Jeremy Paxman says he tried to become a spy after being turned down for every job he applied for while at university.
But the broadcaster and presenter said he even failed at that - when his Cambridge tutor suggested he probably wasn’t the right material for a life of espionage.
Mr Paxman said he had thought of applying to MI6 after being turned down by the civil service, businesses and journalism, with Granada TV rejecting him despite several attempts.
He writes in the latest issue of Saga Magazine: “Towards the end of my last term at university I was summoned to my tutor’s room. Augustus Caesar (really – his father was called Julius) was rumoured to be the recruiting officer at the university for MI6.”
Mr Paxman, who attended St Catharine’s College, adds that when Professor Caesar asked him whether he had secured a job out of university, he was forced to admit “I had been turned down for every job in the civil service, commerce, business, and journalism for which I had applied. I was starting to worry”.
But his professor was far from encouraging.
‘I have lived my life in pursuit of experiences’
“When the professor asked what sort of thing I was looking for. I decided to chance my luck,” writes Mr Paxman. “‘I think something with a bit of foreign travel. Somewhere I could serve my country. Somewhere I could use my intelligence’. ‘Oh’, he said nonchalantly. ‘Like MI6?’ Cue a rather long pause. ‘I don’t think so, Mr. Paxman’.”
The veteran BBC Newsnight presenter and interviewer, who went on to present University Challenge, admits Professor Caesar was undoubtedly right.
“While the principle behind both a spy and a journalist might be similar – both want to find things out – it seems vital that a spy keeps what they know to themselves. A journalist, on the other hand, wants to share the little they know with as many people as possible.”
He concedes that even if he had made it into the ranks of MI6 he is more likely to have been relegated to the department for failed spies portrayed in the Apple TV series Slow Horses.
Mr Paxman has previously admitted that he tried to get a job at Granada TV but that each time he had been unsuccessful.
But he writes in his column for Saga that he has few regrets.
“Experience is everything is the mantra at Saga, and I suppose it’s right: even those things you have not enjoyed have formed a part of you (though I could have done without the Parkinson’s). I have lived my life in pursuit of experiences; even those that I would blush to recall publicly have had an influence, and for that I am grateful.”