Seven years, five months and six days. That’s how long it took me after school to get my first proper job in the corporate world. Before then, I was in a Christian centred non-profit, and before that, I had a stint running and failing a social enterprise and several other business ventures. The corporate job came as a huge relief, as though someone lifted a log off my chest. Suddenly I could breathe easy, or easier, and I could lay claim to a more rounded work experience. This, of course, is subjective, Afterall, who needs a full-time job to gather proper experience? Apparently, I did. And the whole experience has left me reflecting on the wide-eyed dreamer I used to be when I was in school. Here are a few things I wish I knew all those years ago.
Dreams don’t die
I know what it means to be young and full of passion. You probably have a dream job or a dream business burning under your skin. You want to leave school and get into the centre of things (I hope). And you can’t wait for the endless opportunities to change the world. So, first things first, that dream is valid. Hold on to it. Write it down. Don’t lose sight of the things you want to achieve. Now that we have that out of the way, and now that we know your possibilities are endless, let us get to the practicality of things.
How prepared are you?
So, you want to land your dream job or build your dream startup. How ready are you? Considering that most of what you are taught in school are probably redundant anyway. What do you know about the industry? What extra skills do you need to acquire? How are your grades matching up with the opportunities you want? In my case I thought passion was enough, that a dream would create room for itself, that desire would grow hands and build castles from thin air. But in the real and sometimes hard life of the corporate world, you will need an edge, an element of proficiency, a track record that shows you have skills that can play out in the job you seek.
Intern. Intern. Intern
Maybe you have a retired mother and five siblings and a whole pipe of expenses waiting for you. But you still need to pay for the experience. And sometimes, what you cannot afford in time, you can make up for it short bouts of apprenticeship. And this is okay. Give yourself a time frame. Volunteer in industries and sectors you have interests in. Don’t even wait until you leave school. You may not land your dream job the first week after graduation but be sure you are not sitting and waiting for it. Get as much learning as you can. Prepare for your moment in the light.
Get a Mentor
There are interesting articles on this published here and here. I often wonder how significantly different things would have been if I had experienced people who cared for my professional life and gave me some sort of direction. It would have answered a lot of questions, brought clarity to me sooner and maybe mitigated previous failures. But you can and should skip this hurdle. Find a mentor. Be open to advise and feedback. Be willing to grow through the wisdom of others.
It all works out
Honestly, it does, and I wish I also knew this earlier on. It would have saved me years of needless existential crisis. I am saying this in case you have a low grade and think your possibilities are too thin. Or in case you are racking your head and can’t come up with a pressing dream or goal. Rest. Our timing is often different, but we all come into our selves fully, eventually. There are skills I have now which I didn’t have as an undergraduate. Just keep a steady dose of hunger. You will find yourself in the right shoes and you will walk the path that is yours.