The most important thing here to remember is to not compare yourself to others.
Unfortunately, we grow up in a society where everything is measured, we apply metrics to many things in both our business and personal lives, from fitness and training to school grades to KPIs (Key performance indicators). In the business sector this is certainly changing as not everything can be assigned a metric value, whilst we still try, things like impact, purpose, emotion, passion and happiness are difficult to be quantified but in business, these factors are starting to be recognised, with the likes of B Corporations.
However, within education, this can be a lot harder as the values assigned to the grades have historically been the key to access that pathway you may desire.
But, is this changing?
With so many avenues it can be tricky to decide which path to take, from A-Levels and University, apprenticeships or good old fashion experience. We certainly see history repeating itself in fashion, art, design and many other industries and feel that this is also now happening within the outlook of 'personal professional development', and experience vs. qualifications is certainly becoming a big debate.
There are countless examples of graduates with huge debts but no jobs and school leavers jumping straight into trainee roles, learning more on the job without debt, and many are questioning what is the right or wrong path?
The answer is neither; there is no right or wrong path as everyone is different, with different interests, different passions, different goals and different definitions of success. So you should not compare. You need to try to figure out what is the best path for you and for some that may not be the standard academic route, it may be more beneficial and enjoyable to train on the job. It may also be your personal circumstances that stop you going into full-time education, it may be that you don't have the grades or it may be that you simply don't know what the hell you want to do... and this is totally fine don't worry and certainly don't panic.
I know many people that went back to university as mature students, who took time out to decide what they wanted to do before spending thousands on an education or qualification. And, from personal experience, without assigning any metrics, these guys seem a lot happier but why? I'm sure there are many factors but ultimately because they explored different pathways, worked out what they liked and most importantly what they didn't like and then decided to commit to a pathway that they were passionate about. Some of them didn't even have the grades or points to meet the eligibility requirements BUT the school/faculty recognised their dedication through their personal statements.
SO DON'T WORRY IF YOU DIDN'T GET THE GRADES, GO AND GET THE EXPERIENCE AND YOU MAY NOT EVEN NEED THE QUALIFICATION.
From an early age, we are pushed to choose pathways and make decisions on what we want to be but are we asking the wrong question? Should this not be, how do you want to feel? As Gary Vaynerchuk says in many of his podcasts you can't put a value on happiness and he would much rather be in a job he loves than a job that has a negative impact on his happiness for a higher salary.
So my advice is:
- Don't rush, sit back and think about your options.
- When you have realistic and achievable options, make a plan as to how you can achieve them.
- Throw in an outrageous option too, sometimes things can seem impossible but if you don't start somewhere you'll never start at all. We all have dreams but it can be dangerous to live in them so just be careful and as Rudyard Kipling states in his poem, IF:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master;
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
- Look at your personal life, your finances, commitments, and responsibilities and see what is achievable. It is often good to push yourself as we adapt and learn more during these times of change but only you know what you can endure so push yourself to your limits, and occasionally a little bit more to see how you can handle it. This will prepare you well for many other situations.
- If you know what you want to do, go for it and throw everything at it. Surround yourself in that environment, gain as much experience as you can, mix with industry people, network, self-learn, do everything you can to be part of that world. And, if it's what you want to do, none of it will seem like work, as you'll love every minute of it.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you still don't know what you want to do that is totally fine - go out and explore as much as possible - try different jobs, different sectors, travel and lose yourself to explore your passions and desires. Meet new people, experience new things, gain different perspectives and have fun doing it. We often overlook the importance of play yet it's so important in our development. We gain a number of wider key skills such as decision making, teamwork, creativity, adaptability, problem-solving and let's not forget where fun lives, the passion starts.
Jumping jobs or across sectors, used to be frowned upon, as did travel, but if you can be accountable for your actions, if you can confidently say 'I was exploring my options', 'I was experimenting', 'I was quenching my thirst' and through that I learnt about myself in these ways, any smart employer would respect that.
Who wouldn't want a well travelled, well explored and open minded individual, who has made a conscious decision to venture far and wide in both their business and personal lives to find a pathway that is suitable for them.
So to recap, know your passion, work out your options and have fun exploring the different pathways to get there!