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Career mistakes: Missing out on profile-enhancing opportunities

The theme of keeping a high profile will recur in this series. Here is one story: a young teacher of five years' service was asked, on the strength of his PE specialism, to run the city's inter-school swimming gala. Experienced and world-weary colleagues strongly advised him not to take it on - "thankless", "poisoned chalice", "dealing with awkward people" - so he pleaded inexperience. The city's sports committee members (influential teachers, heads and advisers) were disappointed, and told him so.

What is the right thing to do?

An even less experienced teacher with little knowledge of swimming, but who was a self-confident, natural-born organiser, took it on.

She delegated most of the work and spent the evening parading authoritatively around the pool in smart college blazer and skirt, with a clipboard, presiding over a well-run event in front of a hundred of the educational great and good. Promotion wasn't far behind.

Gerald Haigh

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