up on her dreams’ of presenting the weather on TV. Now, clearly that didn’t stop Sara! But it got me thinking about careers advice from my past – especially since meteorology is a relatively niche subject which extends far beyond what some assume it to be.

I have pretty much always wanted to be a meteorologist – well, I can trace it back to about the age of 6. It didn’t take long before I started to find out for myself what you needed to do and be good at to do meteorology… it turned out that was Maths and Physics. I quickly found out that the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading was one of the best in the world, and offered undergraduate courses in the subject. So, I had worked out what I needed to do to pursue my dream.

Naturally, you’d imagine that careers advisers and teaching staff during my time at school were helpful and encouraging – seeing as I had a definite dream in a very realistic career. Think again. The following is a genuine quote from a school careers adviser during a compulsory visit around the time I did GCSEs:

“Hmm. Have you ever considered becoming an actuary? They earn a lot of money.”

I have never forgotten that because the meeting had nothing to do with how I could pursue my dream or what I needed to or could do, but focused instead on the adviser rattling off as many careers as she could think of that weren’t in atmospheric science – including actuary because they earn a lot. Not because it might be something I wanted to do or had anything to do with my dreams.

It extends beyond that. These are quotes from teachers in my past:

“I checked, you don’t need Further Maths to do Meteorology. So you should do French!”

Choosing A-levels is hard enough. It can define your life before you’ve really worked out what you wanted to do. It’s even more difficult when teachers want you to do their subject instead of what’s right for you. It’s true, you don’t need Further Maths, but it has helped me far more than French ever would. Plus… I love maths!

“But I’m so disappointed you’re not doing Physics, you’re very good at that.”

The thing is I am doing Physics – it’s just all applied to the atmosphere and oceans! That’s something I could never seem to make this teacher, or many others, understand.

There were several other quotes which I can’t remember precisely enough to replicate. My overall point is that I had to stand my ground and just do what I wanted to do, and it often felt that this was going against the wishes of others. I’m not sure if this has something to do with a poor knowledge of what meteorology entails, or whether its snobbery towards the highest-ranked universities (instead of departments…which is what really matters, right?).

I don’t know whether I would have ended up where I am now if I didn’t have such a strong desire to go and study Meteorology at Reading, because I was never properly encouraged by those who should have done so. If you’re a young person who loves weather, go and study it. Words can’t express how happy my undergraduate degree, and now this PhD, has made me.

There’s never a dull day in weather.

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