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Top childhood dreams revealed as UK adults name J.K. Rowling most inspiring Brit

4 min read

11 April 2016

Former deputy editor

A study has revealed the top ten dream careers UK adults had when they were children, as well as the five living Brits that are considered the most inspirational individuals – which saw Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling lead the way.

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The research from Learning & Work Institute was launched to highlight its launch of the 2016 Festival of Learning, an initiative designed to encourage adult learning.

According to the findings, some 86 per cent of Brits feel it is never too late to chase dreams, develop skills and switch careers – sounds like good news for the UK’s skills crisis.

J.K. Rowling, the creative mind behind the Harry Potter brand, was named the most inspiring living Brit. 

The former secretary is only too happy to tell her fans of the struggles she faced in getting her books published. Plenty of doors closed in her face as publishers failed to see the magic in her boy wizard, and other titles under her pseudonym.

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Behind Rowling in second place is British astronaut Tim Peake, followed by Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic cyclist aspiring to become a jockey.

Elsewhere, the story of Eddie the Eagle, another Olympian, has been retold as aHollywood film, which may have helped the high-flying daredevil rank in at fourth.Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef-cum-political campaigner, tied in fifth place with West Ham boss Karren Brady.

It’s not the first time Brady has been named a role model – previously it was UK students that ranked her in a joint position with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Continue reading on the next page and discover the top ten dreams UK adults had as children – sound familiar?


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“Learning has never been more important for life, work and health. It can help to build a new career, break with routine and meet new people, and inspire new interests. It’s great that so many people polled are inspired to learn to try new things or work toward their dream job. But we also know that too many people miss out on the life changing opportunities that learning brings,” said Stephen Evans, deputy chief executive from Learning and Work Institute.

“The Festival of Learning is all about making sure everyone gets the opportunity to learn. That’s why we’re calling on any institution, business, individual or organisation that offers adults a chance to experience something new to list their event, course or workshop at www.festivaloflearning.org.uk. Learning isn’t just something that happens in a classroom, and it shouldn’t stop when you leave school.”

The learning campaign has been backed with support from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

According to the study, 36 per cent of British adults said seeing those in the spotlight move into new careers encouraged them to do something they’d never tried before.

Meanwhile, 24 per cent of Brits have swapped careers themselves and 29 per cent revealed they’ve pursued learning.

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Most interestingly of all though, 76 per cent admitted they still hold onto childhood dreams of their perfect job.

The top childhood dream careers of adults surveyed are:

(1) Musician

(2) Teacher

(3) Astronaut

(4) Pilot

(5) Actor

(6) Doctor

(7) Lawyer

(8) Prime minister

(9) Chef

(10) Sports (various)

On the topic of career paths, we came up with 14 alternative job roles for “entrepreneur” Kanye West, using his wild Twitter account as a CV.

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