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Teenage misfits: career successes

Ian Hamilton's letter about the age at which we choose a profession (NCE 19 June) touched a nerve with me.

Like him, I will confess to being a chartered, but not a natural, civil engineer – but my qualifications have enabled me to make a pretty good living in an associated field – and to enjoy doing so.

Even so, had I had even a short period of practical civil engineering experience before university I think I would have studied something else. That's not to say civil engineering is not a satisfying career or that I'm not up to it, it's just that we're not ideally suited.

At 16, my eldest daughter's head said law but her heart said journalism. A week's work experience in a solicitor's office and a short period on a newspaper were enough to convince her of her career choice – and she has gone on to be a very successful journalist. I suspect she would have been a pretty ordinary lawyer.

The point is that few of us know at 14, 16 or even 18 whether a particular career will suit. How can we if we take it up without any exposure to it?

No-one nowadays gets to medical school or veterinary college without pre-university experience, however difficult that experience may be to obtain.

All other vocational courses should insist on this.

There would be fewer square pegs, fewer college "drop outs" and a happier working life for many.

CHRIS WEST (M), 8, Longland Ave, Storrington, West Sussex, RH204HY.

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