“It’s not the men in your life that count, it’s the life in your men.” (Savage, L 1980)… or the career of Paul O’Grady.


The Scene

When we talk about career paths or journeys as Career Development Practitioners, we love to show how frequently they flounce the linear in favour of the eclectic. The career journey of Paul O’Grady was the least linear of all career paths – which should be a great relief to those who are concerned that they don’t seem to have a straight trajectory.

Having done well at school and achieved 5 O Levels and 3 A Levels, Paul’s first job was as a Civil Servant – in the Employment Exchange (Dole) in Birkenhead. At the same time, he was also topping up his income with money from working bars. I can remember that when I was a civil servant working n the MoD my uber camp friend took me to a club known as the BP (Bears Paw) in Liverpool where O’Grady was working. Of course, at that time, he was just another gay guy working the bar in a gay club. Who knew that not so many years later he (O’Grady) would be gracing our screens as Lily Savage

Job roles

Some of the job roles were…

Bar worker

Civil Servant (Dole Office)

Local Authority (Children’s Social Care)


Residential Children’s Care Home Worker

Physiotherapy Assistant


Drag Queen

TV Host


Organic Farmer

Theatre Performer

Comedy Performer

Radio Presenter



Career Development Practitioners explore patterns of interest or where the individual is drawn. At first glance, the list of job roles that O’Grady had was a mix of random, unrelated activities. But when we look closer we can see that there are patterns in there that indicate where his strengths lay. Of course, he was a performer even in his first Civil Service job! Even standing behind the counter, stamping UB40s and going through the standard script repeated over and over with each customer, you (as the stamper) are the star of the show. It’s not the real person. It was a performance for the snaking queue of people ready to sign on. Probably the two roles that didn’t seem to quite fit were the accountant and the physiotherapy assistant – they seem to break with the pattern. In the same way, he was drawn to and pulled from geographical areas. He bounced between London and Birkenhead seeking money from one and solace in the other. After his parents had both died, he seemed to have lost that emotional pull that was evident in his early days and became more settled

O’Grady was a hardworking, diligent individual and was quoted known as saying, “I’ve always believed that if you’re going to do something, you should do it to the best of your ability. Whether it’s cleaning toilets or performing on stage, you should take pride in your work.” We would call these the soft skills that employers welcome in an employee.

The message of this blog is that careers can on the surface seem to be all over the place, without rhyme or reason, and that is fine! Don’t be sucked into believing that a successful career follows a set format. There is something of value in every experience it just depends on what story you are telling and who the audience is.

RIP Paul O’Grady and Lily Savage.