Part 4

Take Five Careers

Rebecca Cripps meets five women who discuss their different professions: the highlights, the drawbacks and their typical working day

A. THE BRAIN SURGEON

Name: Anne Age: 34 ANNE’S DAY

“I get up at 6.30am, go the gym at 7am, get  to work by 8am and start operating at 8.30am. I operate all Monday and Wednesday, as well as some Friday afternoons. Most standard head operations take three hours, but some operations take all day. I‘ve worked ten hours straight through on occasion without eating or going to the loo.

Deciding when to operate, and what to do, can be stressful. I don‘t feel particularly stressed when operating, but sometimes I worry about what I’m going to do the  next day. Brain surgery tends to be a last resort  for a patient, but when it works it’s tremendous, and more than makes up for the unsuccessful times. From 10am to 1pm I hold an out-patients’ clinic, when  I  explain the operations. I enjoy this and find it quite easy to talk to the patients. If they get upset, I comfort them, but time pressure can make this difficuIt.

I leave work between 6pm and 8pm. Some nights and weekends I‘m on call, and I always  carry my  bleeper.  On  holidays,  I wo rry for the first three days about the people I’ve left behind, and at night I dream I’m operating. I’m hopeless at switching off.”

THE SENIOR DESIGNER

Name: Marita Age: 31 MARITA‘S DAY

“I get up at 7.45am, leave the house by 8.20am, take the train to work and arrive at 9.15am. At 10.30am on Monday we meet to discuss what we’re doing, any problems or whether anyone needs help. We work in teams — in my team there are three senior designers, a company partner who oversees everything, and a junior designer. The work usually involves ten to fifteen per cent

design: the rest is production. I’ll be given a brief by the client — with luck the company will have clear ideas about what they want to say, their target market and the form of the project. I then spend three or four weeks designing, researching and developing the project.

After this I present my ideas to the client and once they‘ve agreed to them, we work out estimates and budgets, and I start commissioning photographers and illustrators. I liaise with the printers  and make sure the needs of the job are being met, and on time. I spend a lot of time managing people. I have to be able to communicate with a broad range of people, and briefing them correctly is essential. When their work comes in, I assemble everything and send it to the printers. Keeping several jobs going at once can send stress levels sky-high. Deadlines are always looming, and no day has a set structure. Lunch is at 1pm for an hour, when we try to get out to the pub. Otherwise I have sandwiches and work through. It‘s a great feeling if the client gives a good response to the designs you’ve done and you know the project has worked; it’s a great disappointment when you’ve worked really hard and the job gets rejected. I get home at 7.30pm at the earliest; often it‘s 8.30pm and sometimes much later. I find it hard to unwind when I get back, especially if  I’m very busy.”

THE CHAUFFEUR

Name: Linda Age: 42 LINDA‘S DAY

“I get up at about 7am most days, but two or three mornings a week I meet a long-haul flight from Heathrow or Gatwick and get up between 4.30am and Sam. At 10.30 or 11am I mig ht go for a bike ride, or swim. Because chauffeuring is a sedentary job, I have to watch my diet and exercise quite carefully. I

usually have a big breakfast, though,  and just have snacks during the day. People often ask me to recommend restaurants, nightclubs or shops, so I have to know my way around. Luckily, a lot of the jobs are pre- booked, so I get a chance to look routes up beforehand. Not everyone is polite. Some passengers are anti-social, some arrogant, some downright rude. But most of the time people are very well behaved  and I‘ve built up a good rapport with my regular clients.

There are times when I hear a conversation in the car and have to make sure my eyes are firmIy on the road and my ears shut. Sometimes the press have tried to make me talk about clients I’ve carried, but I won‘t. I work a seven-day week, up to fifteen hours a day. I have to be careful not to get too tired. I try to get to bed by 11pm.“

THE LANDSCAPE GARDENER

Name: Tracy Age: 27 TRACY’S DAY

“I get up at about 7am, leave the house at 7.30am and get to my first job. My assistant and I spend most of our time maintaining gardens we originally designed and landscaped. We do a few commercial jobs but most of our work is in  private gardens. We spend about an hour and a half at each house. At about 11am we get hungry and go to a local cafe for a big breakfast. I often look at my watch and wish it was earlier and that time didn‘t pass so quickly. In summer I may wo rk until 10pm; in winter until 4.30pm.

The business office is at home, so when I get back I listen to any messages and respond to any calls. If someone wants their garden landscaped, I’II usually arrange a consultatio n with them in the evening — at about 7pm or 8pm. We specialise in  using old materials, such as old bricks and unusual plants, to make gardens look as if they were built a long time ago. But sometimes people have a set idea of what they want, and it can be pretty horrible. Still, it’s very satisfying

when we do a complete landscape from start to finish and then see all the blooms come out.

It’s hard to relax in the evenings because I can always hear the business line when it rings. I never have any trouble sleeping because the work I do is so physical that I’m always exhausted at the end of the day. I wouldn’t say I’m very strong, but I’m fit. Physically, it’s a very tough job, but it  does let your imagination run wild.”

E THE CIVIL ENGINEER

Name: Zena Age: 27 ZENA’S DAY

“I arrive at the site by 8.30am. I’m assistant resident engineer at the site, so I’m looking after the building of a  coupie of bridges  and a retaining wall — which prevents people driving off the road into a quarry. I check that the contractors are working to the schedule and specifications, with correct safety systems    and    minimum    environmental im pact. I help to co-ordinate the site professionals and find solutions to any problems.

The contractors start work at 6am, so my

first task is to find out from the clerk of works what’s been going on since I left the night before. The rest of the day is a reaction to whatever he tells me. Usually there’s some paperwork from the contractors to look at, or there mig ht be design queries to answer. Lunch is usually for half an hour between 2pm and 2.30pm, but I tend to grab things to eat as I go along. The contractors have set mealtimes and when they’re off eating it’s easier to check things on site. Because we’re checking their wo rk it can cause conflict, so our relationship has to be as open as possible. I see the duty resident engineer once a day. However, if something really important comes up I don’t wait to tell them before I act. I usually leave the site at about 6pm and I’m on call all the time.”

For questions 28-45, match the statements on the left below with the list of women A-E.

You may choose any of the women more than once.

Note: When more than one answer is required, these may be put in any order.

She accepts failure as an inevitable part of her job.

28………

She has to make sure that regulations are being

obeyed.

29……..

It is very important that she give people the right directions.

30……….

She dislikes some of the people she deals with.

31……..

She has to be available for contact outside working hours.

32……..          33 ………..

She sometimes eats and works at the same time.

34……..          35 ………..

She finds that every day is differently organised.

36……….

She sometimes refuses to answer questions.

37……………

She feels she needs more time for a particular aspect of her work.

38…………..

She sometimes makes decisions independently.

39………….

She finds it difficult to stop thinking about her job.

40 ……….   41 ……… 42………..

She values the approval of her customer.

43……….

Her comments on other people’s work may be

resented.

44…………..

She obtains most of her work by following up earlier jobs.

45………..

A. THE BRAIN SURGEON

B THE SENIOR DESIGNER

C THE CHAUFFEUR

D THE LANDSCAPE GARDENER 

E THE CIVIL ENGINEER