Today at work, I was asked to spend an hour with someone doing work experience. She was 16 and wanted some career advice and so she asked me about how to get to where I am now. So I told her the usual crap; be proactive, have great grades, really good cv, make sure it’s perfectly spaced because that’s what a company looks for in a potential future CEO: perfect use of the spacebar.
But in reality, I hate my job. Like most people, I don’t like working the normal 9to5 so it felt bad giving her advice on how to get where I am when I don’t personally want to be there. I’m sure when she grows up she’ ll probably end up hating it too. Instead, I wish I’d been more honest with her, in fact, I wish had someone to tell me some truths when I was her age.
You don’t need it figured out
I remember back when I was deciding what degree to study. Teachers have to raise the magnitude of the situation to make sure you’re applying yourself in class. They would say things like “pay attention, this is important for deciding your future.” That used to really worry me; making such an important choice felt that if I had got it wrong, I would ruin my life.
But I now know, it’s not a final decision. In my head, I thought that what I chose to study affected what I did for the rest of my life. But in reality, that’s not true at all. You can switch degrees, careers, go back to school etc. No decision is really final anymore.
Also, I thought I just had to know what I wanted to do, but aged 27 I still don’t know what I want to do now, and frankly, that’s fine. You’re not going to have figured it out at age 16,17,18 etc why would you? You’ve literally just spent your life at school, how are you supposed to understand what career is for you, when you’ve had zero experience of a career?
Academia doesn’t help you get a job
Ok, so this isn’t a critique at teachers or schools. You learn lots of useful things at school, and yes lots of schools/universities have career departments/societies that help to build your skills outside of the classroom. But if we just talk about subjects, and no I don’t mean stuff like medicine, I’m talking about the majority of core subjects we all study, most will just prepare you for further study. For example, degree level History just prepares you for a Masters in History and a PhD in History just prepares you to become a history professor. They don’t actually lend themselves to prepare you for a career outside of academia. So if you do decide to get a job outside of academics, you won’t use any of your degree in your real life.
You need to be doing stuff outside of that so join a club/society. Find some interests and do some stuff that you genuinely like. They’ll teach you soft skills that you’ll actually need in life. Unlike school which teaches you useless stuff like how to use a protractor, a protractor hahaha, seriously I can’t think of the last time I’ve even seen one.
Your parent’s advice isn’t valid anymore
My parents told me all I had to do was study hard and get a degree and I’d get any job I wanted because that’s what it was like when they were younger. Job hunting was easy, people used to find jobs in the newspaper! You could literally find your calling in life and do a crossword in the same place. Now the job market is much tougher, so much so that my parent’s advice was wrong. Getting a degree isn’t enough.
I also remember my dad saying that even if I got a job as a cleaner in the company and showed up every day, I could climb the ranks and become a manager within the same company. That’s the kind of stuff that used to happen in their day, but people had more opportunities back then. You could climb the corporate ladder through just hard work. Nowadays you’ll need to have multiple roles in different companies to get ahead. And no you can’t start in the post room and progress through the company. Well, that’s not true, I’m sure you could become post room manager one day.
Even job choices our parents had when they were younger weren’t the same. They didn’t have people making money selling detox teas on social media. They didn’t even have social media!
My point is this the game has changed. The path your parents took isn’t necessarily the path you will take. Take their advice with a pinch of salt. Inevitably you are going to have to work things out your own way.
Everything is so short term
Back at school, it used to bother me that the cool kids didn’t like me. You think I want to hang out with those guys now? You couldn’t pay me to talk to those losers. The girl I used to have a crush on? hard pass. My point is none of that stuff matters long term. We put so much value of the things that happen when we’re younger, especially as teenagers, because that’s all we know. I wish I understood how temporary high school was in the grand scheme of things.
Adults don’t have it figured out
I was so hell bent on growing up, getting a job, getting my own place, that no one ever told me that being an adult really sucks! No one likes their job, you’ve got tonnes of responsibility and it’s hard. Also, no one has it figured out. We are literally just feeling our way through life trying to do the best we can. So go out, make bold decisions, follow people’s advice or don’t. It’s your life and only you get to live it, so do it your way.
What do you think? leave a comment below