To my wonderful sons,
Currently, you are both in school, one of you in early primary years and one just commenced high school. So far, your school experiences have been vastly different. To my youngest, you are enjoying the opportunity to learn about numbers, shapes, stories in books, the environment, how to play sport, how to mix with other children and you are learning a different language. To my eldest, you have just started high school and there has been a big influx of new students in your year, so you’ve gone from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. Additionally the homework demands have increased significantly and the school is communicating directly with you, rather than via mum or me, so a few things are slipping through the cracks. But don’t worry, you are starting to adjust to this new world quite well.
I’m writing to you now because I work in the employment sector and I help companies recruit staff into their organisations and I help people get jobs. I’d like to help you both if you need it when you are older. Not necessarily by getting you a job, but by equipping you with the mindset, tools and techniques required to enter the workforce and make an ongoing impact. So here are some tips from me to you, that I suspect will stand the test of time and remain relevant when you enter the working world.
- School ends – learning doesn’t
Learning doesn’t stop when you finish school – in fact, like I discovered after a decade training for my Karate black belt only to realise I’d just covered the basics and was now ready to really appreciate the art, so it can be said for school. Once you’ve left school, learning takes a completely new dimension and becomes far more interesting because it is driven by you. After finishing school, you make the choice of what you learn and how you learn and why. So study now, so that you have a solid base of knowledge to enable you to zone in on a particular field of interest. You might go on to do further tertiary education, a work apprenticeship, take an entry-level job, or start your own business. Regardless, your learning will continue.
- Acquire skills to recession proof yourself
You are going to experience a range of economic cycles during your life. There will be periods of talent shortage and periods of job shortage, so remember to keep updating your skills. When the former applies, you have a wonderful opportunity to capitalize and when the latter comes around you need to remain employable. You may choose to further deepen your knowledge and skill level in your chosen field, or broaden your knowledge into areas of greater demand.
- Recognise people of influence
So many opportunities come about through introductions between people. In fact, this is one of the most effective methods of finding employment, because you can often by-pass the cumbersome and competitive job application process and strengthen your chances of success. Just this week, a family member has attended an interview that “came out of the blue” following a referral from someone who appreciated her talents from a past job. Maintain your network of contacts because you never know who might contact you with a job opportunity.
- Experience matters
During a recent family holiday, we met a second-year university student who took a work placement where he was given the opportunity to gain valuable ‘real-life’ experience, by presenting his academic subject matter expertise to groups of holidaymakers. This was a wonderful opportunity for this young man to gain experience presenting to groups of people and share his passion for the sciences with members of the public. In doing so, he not only shared his technical knowledge, he also learned how to translate that into laymen’s terms and how to handle questions ‘from the floor’, requiring him to adapt to an unscripted presentation environment. Whether he plans to teach in the future, be a researcher, an astronaut, or whatever, I’m sure this experience will help build his repertoire of skills and make him more employable. He has differentiated himself from his student cohort and increased his chances of post-study employment.
- Learn to work with others
A group can achieve far more than an individual. There are tremendous opportunities to learn about teamwork at school, in the workplace, in sporting teams, academic clubs, musical groups etc. Take these opportunities. If you understand how each role fits together to make a team function optimally, you will not only appreciate your role and that of your teammates, you’ll also recognize opportunities to cross-skill and learn other roles to back-fill for others, making you more valuable to the group.
- Give and you will receive far more in return
I’ve previously written how Leadership is about giving. But it’s not just leadership… sharing your knowledge with others, giving your time and attention to other peoples’ pursuits also makes you a reliable and valued colleague, client or supplier. The term ‘business partner’ is bandied about frequently in the business world, but for it to be a reality, your curiosity, your insights and your help must be valued by someone else. This will never happen if you are always focused on yourself. So think about what others’ are striving to achieve and help them.
- Do it your way.
At your ages, you largely view the world as black and white. People are good or bad. There is a right way and a wrong way. Well, let me tell you, THE WAY is your way. Have a go and do your best. Do that and I will forever be proud of you.
Ben Walsh – General Manager, Recruitment