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If you could do any other job - Northern Ireland's best-known faces tell of their dream career

Charity worker, wildlife photographer, acrobatic pilot or soldier... four of our best-known faces tell Karen Ireland what their dream career would be

Published 20/01/2016

Lion spotter: BBC NI’s Noel Thompson who would relish being a wildlife photographer
Lion spotter: BBC NI’s Noel Thompson who would relish being a wildlife photographer
Press ahead: veteran broadcaster Noel Thompson in his day job
Ambassador role: DJ Kirstie McMurray
Flying high: Maurice Jay loves taking his sons to airshows

Half of us would love to change our job with more than 70% of those aged between 25 and 34 keen to have a new career, according to a new report.

While most of us working nine to five would like to swap our current careers for something else, one in 10 admit they are too afraid to try.

The top reasons why we stick with our current jobs are fears over age, a lack of confidence or simply now knowing where to start.

A total of 60% of us dream of being our own boss and starting a business, while others really want to do something that will make a big difference to other people’s lives.

We talk to four well-known personalities who say what they would like to do if they changed their day jobs.

Kirstie McMurray (42) presents the breakfast and country shows on Downtown Radio. She lives in Bangor with her fiance Andy (37), a delivery driver, and her two children Connor (17) and Katie (15) from her previous marriage. She says:

While I have worked in radio for the past 10 years, I got into it almost by accident. It was when I was living in Germany and the children were at school that I realised  I wanted to do something for me.

I had worked as a private secretary in the past, so I got a job as a PA to the general manager of British Forces Broadcasting Services. From time to time, I stood in on the breakfast show and did voice overs.

When I came back home, I started working on Portaferry FM and that’s when one of the bosses at Cool FM and DTR heard me. He thought I had a good voice for radio and invited me in for a try out on air. That gave me a foot in the door before I started co-presenting the breakfast show with Pete Snodden.

I love working on radio. Joking around, having a chat and playing music is a great way to make a living. But I have had many different jobs from working as a cook to being a long distance lorry driver and travelling all over Europe.

If I was to have a career change at this stage in life I’d like to work for a charity and do something which helps people. One of the great things about my job is that you get to highlight the work of different organisations.

I’m an ambassador with the Prince’s Trust and I love it. If I were to change my job it would be to work with young people, making a difference in their lives and helping those who had gone down the wrong path to change their lives for the better. It would be so satisfying to help to give someone a second chance.”

Noel Thompson (60), a BBC NI TV and radio presenter, lives in Belfast with his wife Sharon, a yoga teacher, and their two sons, Matthew (28) and Patrick (23). He says:

I have worked as a broadcasting journalist for more than 30 years. It was the legendary BBC news editor Robin Walsh who took a chance on me, giving me my first job as a researcher with the Nationwide programme — a position that required more common sense and enthusiasm than experience.

During my time there I have worked in radio and television, on local and network programmes around the UK and Ireland.

I have always loved journalism; asking questions, holding people to account and having a privileged insight into so many different ways of life. But I do sometimes think about other paths my career might have taken. And in that fantasy world I am a safari guide and wildlife photographer.

I have always loved photography and have been lucky enough to go on safari a few times. I love the heat of Africa, the vast landscapes, and the extraordinary wildlife. And I reflect on what it must have been like to be there 100 years ago when the bush and plains were teeming with animals. I would love to be involved in the work of conserving those magnificent habitats.

Jumping into an open topped 4x4 and driving out of camp in the cold early morning light, not knowing what you might come across that day, is one of the most thrilling feelings I have experienced.

The only problem with being on a safari holiday is that you don’t have the time to sit in one place for the time necessary to take the best photographs. As a wildlife photographer I could spend hours on a river bank waiting for a fish eagle to strike, or at a watering hole where a lion will find its prey.

It’s probably too late now for a career change, but I intend to spend as many weeks as I can in the years ahead in the company of elephants and lions. 

I know you’re thinking that compared to the tooth and claw politics of Stormont, that would be a doddle ... I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Maurice Jay (47), who lives in Belfast, is head of programming and a presenter at U105. He lives in Belfast with partner Deirdre Finnegan, who works in private health care, and has two sons, Riley (7) and Evan (9) from his previous marriage.

I love my job - you have to love it in order to get up at the time of morning I do. I joke that it's better than working for a living as I get to chat to people all day and have a bit of craic.

U105 launched 24 years ago and I have been here since the beginning. Before I got my first job in radio I DJed in clubs.

In another life if I was to have a career change it would have to be as an airshow display pilot. As a young boy I loved planes and am fascinated by shows and the job those pilots do. I love going and watching the airshows with the boys when I get a chance.

I did take flying lessons for a while but children and mortgages came along and this was something I could no longer afford to pursue."

David Jeffrey (53) is the former manager of Linfield Football Club.  The divorced father lives in Newtownabbey and is a senior social worker. He says: 

People always thought I was a full-time football manager — they didn’t realise I had a real job as well. I am a senior social worker and love what I do.

Over the years I have worked with young people and now I have come full circle and am back working with older people again.

I have always had a real passion for people and working with them.

I am fortunate in that I get to do something which I love and help people at the same time.

Meanwhile, I also get to combine my hobby of football with some work as I am doing some commentary work for television and radio.

I  was also involved with a TV documentary programme called The Whistleblowers which was fantastic.

If I had to go down a different career path, I would have joined the Armed Forces.

That was a boyhood dream of mine — to fight for my country.

Had I had the brains, I would have loved to have been a doctor — that’s something I have thought a lot about, but I was never strong enough academically, so I went down the social work route.”

Belfast Telegraph

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