The unedited version.
In an era where it was still acceptable to do so, I left school at the end of Year 10. I was 15 when I got my high school certificate. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait to get away from school! I did very well at school academically, but the system didn’t suit me. Now let’s add to that (a) I grew up in a country town, (b) our high school infrastructure consisted of some demountable buildings in a paddock, and (c) no one in my entire extended family had ever finished Year 12, let alone a university degree.
I wanted to be a fashion designer. Alongside preparing my application for fashion school, I figured I should have a backup plan so I sat [what was then called] the Australian Public Service Entrance Exam. Much to my own astonishment (and that of everyone who knew me!), my result placed me in the top 3% of the state of NSW. That meant I was offered three different traineeships at the end of Year 10. Full-time work certainly trumped being a full-time student, so I quickly discarded the dream and accepted an office traineeship – which happened to be at our local TAFE college.
A year passed and as my 12-month traineeship was coming to an end, which meant I was about to be unemployed. I applied for a job at the University of Newcastle, with no idea how I would ever get myself there if I was successful. Then I got an interview and didn’t know how I’d even get there for that! In the end, my mum came with … three buses and 1.5 hours later I found myself in front of a 7-person panel. Long story short – I got the job but they didn’t think they could employ me, because I was 16 and they’d never employed anyone under the age of 18. To my delight they found a workaround and offered me a percentage of a full-time salary. Happy days.
That year I got my “P” plates and moved to Newcastle. Studying in an adult learning environment for my traineeship made me realise that hating school didn’t mean I hated learning, so I enrolled in a Diploma in Human Resource Management at TAFE. That enrolment was a pivotal decision, because three years later my Diploma gave me alternative entry as a mature age student into an undergraduate degree.
Jump forward a few more years…
By the mid-90’s I was working at the University of Queensland. After six years of full-time work and part-time study I graduated and was able to apply for what might best be described as a Team Leader role. This was a milestone moment, but I knew that career progression in the higher education sector would require a postgraduate qualification too. That’s why I did another four years of full-time work and part-time study to complete an MBA.
Jump forward a few more years…
By the mid-90’s I was working at the University of Queensland. After six years of full-time work and part-time study I graduated and was able to apply for what might best be described as a Team Leader role. This was a milestone moment, but I knew that career progression in higher education management would require a postgraduate qualification – that’s why I did another four years of full-time work and part-time study to complete an MBA.
Jump forward to around 2008…
I was senior enough to have my own Executive Coach. That was another pivotal moment, because it made me aware of how powerful coaching could be. When I started coach training it was originally with a view to being a better leader – just some extra tools in my toolkit. But over the next few years I started to realise that the days I jumped out of bed were the days I was coaching.
So in 2014 I took the plunge and left a 25 year career in higher education to start my own business. I haven’t looked back. I absolutely love what I do and regularly tell people I have the best job in the world.
I wouldn’t encourage people to leave school at 15, but I always emphasise success in life is not determined by success in Year 12.