Congratulations class of 2019! You did it, you passed the exams, you committed to the process and you get to don the gown and throw the cap. You have plans for the summer, the last summer of freedom where you sit around with fellow grads, craft beers in hand, and discuss the meaning of life, the state of the world and how you plan to change it all. Some of you may intern and others will be sending out CV’s, a few will have jobs lined up. Whatever the case, the road ahead looks promising, a little intimidating and a lot unknown. Welcome to life. It’s as good as you make it, the world is your oyster and the only way is up blah blah you’ve heard it all before. Sure, embarking on this journey is all the above and because I have 20 years on you, I’m going to tell you what I know and what I wish someone had told me back in 1999.
Don’t think, just do
In 1999 at the end of my fine arts degree, I was in the middle of constructing a large-scale art installation made of chicken wire and paper and it was not going well. The thing was getting out of hand, it was taking on a life of its own. After endless hours, hands aching from chicken wire cuts and buckets of glue strewn about, I looked at my professor with tears of frustration and told him that I could not see the end result and would rather cut my losses and start again. He told me, “Don’t think, just do!” Professor Crump was right. It’s a phrase I use often with my employees, candidates, friends, and children. Applying for various jobs? Don’t overthink it, just send your CV. Going for an interview, dress the part and answer the questions honestly. Dealing with a difficult client, pick up the phone and explain the situation. Sometimes in life, you must just soldier on. There are times when you can’t predict the outcome and worry that you never will but there is something to be said for perseverance. At work, you will become stuck many times over but follow the process and just do it. Nike built an entire campaign on this slogan and look how cool they are!
Swipe right more often than left
Be a yes person. Apply to your dream job but send your CV to the ‘maybe’ job that wasn’t on your wish list. You’re young, chances are the job you get now won’t be the one you end up in, but it could lead you down a path you didn’t expect. When a new project comes up, be that person who jumps in. Even if marketing isn’t your thing, volunteer. Maybe you will get to work with the most interesting person in the room and perhaps the new skill that you learn can be applied another day. Perhaps you will realise what you always knew, that marketing is in fact not your thing but until you try it and own it, you will never know. If you are invited for drinks with colleagues, say yes. How else will you figure out the inner workings of the office? Work, much like life is not linear, sometimes we need to detour in order to get to the end and often, the experiences and people that you meet on the journey are the very things that get you where you want to be.
Face-to-face time is better than face time
Whenever you can, choose real life over screen time. The way a person shakes your hand will tell you plenty. Body language gives you clues on a person’s motivation and intention, you can’t pick up tone through text and vibe doesn’t translate over Viber. When you have the opportunity, whether in dating or in jobs, make time to meet in person. Sure, we are lucky to live in technologically advanced times, but humans are not robots and good old-fashioned one on one time should not be underestimated. Go out with your friends, knock on your boss’s door and call your mom, she wants you to.
Nobody owes you anything
I know your parents told you that you could be anything. They probably told you that the world was yours to take and if you worked hard, everything your heart desired would be yours. They lied. You can’t have everything, and the world is everyone's. Working hard may lead you there but it doesn’t guarantee anything. Everything you do will stem from you, but you will encounter obstacles in front of you. Your boss may fire you because the department was bleeding money, maybe you are partly responsible or perhaps you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Too bad, the department is gone and so is your job. Karen from HR might not like your face and do her very best to trip you up. She may succeed. Why she didn’t like you, you may never know, the point is, your job might go because of it. Life isn’t fair and things don’t always go according to plan. When things go wrong, and I promise you that sometimes they will, it is your reaction to the situation that matters. Keep your options open and learn from the experience. Have your CV ready and stay up to date on industry news. Keep your networks close and keep learning. Invest in online courses and read every day. Try to plan ahead, but don’t try to predict or control outcomes. Things hardly ever turn out the way you want them to.
Be kind to everyone
Look at your first job as the place where you will learn. This is where you will start your career and chances are, not end it. This is where you will start to understand how businesses operate. You will meet all sorts from all walks. At university, you were in lectures with people who were all studying the same thing but, in the workforce, you will have cleaners, administrators, managers, and bosses. Each will have their own agenda, targets, motivations, and personalities. Some will be starting out, some will be in the middle of their journey and others close to retirement. You will learn from each person if you take the time to listen and observe. The cleaner may get promoted and your manager may leave. You never know who you will report to in the future so be kind to everyone in equal measure.
You are never done learning
You have not even been on this planet for a quarter of a century, you have decades to figure out what you want to be, and some of the most interesting adults I know still haven’t. You are never finished learning, it’s an ongoing process. Surround yourself with both like-minded people and those who are completely opposite to you. Each will give you new insights and alter your perspective. Nobody taught me how to open a recruitment agency, I learned as I went along. I continued to hone the skills I was good at and then I surrounded myself with people who could do the things I couldn’t, gave them ownership and let them run with it. It really does take a village. Make mistakes and try again. Surround yourself with quality people and don’t stop learning. Ever.
Separate real news from fake news
You are living in a time where the news is readily accessible. In 1999, we bought hard copy newspapers once a day and tuned into the 8 o’ clock news each night on TV. Now you have access to news updates on every device in real time, all the time. Read, know what is happening out there and keep updated but be mindful of who is writing it and whose agenda it serves. Everyone has an angle, and everyone is selling something so learn to separate the real from the fake. Those friends on FB with their perfect bodies have probably filtered those pics, the amazing holiday snaps only tell half the story because I guarantee you that nobody posts pictures of their two-year-old having an epic meltdown on that pristine beach in Mykonos. True story. Don’t believe everything you see, learn to sift through it.
Create habits until they are part of your lifestyle
Much like you, I spend time stalking old friends on Facebook. I see friends who I graduated with doing what they always did. The people who stressed over exams and stayed up all night studying are now working sixty-hour week corporate jobs in London with salaries to match and the friends who woke up early and went jogging are competing in marathons. The habits you form in childhood often remain with you forever. How you spend your time, shapes who you are. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make positive changes. We all see these life-changing stories on Instagram so start now, decide what kind of person you wish to be and work towards this goal. You have youth on your side, harness it and use it to your advantage.
Take it from me (an older version of you) that the days are long, but the years are short. Use your time wisely, invest in yourself and know that you will fail many times along the way. Pick yourself up and keep on keeping on. The way you invest your time now will play a role in your future so keep learning and take chances.
Class of 2019, always remember that you have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes and you can steer yourself any direction you choose!