“Never ever take anybody’s advice on anything!”

We love it when students are “career curious”- interested in what other people do, how they started out on their career journey and what they learned on the way. It can be a great source of inspiration, encouragement and practical tips to stimulate your ideas and support you when you’re thinking about your own future.

Euan Lownie  (4th year Scottish Studies) recognised this early on, and has brought together what he learned in his new book Never, Ever take Anybody’s Advice on Anything. He tells us about his mission and shares a few examples (there are lots of others!) in this post . While not all the advice will apply to all readers, there’s something for everyone in there.  Happy reading!   

During my final years at secondary school and throughout my time at university I had to seriously consider what I wanted to do in terms of employment. I wasn’t completely sure, and it became apparent that I was not alone in feeling this way. Even those with an idea in mind were often unsure of how to achieve their goal. After considering these problems, I decided it might be useful to seek advice from people who had found success in their chosen careers.

So, I asked them.

Luckily, a few replied. Then some more did. Somehow, after many letters, emails, phone calls, coffees and conversations, I managed to compile a collection of advice from some of Scotland’s most talented and successful people. This was enough to complete my goal of creating a book. Each piece is a unique response to the same question: What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field of work?

I set out to look for career advice and while I found this in great abundance, I also found that many also offered their own life advice as well. Lessons about what they have found to be really important. The book features over 80 pieces of advice from Scots in a range of different fields of work including scientists, businesspeople, actors, writers, chefs, fashion designers, musicians and many more. It includes writing from cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, author Irvine Welsh, Chvrches vocalist Lauren Mayberry, forensic anthropologist Dame Sue Black, BAFTA winning screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns and civil engineer David Climie. I hope the book will be useful and interesting to all readers and will help some pursue a career they’ll really love. Some of the proceeds of the book will support the charity Social Bite whose co-founders also feature in the project.

While some are very much career specific, others offer advice that is useful to anyone. Here are some extracts:

Edith Bowman – Broadcaster:

“Find the thing or things that you are passionate about, learn about them, but don’t come across as the oracle on them, just be knowledgeable. You should be open to learning along the way and from people. Don’t try and be that person who thinks they know everything about everything. Also, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I got so many knock backs and still do, they are what push me onwards, to better myself, to learn more and to be the right person for the job next time. If you believe in what you do, in yourself, you’ll find your path.”

Alistair McAuley – Textile Designer – Timorous Beasties:

“It is important to embrace every job that comes your way and not to think you are above any job because nobody is. I feel positions are often overestimated. Being able to turn your hand to everything is important. In the creative industries you need to work both individually and as part of a team. My job varies from meeting industry professionals about projects to cleaning up and making sure I can squeeze all the cardboard into the recycling bin. In some ways all of these jobs are as important as each other.
Finally, there is the usual stuff: be hardworking, be polite and always look for things to do. How is sitting around going to impress anybody? Enthusiasm and energy will excite a place.”

Sir Ian Wood – Businessman

  • Try and plan your way through your career. What would I like to be doing in 3 years, 6 years, etc
  • Talk to others who are already pursuing your intended career and learn as much as you can from their experience.
  • Do a risk mitigation on your career i.e. what are the key challenges and what can you do to minimise the risk.
  • Try and ensure you’re working with people you like, trust and respect.
  • Be ambitious and aim high.
  • If you make mistakes you absolutely must correct them quickly.
  • Be constantly proactive to new approaches and ideas.
  • Don’t assume it’s a fair world out there. Don’t lose the place when you come up against the world’s many injustices. Don’t focus on the what ifs in the past – focus on the what ifs in the future.
  • Don’t ever compromise on your principles and ethics.
  • If you’re working in your own business, choose your future colleagues very carefully. The quality of people you work with will have a big impact on your success.”

Finn Ross – Video and Projection Designer:

“Patience is a virtue, and if like me you have no patience get really good at doing an impression of a patient person. It won’t all happen at once, it just can’t. You need time to grow and develop your creativity, you will need this time for the rest of your life so don’t graduate and expect to land at the top of your profession, you will have so many successes, mistakes, things that nearly worked and things that really work to come before you get there.”


Thanks, Euan!

Why not follow Euan’s example and reach out to people yourself?  A good place to start is Platform One  and here are some suggestions of how to approach informational interviews .



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