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The unseen path: using learnt skills to cut a path through the jungle of possibilities

Updated: May 11, 2022

Paul Woodcock stands smiling with a class of his students, who are pulling thumbs-ups and peace signs.
Paul with his English language students.

Paul Woodcock, Academic Manager at Notting Hill College, talks about how he has used not just the education and training learnt from his studies, but the tools and underlying strategies to pursue multiple career paths before finally arriving with us here in Manchester.

Is education something that only happens in schools? Or is it something that is a life-long task?

Well, most people would freely admit that they are never too old to learn something new. Indeed, pushing yourself to keep learning will have outcomes that may surprise you.

I can only speak from my own journey from when I was younger, to here, with Notting Hill College. During high school, I fancied myself as a business man. I wanted to get into the world of marketing. I believed it would give me the opportunity to work in a creative field. So, I went to university where I pushed myself. I was challenged by the lecturers, and my cohort.

Following on from my degree, where I was the highest in my year, I had a choice. To continue to pursue a career in my chosen field, or to go and try something new, and move overseas. Well, just need to backtrack a little here. At the start of my degree, I was not very confident, and used to make relatively conservative decisions. I would never do anything “wild” or “wacky,” I would just get about my life quietly.

However, during my degree, I was pushed to try new things. My lecturers challenged me to think outside of the box and look for new approaches. Indeed, one of my lecturers declared “there is no such thing as a bad idea. Just a poorly researched and executed one.” This led me to try something new. I spent six months of the course overseas in The Netherlands on an exchange trip. Whilst overseas, I got to mix with people from other countries and cultures, and learn from those differences, and more importantly, from the similarities.

So, once I finished my degree, I was faced with a choice. To keep pursuing a career in my chosen field, or to go overseas to Japan, and try something new and different for a couple of years before returning to the UK, and “getting a real job.” I opted to go to Japan. It was a difficult choice. I had never really shown any interest in Japanese culture other than occasionally watching Pokemon. I had never really tried to learn the language, other than “sushi.” It was a long way from my family, so why would I move so far to a country I didn’t really understand, or had shown any active interest in?

Well, I had chosen to go for one simple reason. “Why not?” Yes, working in Japan as an English teacher (TEFL) may seem quite divorced from my degree in Marketing, but my studies did help stand me in good stead. Whilst I had learnt much about marketing during my degree, there was a lot that was transferrable. For instance, my studies in the field of public relations could easily be transferred to teaching English as foreign language - TEFL, where one has to work with an audience on a daily basis.

Being able to spot trends and possible opportunities also transfer well. In the EFL classroom, it is important to see how the class is performing, or on a bigger scale, the school, or trends across education in general. Spotting opportunities is useful, as there are always educational opportunities.

Whilst I may not be working directly with the information I obtained from my degree, I was able to utilise a lot of the skills I had been taught. My experiences in Japan led me to realise that I really enjoyed working as a teacher, so on my return to the UK, I opted to pursue further certification in education, including my Masters in TESOL.

So, are education and training important? Very much yes. Not always just for the hard information you gather, but also for the processes and methods you learn. Very often those skills, processes and methods can be employed in more than one area, and hopefully, you will have the confidence to take those skills you learn and use them whenever an exciting opportunity arises.

You must not be scared to try something new. Education and training will equip you to take on the challenge. And you never know where those new skills will lead.


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