Saturday, 10 November 2012

Careers advice

The Geology Festival! Prompted by Squirrel, who fancies a career in geology. If it means someone pays her to map a Philippines beach.

I totally support her. I already bring to her chosen area my great swells of parental enthusiasm and a pile of rocks on the hall landing. Given that formidable start, I'm sure I can be just as good as a careers adviser at school.

This is my advice.

Get to know the people in the world you want to enter. This is what I sagely tell Squirrel, my mini proto-geologist. Half the finding-out work will be done for you.

This is not a case of who you know, not what you know, this is common sense. I tell Squirrel, go mix with them, and suss them out. See if they are the people for you. And at your age, they will look kindly on you, and talk to you, probably in a slightly patronising manner, but this can help you learn about stuff they know, find out what lives they expect to lead and what sort of people they like to be with. You merely have to listen. If you then decide their love is your love, these people are your people, it will make your progress much easier. As you travel through your chosen field, your professional will become your personal, and I bet you end up marrying it. Trust me.

This, then, is the wisdom after a day-long slog through the Geology Festival at UCL. I offer this to all. Not shale, lava and sandstone, but four main geological human types.

The elderly gentlemanly scholars. These mild-mannered rock watchers live in geological time. Their backs are bent from years of angular pebble sorting and their speech is inevitably soft and gracious. They are used to hours of soothing discourse with woolly mammoths. Instantly recognisable, the elderly geologist has spent so long studying glacial fluvial that the white cap upon their heads has actually become real snow. They now enjoy their remaining centuries classifying minute specimens of upper, middle and lower chalk, while hand-writing the labels because the typewriter age passed them by.

The middle-aged dynamic! Looking like 1970s sociology lecturers, the present incarnation of trend-setting researching geo-types hang around with their other middle-yeared chums, the Raiders of the Lost Ark look-a-likey archaeologists. Maybe allowing into their gang the cool Cox-styled physicists who whisper stars, moons, and planet earth to all the groupies. Yes, these are the people driven to show that granite is saucy! Limestone is sexy! Conglomerate is trending on Twitter! (But Woman of the Shires beware. The social rules of the Old Guard still apply. No throwing your panties about when Prof Iain Stewart takes to the lectern.)

The rocks and minerals sellers. Geology is global employment and geology is a grand-scale business, how true that is. At one end it's oil-gas-and-frack-it with side-dealing in government-to-government mining, drilling and rare-earth-mineral-contract swapsies, and at the other end it's flog you a bit of string with a lump of coloured quartz hanging off it. The sellers are everywhere, pimping rocks and adding two zeroes to the price. Beware. They often travel in disguise, and may wear suits. (However if Squirrel manages to get herself a job exploiting oil, blowing up rocks, or mapping volcanoes, then I might change my tune about some aspects of this exploitative, environmentally-suspicious business. Especially if it comes with a free two-week visit to see her in the Philippines.)

The enthusiasts. Aha! Fumbleinthedark amateurs like Grit! People who look at a rock and see not science and cash but slow-played dramas of permanence and transience; whispers betwixt mountains and sand grains; poetry of earth and space. Providing much-needed consolation and repair to the damaged human soul. Warning! Thousands of us rock-mad enthusiasts roam your land, thieving your craggy hillsides, pocketing your pebbly beaches, and scouring your gravel paths for crinoids. Then we drive carfulls of our loot home, where we dump mounds of it in the hall, up the stairs, all over the floor and on the windowsills.

See, how helpful I am, sorting out the social milieu of the geo-types for Squirrel's practical employment! I bet this is much better careers advice than offered in school! You like reading? Hmm. How about a librarian.*

Now have a tooth. The tooth is from some prehistoric marine thing. Shark bought it today after syphoning several hundred pounds of cash out my bank account to pay for it. She is so in love with its deep sea echoes, you might feel the love busting out the monitor screen.

*The complete advice to me, offered in 1974.

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