My self-esteem took a battering when I moved schools but it taught me exams aren’t everything
School life was a sequence of new challenges for me. We moved often because of my fathers work and I swapped between private and state school, with mixed emotions. Affectionately known as the ‘posh bird’ as my Dad dropped me at the local comp in his new cars. I cringe even now. With over 1500 kids I learnt fast how to speak to people from different backgrounds, and flew academically. However, a last move to a girl’s school to complete my A Levels was a step too far for me.
30 kids to 8 in a class had a huge impact on my self-confidence. I quickly became the small fish in big pond. Having achieved 10 GCSEs, I reluctantly agreed to be funneled in to French, Classical Civilization, and Spanish (Spanish GCSE in one year and my A Level across 2yrs). Doing well at subjects and enjoying subjects are two different things. After all, ‘Psychology and Pottery are not going to get you a good job,’ my parents firmly told me at 16. I was in free fall. After all even Maureen Lipman in the 80’s BT ad reassured her grandson, on only passing pottery, saying “Anthony, people will always need plates,’ I think you can guess it didn’t turn out well.
Delivering pizzas in Luton taught me that hard work and resilience is required
I managed to scrape in to University where I studied Media and Communications. I had no clear guidance of where I should go and what I could study. It took sheer will on by behalf and help from my Headmistress to gain entrance. I worked 2 jobs whilst I was there – A waitress at Pizza Hut and checkout girl at Kwik Save. I started as a delivery driver, but on my first night my Hawaiian pizzas were stolen. I was moved back to the safety of the restaurant. Fast.
I created a job where there wasn’t one because someone gave me a chance
After I graduated in ’93 I left home and set my sights on Bethnal Green, London. Ironically, over a steak house, which as a veggie created its own challenges. I was convinced a job was soon to be within my reach. I had been to University, so it was a done deal in my mind. How wrong I was. I religiously sent out my CVs, starting alphabetically and eventually I got a job with NRG. They didn’t have a job at the time. I impressed them with my dedication and of course my coffee making skills, and accepted a weekly wage of £100 with a travel card thrown in. I left there a few years later and became a freelance runner for LWT and at 26, I set up my own creative consultancy, which took me around the world.
I see talented young people being knocked back every day
Now at 42 no-one raises an eye that I have an HND rather than a degree and it has never stopped me doing anything I wanted to. I work with young people every day and I still hear the same catch 22. “They wouldn’t take me on because I don’t have any experience.’ Now there is a much bigger price tag on further education then when I went. Many of our young people are being encouraged to go to Uni when a degree will not guarantee a job. Starting out in life with a £50K debt is crippling many and all for a piece of paper and the promise of success. Don’t get me wrong I learnt a lot and for some careers a degree it is a, ‘must have’ but there are many careers that don’t require one.
Employers are looking for great attitude not grades
A recent CBI report highlights, that lack of work experience was sited by 8 of 10 businesses as a reason for not employing young people. The number of young people aged 16-24 who are not in education or employments stands at 498,000.
This study also shows that businesses look first and foremost for young people with the right attitudes and aptitudes to enable them to be effective in the workplace. Nearly nine in ten employers (89%) value these above factors such as degree subject (62%) Employers are not as motivated to employ because of grades as people think.
Be bold. Don’t follow the crowd. Follow your passion.
So when you are considering your next step after school. Look at ALL your options and see what lights your fire. Work can be exciting and a place of great learning or exhausting and soul destroying. Take a look at the adults you know going to work daily. Their faces are very telling. Find support and don’t let adults pressure you in to a rigid path. Explore and discover what is available to you. Keep your options open. Seek out people who are doing the job you think you want to do, get a summer job, a weekend job. Learn basic office skills; like how to write an email and answer the phone. There are always jobs, even if it is fruit picking – like I did with my Spanish teacher on his strawberry farm. Start a newspaper round or speak to your neighbours about babysitting; it’s about showing employers that you can work hard and stick at things. Exams are not everything.
We find talent and find talent jobs – www.aos.org.uk