Chance could be a fine thing. By Graeme Leslie, Designtastic
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
The question every child or young person dreads, and rightly so. How can we expect those blessed with youth to have the foggiest clue what they would like to do for the rest of their lives?!
So how do we make this profoundly important decision? Some of us are drawn to specific career paths from a young age, being influenced by family and friends. Some are exploiting a natural talent, while others are going after the cash – no shame in that!
It’s a particularly unsettling time at the moment for young people about to embark on the next step in their academic or professional lives, as well as those having to look for a job or change career out of necessity.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in a job you like. Or are you trying to find something new? How do you choose what's right for you? My career choice was down to a chance conversation. I want to share this story in the genuine hope that it sparks an idea, or at the very least, inspires some hope for the future.
Drawing was all I was ever good at, and I enjoyed it. My Dad was a Precision Engineer. As this would involve drawing, and following in my father’s footsteps, I felt it would be a great career path to choose. Unfortunately, it also involved physics and maths, neither of which I was any good at. As a result, I took an active dislike to both. I was left floundering – where could I go from here?
And then two chance events happened which would set the course of my professional life.
When I was 12, and in first year at Westhill Academy, in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, I won a competition to design a new logo for a company called Maris Offshore. I spent a fair amount of time doing my homework - studying brochures from my dad’s work and using photos from them to create the design. So you can imagine my delight at winning the competition, and in the process bagging £30, a t-shirt and a set of mugs with the logo on it! This experience taught me one of the basic cornerstones of graphic design – do your research before putting pencil to paper. It also gave me the thrill of seeing my designs out in the world, as the company did indeed use the logo for a time.
The next serendipitous event took place around a year later. My mate asked me what I wanted to do for a job. I said I had no idea: "The only thing I'm good at is art, and I can't make any money from that." The idea of wandering around Paris in a big shirt painting scantily-clad French women didn’t seem like a career choice I could easily justify to my parents. That and I hated painting. A classmate, Sarah, overheard and suggested I become a graphic designer. I had no idea what that was. "They design logos and brochures," she said, and a light switched on. From that point on I was totally committed to a career in graphic design, and it was all based on Sarah overhearing that chance conversation.
Sarah had been one of the runners-up in the Maris Offshore competition – thank goodness she didn’t hold a grudge!
And here I am, 35 years later, still working in my dream job and running my own business to boot. All thanks to a chance conversation and a teenage competition win. We can plan and strive and worry, but chance often plays an important role in our how lives pan out. Don’t lose faith!
I’d love to know what led you into your job. Did fate play a role? Or are you still waiting for your spark of inspiration or stroke of luck? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have always known what you wanted to do. Everyone has a story to tell – what’s yours?