School. Reunion. The words can send shudders down the spine of many people, including me! I recently received an invitation to my 20-year School Reunion. Yes it made me feel old, but it made me think back to my school leaver self and how I had my whole working life ahead me with so many significant decisions to make.
In some ways, it doesn’t feel like that long ago when I was a school leaver, considering I have another 20 years of my career still ahead of me, yikes! I’ve learnt a lot since donning my school uniform for the last time and having my friends write their goodbyes on my school dress – does that even still happen? I’m sure there’s an app for that kind of thing now …
"School. Reunion. The words can send shudders down the spine of many people, including me!"
Anyway, it’s made me think of what advice my ‘thirty-something self’ would give to my ‘school-leaving self’ all those years ago. Whilst so much has changed in the past 20 years, there are some things that have not – such as being a good, hard-working and dependable employee.
That brings me to my top 7 tips for school leavers transitioning to the workforce …
1. Do What You Love
Follow your interests. Ask yourself, what do I enjoy doing? You may not have a concrete career plan yet and that’s perfectly OK! Now is a good time to just figure out what you enjoy and give it your 100% focus. Let’s face it, you have your whole working life ahead of you with plenty of time to grow and change careers. Research shows that millennials will change jobs every 3-5 years so take some time to do something that makes you happy whilst you figure out a long term plan. You never know your interests might just lead you to your long term plan after all.
2. Be Employable
Did you know that there are 6 x key skills that employers look for in a candidate? ABS stats show that 98% of employers will hire someone with these core skills, which are communication, computer skills, people skills, friendliness, hardworking, trustworthy. What I love is that you don’t need to do a course to possess these skills, you just need to practise them on a daily basis. And by doing that, you are in fact on your way to becoming a top performing employee!
I’d also say from my experience as a recruiter, it’s very important that you are committed and dependable. Your employer needs to know that they can count on you to show up every day and that you will give your best.
3. Keep Perspective
As I already mentioned, you have your whole working life ahead of you. If you aren’t in a job that you particularly love, or even if you aren’t sure what you want to do, stay calm! Stick it out, be professional and keep your options open. A bad first job is not the end of your career. I’ve had a few jobs that I wasn’t crazy about, but I know they helped me become the person I am today. They helped grow my confidence and resilience. Now in hindsight, I’m very thankful for them.
4. Learn From Your Failures
Yes, you will have failures. Yes, things will go wrong. Yes, you will make mistakes. If you aren’t, then you aren’t pushing or challenging yourself enough. Learn from them, evaluate yourself and the situation and think about what you could do differently next time. Was there something you could’ve done differently? I’m a strong believer that every situation is a learning opportunity, so keep learning!
5. Learn Something New
Study something, anything! Add to your skill set! It doesn’t mean you have to enrol in uni if that’s not your thing, it could even be a short Community College course to begin with. Study something you enjoy or are interested in. If you have identified by career plan, that’s great! You know your next step, have clearly defined goals and are well on your way. If you’re still figuring it out, that’s OK too! Take some time to try different things. See what you like and what fits you best. Adding to my skills and knowledge will always serve you well.
Most people get a job through their networks rather than applying for an advertised position. So how do you build your networks? Get on LinkedIn, update your social media and start talking to people. Your networks include anyone around you, such as your sporting team, friends, school friends, family friends, anyone! Someone you know might know someone else who needs someone just like YOU in their business! You won’t know that if you’re not connected with them!
Extra Tip* With your social media accounts, ensure that you remove any inappropriate pics and that your profile is portraying a positive image of yourself! Future employers do check social media to find out more about you!
7. Have A Quality Cover Letter and Resume
Your resume and your cover letter really are your future employer’s first impression of you. They need to clearly articulate who you are and what you can bring. The purpose of your resume is to get you an interview and make the employer want to know more about you. It’s also very important that your resume and cover letter are targeted to the role you are applying for as this will help them visualise you as part of their team. Sure, you may not have professional experience, but you still have something very valuable to offer. You are young, enthusiastic and mouldable!
So there you have it! Now, I know you’ve just finished school, but the reality is you will never stop learning.
Every situation is a learning opportunity. It’s up to you to take the opportunity before you!