As I write this blog, thousands of school leavers in Queensland have descended on various tourist destinations in Australia and overseas. Next week, other States in Australia will join you in what has become known and accepted as the longest party in history, “Schoolies”. Twelve or thirteen years of schooling culminates in relief, exhaustion and yes… partying. It’s impossible to begrudge you some time out and to let your hair down (literally. You will no longer be “in trouble” for not putting your hair up for the most part).
But when the dust settles and the party has come to an end, what then?
I would like to give you some considered advice for the “what now?” stage of your life. This advice has nothing to do with drugs or alcohol or any other extra curricular activity but everything to do with how you can map your life and leave a trail of mass construction, which will set you up for success.
Here is a phrase that my principal uses often and is one that, if applied early in life, will really help you.
‘Past performance is the best predictor of future behaviour’.
Future employees want to see consistency and perseverance in your life, recorded on your CV and evident in your attitude. It doesn’t matter if your first job is not your dream job or even close to it. I know many successful people who were trained in the McDonalds machine and are so thankful for the experience. If you can persist and achieve in a job where the pay is low and your tasks are usually unrecognised, then just imagine how well you will do when you do land a better role, with better pay and better prospects.
Consistency is key.
If you are going to do something, do it well. If you can shine and elevate yourself from the “norm” then WHERE you work will not matter so much as HOW you work. That will get you noticed and future employers will want to hire you.
This time of your life is exciting, but daunting. You will have to make decisions now that shape your life, rather than relying on teachers and parents, Sure, of course you will still have guidance, hopefully.
Choosing a good mentor is essential.
Seek out those you have met who inspire you. It could be the local cafe owner or a family friend who has an impressive property portfolio. I am yet to meet anyone who does not respond to someone asking “how did you become successful?”. Success isn’t always measured in wealth. It is measured across the board in terms of human behaviour, family life, career and security. You will know those who truly have it all together as they probably will not be the ones who boast about it.
Ask questions. Listen.
The single most important part of communication and therefore success in life, is to LISTEN. Be still. Be aware of what you don’t know. High School is all about proving what you know. For this next stage of you life, please know that is it okay to admit what you don’t know. No one likes a know it all. Especially not when he or she is a rookie. It’s arrogant and off putting. Listen, observe, put your hand up to say “can you explain this to me more as I am really interested in that”. You have no idea how impressive that kind of behaviour is. Truly.
Do not mistake kindness for weakness.
If an employer gives you a break, it is because they believe in you and have more worldly experience to know that everyone deserves a second chance. But not a third. Give back. Go beyond. Don’t do what is expected of you. Do what is unexpected. Shine by being true to yourself and those around you. Empathy is the most underrated but mort remarkable quality in humans, particularly when hiring and building a quality team. Those with true empathy look after those around them, but do not let their own sense of worth suffer in the process. You will find that if you are living a life true to yourself, and you’re good to those around you, as well as yourself that it will be almost impossible to fail.
John F Kennedy’s famous line can be re-formulated to have some significance to this path you are now on. “Ask not what your country (read employer or just life in general) can do for you, but what you can do for your country (employer/life).
Try to make choices that will allow you to stick at it. If you have pressure to be a lawyer but what you really want to be is a graphic artist, then explore your dream. Chase your dream. Your dream will not chase you. It is not so much WHAT you study but HOW you study. If you start something, try to finish. Persistence is a very attractive and sought after quality in an employee. It is also not essential to do all your study right after school. Study what you love later in life. It shows commitment. And if you can show you are capable of enduring hardship (being a poor student working part-time to get you through) whilst steadfastly achieving your dream, then employees will know you can handle the workplace.
Formal education is not for everyone. But education is. Make your mind up to study for life. Not necessarily in an institution (although having qualifications really helps show discipline) but in any form of self learning. Read, travel (wisely and with education in mind), follow those who inspire and teach you.
This is your road map now.
Make it unique. Remember, the GPS system doesn’t always know the best way to go. Nor will you. And it’s okay to make some U-Turns. But follow your own path, trust those who have been there before you, and make the most of the journey along the way. Be your own best travel companion. At the end of the day, it all comes down to you and life will reward you for studying the map.