It’s sometimes hard to listen to words of wisdom from parents, grandparents and others you depend on. Perhaps they didn’t go to Uni themselves, or don’t understand about modern apprenticeships, so how can they possibly help? Personally, I’ve got to the stage in life where I could share some thoughts and experiences with my younger self and so – in the absence of the required time-travel technology – here are those musings for Monday’s motivational blog …


1. Seize every opportunity

In the classroom – a Chinese proverb reminds us that “Teachers open the doors, but you must enter by yourself.” In other words, you are given the opportunity to learn, but it is up to you whether you can make use of that knowledge to pass your exams and take the next step towards your future goals.

Be alert – opportunities will present themselves to you throughout your life and not just in the classroom. No matter what or when, be ready to spot them as they arise.

Pause and reflect – it is not the end of the world to make a poor choice about your subject options, your degree, your Uni or an apprenticeship, but it can delay your ultimate progress so try to make time to consider your choices and seek the advice and guidance of those that you trust around you.

Follow your passion – give it a go and see where it leads. You could attend a workshop, a talk, an event or find work experience in the career of your dreams. There will be not be any academic entry requirements or barriers to stop you exploring at this level. Whether or not you are marching steadfastly down a different career path – for whatever reason – this is a great time to take at least a quick peek at the future that your heart is set on. Doing this could easily prove that it wasn’t right for you after all, but better to have tried it out and realised for yourself, than spend the rest of your life potentially lamenting something you didn’t do.

No regrets – so building on the last point, ask yourself if you will be happy with the choices you made when you look back on this era in years to come? Will you remember the reasons that you did or didn’t pursue particular opportunities? Some will only present themselves once and if you didn’t take up the chance at the time, will you always be able to justify that decision to yourself?

Create your own – not every opportunity will be served to you on a plate. And it is not unreasonable to expect to have to go out and find your own. Careersnearhere lists plenty of relevant local opportunities for you to consider: why not take a look and get inspired!


2. The next step is not usually for life; just for a year or so

Life isn’t a perfect pathway – as a teenager, and partly fuelled by a need to impress my parents, I felt a self-imposed pressure to identify and achieve the perfect career path, mistakenly believing that my entire life needed to be carefully planned and mapped out in detail by the age of 16. But that isn’t necessary because things don’t always go to plan.

Only a few careers are truly vocational – there are a few of us who will choose a career for life. Those that do may be doctors, vets, accountants and perhaps nurses, teachers, engineers or pilots. A lifetime career is usually determined by the number of years of study and commitment required to set out on a pathway, perhaps the level of academic achievement required or the competitiveness of employer benefit schemes such as pensions and holiday entitlements. They are also often careers of passion; being jobs which you might choose to do early in life such as when a young child wants to be a train driver.

Most of us will change careers – whether due to employer restructures or family considerations, it is most likely that you will not be in the same career, working for the same employer or even in the same industry when you are older. This is the reality for most people so unless you are planning a lifetime career path, why not focus for now on the next few years, have a chat with a careers adviser and with those you trust around you. Take a look at what you like doing and what you are good at and start to home in on just the next stepping stone rather than the entire journey.


3. Not getting the right grades isn’t a failure; just a temporary set-back

A wake-up call – Winston S. Churchill once said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Seeing the glass as half full and not half empty, it can be a potential blessing not to get the right grades and in my case it gave me a massive early wake-up call. Having mistakenly believed that I could achieve top A-level grades simply because I was capable of getting them rather than through revision, my actual results sent me running to a local college where I could reinvent myself as the hardworking model student and resolve the situation within 12 months.

A chance to reflect – there’s always a possibility that you didn’t or won’t get the right grades because you weren’t studying the right subject(s). Whether at GCSE, A-level or Uni, there are students all over the country who are learning about topics when – for whatever reason – they would now rather not. So if you don’t get the grades you are capable of, by all means consider resits with or without a tutor, but perhaps also an apprenticeship or a total change of subject next time. This is your life and your future – make it happen!


4. The reason you chose a particular Uni may change

First let me emphasise that these are words of experience back to my younger self so please skip this section if not applicable. I chose my Uni because it had an amazing reputation, a great course and because it had a TV station to try out, but on later reflection it wasn’t right for me.

Limited research – in recent weeks we have been explaining how to research higher education courses and Unis, but you may end up somewhere you regret because you applied when it was too late to thoroughly research – or because you picked it without consideration of employability prospects, location, relevant facilities or course structure. Make time for all of this and it will be worth it.

Independence – as an undergraduate, you are an adult able to make your own decisions – perhaps for the first time. This can therefore be a period of realisation and reflection on the choices you have made to date. If this means you think you are on the wrong course, you may be able to start a new degree – or reapply to Uni – in the following academic year. It doesn’t mean that you want to leave higher education, but that the specific degree or Uni itself is not right for you.

Stick it out – I did. And others I know have. In my case it wasn’t the Uni or the course, but the fact that I belatedly realised that I wasn’t naturally suited to intensive academic study. For others, it could be that the choice of course was the first that caught their eye when researching or that they ended up at the Uni having had to phone around to try to secure a late place via UCAS Clearing. Whatever the reason, dig deep and reflect on the impact of deciding to switch. I had already resat my A-levels and was not about to re-start my degree as well. Most graduate employers are receptive to a wide variety of degree subjects and so if you are fundamentally enjoying the course, why not stick with it and graduate with the best possible grades you can get.


And finally …

There’s so much you can achieve in life – and from a relatively young age – so never stop believing in yourself, your talents and your skills.

At the age of 15, Jordan Romero became the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest, Bobby Fischer became a Chess Grand Master and Tiger Woods became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur Champion in golf history. At 16, Albert Einstein wrote an essay which included the early thoughts on his theory of relativity. At 17, Brazilian footballer, Pele, was the youngest player to ever take part in – and win – a World Cup final. Whilst at 19, Pete Sampras won his first tennis Grand Slam title and Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft.

Seize every opportunity, concentrate on achieving the short-term plan first and remember that an optimistic outlook will best help you successfully navigate your evolving career path. It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

Why not check out the website for local open days, talks, events, work experience, academic courses and apprenticeship vacancies. And please feel free to Share with parents/carers, teachers and 16-21s.

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