Honest Work: how do other people view your profession?
Our panel are truthful, anonymous and all Emerald Street readers like you. This month we asked how the wider world sees their job.
I am a scientist in the medical world living and working in London.
"I guess most people may not understand exactly what scientists do other than perhaps wear a lab coat and ponder over chemicals in a windowless lab. In fact they are mostly correct…but we ponder over these chemicals with a purpose or a theory, i.e. to answer very specific questions.
We realise we are a difficult bunch to understand. My parents don’t fully understand what I do! To help, we try to engage in as many public talks as we can. We visit schools, we hold public workshops and seminars to show people we aren’t all just a bunch of geeks that nobody understands."
I work for a major supermarket in the Midlands and am also studying accountancy.
"Our jobs appear easy, therefore we must all be idiots. True, we don't need university degrees to get the job but a lot of us do have them and yet shop work is all we can get. I'm ashamed to tell people where I work and what I do. I know myself and my colleagues are worth far more than the label "shelf filler" implies.
A lot of customers think it's acceptable to treat us like dirt, to shout at us if something is out of stock. Is it too much to ask to be treated with respect in my job?"
The Full-Time Mum
I am the mother of two pre-school boys. I used to live and work in London, I now am a hausfrau.
"Other people view my profession not as a profession, but as a cop-out, as a career break mistake or as a canny choice for the incapable unprofessional. After all, what kind of lunatic would give up paid employment to look after children?
I look at other full time mothers of preschoolers with a mix of pity, contempt and the air of someone who can't think of a third describe-y type of word because she's too tired and too busy trying to wipe up the incessant rivers of snot. I am not an idiot, I am a mother."
The Primary School Teacher
I teach six- year-olds and I have been teaching for the last 12 years. I live and work in London.
"'What do you do with all your holidays?' Is the first question most people ask when you tell them you're a teacher. I do think that most people see our job as incredibly important, but ultimately a vocation that people go into for the love of it rather than high pay or ambition. I think the average person thinks that we shouldn't be whinging about our pensions, pay or seemingly limitless bureaucracy as we get so many holidays, get to play all day and realistically only work 9-3. If only! I think most teachers do love their jobs and just want to make a difference, but none of us are completely altruistic. We want to be treated professionally and have secure and stable jobs with a balance between our work and personal lives."
The Textile Designer
I specialise in the screen-printing process, printing and design for fashion and interiors. Living and working in London.
"Trying to explain how my business works and what I do has never been straightforward. The screen-printing service and how I design and work with other professional creatives can easily get lost in translation. I generally get a mixed response from people. Many like the idea of it, but clearly don’t really understand, thinking I just spend my days painting pretty pictures. When you scratch the surface, there is such a depth of day-to-day tasks involved in running a print studio, that even I can get a little vague when having to describe my job again and again. I want people to appreciate that being in a creative industry doesn’t mean I have it easy…far from it. I also face daily challenges, keeping me on my toes!"
I'm a judge specialising in cases involving children and vulnerable adults.
"When thinking about the role of a family court judge, most people's first response to me is to wonder how judges can deal with such difficult or harrowing stories every day and make tricky decisions about those families, and that it must be a challenging job to handle all the sensitivities of the different people involved.
But more generally the overall impression will be that it's a conservative traditional role, principally held by clever white men of a certain privileged background, and that it's a role that's largely well respected but that those carrying it out may be somewhat out of touch.
I'm sure there is also some confusion about what judges do and how people should feel about those doing the job - probably due to the public's exposure to the work of criminal judges and being largely unaware of other judicial roles, and to satirical portraits in the press of gavel-banging, irritable, old-fashioned types. While the demographic cliché still partly holds true, the public's general view is probably not a full one.
There are many more judges now appointed who are younger, are women, and from diverse and more representative backgrounds. We perform the task of dealing fairly, intelligently and efficiently with all aspects of modern society's disputes and decision-making: from benefits to big business, from being sectioned to criminal sanctions, from eviction to immigration, from children to government. (And we never use gavels.)"
The Religious Institution Manager
I am a charity executive director. I live in London and am married with two grown up children
"I think many people do not understand what a charity manager does: they either think that because we are not working for profit, we don't understand business or that we do not have to worry about managing finances."
The Chartered Surveyor
I value land and property for clients who aim to redevelop them. I live and work in London.
"There seems to be very little knowledge of the breadth of work in the profession, and I don’t think it is promoted enough in schools/ university careers’ offices. I have frequently encouraged students to consider a career as a surveyor, but the allure of a finance/ marketing/ law career is greater.
I think people still only associate Chartered Surveyors as people who survey a house before a purchase, and I inwardly groan when they start discussing house prices with me. Others think of surveying as a branch of architecture (it isn’t) or as someone who counts bricks (that’s a Quantity Surveyor – a different branch of surveying).
My family and friends know that I often get to visit amazing properties (I was up on scaffolding around a chimney at Battersea Power Station once) and I’m one of the few people they know who has never switched careers and finds their job exciting!
Surveying is a fantastic career option, and the number of women in it continues to grow well. The pay can be very good, there is variety in your workload and you’re not always desk-bound; often you have to visit a property, and there are many interactions with fellow surveyors, lawyers, planners, accountants etc. There are many specialisms to surveying, just like in law or medicine. For example it can include property development of a single site or a new part of town, managing the mix of retailers in a shopping centre, valuing assets, and negotiating leases."
Our surveyor also sent across a career guide to her profession.Click here for more information.
The Charity Helpline Manager
I manage a telephone helpline, which is entirely staffed by volunteers. I live just outside London and work from home. My colleagues are based across the country.
"I'm not really sure how others view my profession: as someone who manages volunteers for a living, I sometimes come across people who think, or assume, I should work for free. Obviously, charities need to keep costs as low as possible to ensure best value for money, but without effective management many organisations wouldn't survive.
As I work from home I'm sure there are some who think I don't work as hard as those who go into an office every day. In reality, although there are many benefits to home working (no commute, being able to put a wash on between conference calls, being there to pick the kids up from school every day), there are no distractions (sadly no chat with colleagues about what you watched on TV last night/meetings that start half an hour late/leaving dos) so I feel I actually get a lot done more every day than when I did worked in an office."
The Comedian/ Receptionist
I am a professional comedian/writer. Like most artists, my chosen career path is not financially stable enough to support me, so I work full-time as a corporate receptionist.
"There's a misconception that people with artistic careers who need to work day jobs must not have achieved success as an artist and therefore are still 'aspiring' or just not good enough.
The truth is that, for all the glamour of the performing arts, it very rarely pays, and when it does it's still not a stable source of income. The stereotype of the struggling artist continues to ring true even at the top levels. It's not uncommon for quite established artists to get their income elsewhere. I often use the example of my best mate, who has been the lead on a successful BBC drama for three series, yet still has to temp in between acting jobs. Success in the arts is not always rewarded financially.
Recently I spent a Saturday night performing like a rock star to a sold out room of over 100 people all there just to see me. Monday morning I was back at the office answering phones. Unless you see a comic on TV - and you see them often - it's likely they're not paying their rent with comedy work. If they do, it's a constant hustle of writing work, teaching, adverts, voice work, and more to stay afloat - and those jobs are competitive, too. I'd like more people to understand that artistic achievement does not equal financial success, and that working a non-creative job to support your income doesn't mean you're not an established artist. This is something I often need to tell myself, too."