On being a Jack-of-all-trades

I don’t have a trade or a profession, as such. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I was younger, I would have replied – a doctor, or a writer.  And, always, a mother. I wasn’t strong enough in the sciences to pursue the medical route; and I’ve never thought my writing was good enough to form the basis of a career.  Mothering – that’s a skill I’m still working on but it’s fair to say that I’m not as good at it as I thought I would be, though I sincerely hope I will turn out to be good enough.

I suppose I’m what might be described as a good all-rounder; ok at everything, outstanding at nothing. And that has served me quite well so far – respectable GCSEs, A Levels, and degree led to a respectable position training to be a Chartered Accountant…I hated it, and left as soon as I could persuade someone else to employ me. I think I might regret that now – I hated it, true, but had I stuck it out I’d at least be certain of always having a job.

After the almost-accountancy career, I joined the Guardian, selling ad space – (I might have had secret delusions of somehow managing to blag a job writing stuff, but they remained delusions) – and from there, sort of fell onto an advertising/marketing/communications type career path. I enjoyed it, without ever feeling massively fulfilled by it, and it paid for the holidays, which was all I really had to worry about paying for… and since there was always another job to go to when I needed a change, I didn’t worry too much. And just as I got to the point where I was REALLY fed up with it all, I fell pregnant – bonus!

As it happened, I didn’t stop working for that long – the husband was made redundant when our eldest was one; which led to us buying a coffee shop; and we followed that with starting up a board games shop from scratch. Running your own business means you have to learn a lot of things, very quickly, because especially when you start out, you can’t afford to pay for anyone to do anything. As a result I now know quite a bit about quite a lot.  Licensing law, employment law, Ltd company obligations, tax/NI, VAT, HACCP, PR, project management, e-commerce, m-commerce, PR,  event management, managing suppliers, starting a business from scratch, not to mention how to make an awesome coffee – I can hold my own in any of these areas, though I’m not an expert in any of them.

And therein lies the problem. Not an expert in anything….that didn’t seem to matter in my twenties and thirties, but now I’m the wrong side of 4041, and trying to get back into some sort of career, it’s a real problem.  I run a business, so I know how hard the last few years have been from the retail perspective; and I read the papers, so I have some awareness of how tough it has been from every other perspective too. But somehow I never equated that to how hard I would find it to get a job when I needed/wanted to. And with a rather large building project planned for next year, I can safely say that I VERY MUCH need/want to! I was lucky enough to get some work on a great project last year, but that contract is now coming to an end; I’ve been scouring the papers and the job boards, but there really doesn’t seem to be anything at all out there for anyone, let alone an ancient Jack-of-all-trades.

If push comes to shove, I can always go back to working in our own business, but at the moment, I don’t feel that is an option. Firstly, I’d have to sack someone to make way for me, and it just feels wrong to make one of our very committed team redundant -especially in the current climate – just because I can’t get a job. Secondly, working outside our own business has been good for our marriage – let me tell you, nothing kills the romance quicker than working together!

I’m not sure what to do now. The nuclear option would be to retrain – but as what? I really don’t know what I would be good at. And would it be fair to put my family through it, in terms of taking up my time and attention when I should be looking after them; and also I’d be draining our already stretched finances, meaning no chance of us altering the house so they can all have their own rooms…On the other hand, if I don’t retrain, am I just going to end up hopping from one job to another, competing with ever younger and brighter folk who can turn their hand to anything just like me, but faster and cheaper?

I used to like being a Jack-of-all-trades. It gave me freedom and kept me interested. Now I am beginning to wonder if I made a bad choice.




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2 thoughts on “On being a Jack-of-all-trades

  1. I love the honesty and reflection here Michelle. The reality is that currently over 50% of economically active people in the UK will have two if not three careers by the time they retire. Have a read of your blog again, there is a potential answer in your blog! X

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