The last month or so may have not been entirely what you were hoping it would be. In the aftermath of exam results season, some will be packing up your rooms and saying goodbye to your mum's cooking to leave for university. Others will be getting ready for your first day of college. But there will be a few sat in your room asking yourself over and over, 'what am I going to do now?'
We've all been there, and while it may not seem like it now, grades actually aren't the be all and end all. There are so many options out there to help you through this tricky time and get you on your way to a successful career. As someone who's been through the whole experience, here are some tips I wish someone had told me!
1. Don't Panic
It is really easy to panic, especially if you received results you weren't expecting. Try and stay positive, you have a lot more going for you than you think.
Take a deep breath and think about what you can do next. Do some research, see what others are doing and make a plan that works for you and stick to it. When I was at school, I had the chance to do my Silver Duke of Edinburgh's Award programme. I grew up in Hackney and had never been outside of London before and my expedition gave me the chance to learn what I was really capable of. I learnt new skills and also got some perspective on other skills I already had but just hadn't realised.
2. Apply for some work experience
Work experience is a really great way to get an understanding of the real working world, especially in the industry that you're interested in. From my experience, employers value work experience just as much (maybe even more) than high grades. Whilst you are there, make sure you ask questions to find out how people in the company made it to their role. You will more than likely find that exam results don't even come into the conversation!
3. Sign up for some volunteer work
Volunteering always looks good to potential employers and universities. It shows passion and personality that employers are always looking for.
There are so many different ways to volunteer in your local community. I did some as part of my DofE programme and it gave me a real sense of satisfaction. I always remember walking away and thinking 'yes, I've really made a difference today'.
4. Meet new people and network
Ever heard the saying, 'It's not what you know, it's who you know?' Well, I can honestly say that I've learnt this is true. Go and talk to your family, friends' parents, and parents' friends, learn about what people do and seek out new connections. You'll also learn that there are a lot of successful people out there who haven't got to their positions through conventional routes.
5. Pimp your CV
You might think you don't have much to add to your CV, but it really is what you make of your experiences. There are so many transferable skills that you can gain from extracurricular activities, volunteering and out-of-classroom learning. Playing sports, playing an instrument and gaining experience in real working environments all show skills such as team work, creativity, communication skills and intuition. Take a step back and think about what skills you've learnt from playing in a football team or acting in your school play and write them down.
If you're still really stuck, go out and do something that you can write about. I coached football through my DofE programme, which I used on my CV to show communication and leadership skills. Always remember that each skill you list should be backed up by a real life example of where you've demonstrated this, and then the world is your oyster.
Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award achiever