A Grades Alone Won't Pave Your Way to Success

02/09/2015 15:40 BST | Updated 02/09/2016 10:59 BST

A level and GCSE results have now been released and the nerve-wracking wait is finally over for thousands of students around the country. As we hear the numerous success stories of straight A's and A*s, sympathy lies with the large percentage of students who have not hit their predictions or their university offers and will now be searching for places via the clearing system. It is heart breaking but for those who didn't achieve the grades they need, but do not despair.

There is no easy way to say this, but for those searching for careers within a highly skilled and competitive profession - especially professions such as law - anything short of majority A's, which would get them into the Russell group universities, will find it hard to obtain graduate schemes or training contracts. That is the sad reality. However, it is not impossible and furthermore it is not impossible to succeed. My own story reflects that A level grades and even which university you go to might open doors, but they do not necessarily need to define your future.

I was an average B grade student, obtained a 2:1 from Manchester and after numerous (and well over 30) applications to law firms for a training contract, I obtained one offer from Charles Russell (now Charles Russell Speechlys). It took a bit of luck and a ton of determination and perseverance. For my average CV to stand out, I overcompensated by undertaking work experience (inside and outside the UK) and getting involved in as many activities as possible; sports, charities, travel - I tried to do it all.

Once I arrived at Charles Russell it was clear to me that I could do the job, but if I wanted to excel I needed to start thinking a step ahead and outside the box; just doing the best legal job was not enough. I needed to do more and work to my strengths. Once again, I worked on standing out. This meant early on I started getting involved in marketing, business development, public speaking, and writing articles. I put myself forward for everything.

In the end I left Charles Russell, and following a period of time in-house with Nortel Networks, I co-founded Halebury, a NewLaw firm, which now has a team of over 30 lawyers and works with clients such as BT, HSBC, Barclays and Expedia. I still try hard to go above and beyond for each of my team members and clients, and never take no for an answer; it is now in my DNA.

If you have been successful and achieved your desired grades, congratulations; but this is the start of a long road ahead. If you have not hit your offer or your expectations, congratulations as well - you have worked hard to get this far, but remember the game is not over. This is a bump. Think about alternative avenues, for example for law, take another course outside of law, maybe a foreign language, get a good grade and if at the end you still want to work in law, do a conversion course. You need to think out of the box and stand out. Have you thought about taking a gap year and working abroad or even doing a course or a degree there? Now you are paying fees to attend University, why not look internationally. There are more ways than one to carve out a successful career in your chosen profession. Find an alternative route and think outside the box.

Remember: A grades open doors but they do not define your future or your level of success. You do that.

Want a career in a top profession but didn't get A grades?

  • Remember sheer determination and perseverance will go a long way. Don't take no for an answer
  • Boost your CV while at University. Volunteer, play sports, travel, join the debate club
  • Once you have that training contract or grad scheme, put yourself forward for all opportunities and develop skills outside of just your profession