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This week is a big week for Year 12 students as they finish their last week of school and begin preparing for their exams over the coming weeks. I remember my last week of Year 12 well. The excitement of finally finishing secondary school. The enthusiasm for what the future holds. The apprehension, nervousness and pressure for what the next few weeks of exams mean. The hype of the final exams and the pressure to do your best because your future career depends on it. Sadly for some students the pressure becomes too much; sometimes leading to burn out, stress breakdowns and anxiety. All because of the pressure to do well in these exams; to achieve the results needed to secure your place at University.
University doesn’t have to be the next step after Year 12. The next few weeks of exams don’t determine your future career success or failure. Year 12 exams are one day, one exam, one question, one moment in time. Year 12 exams don’t define you. There are so many options for students finishing year 12 in today’s world. While youth unemployment is high, there are so many businesses screaming out for apprentices and trainees. There are options to work full time, part time and casually. There is the option of temp work. Yet, many Year 12 students feel the pressure to get themselves in to a uni course, because that’s what is expected. Before they know it, they are off to Uni to start a course they are not even sure they want to study but it seems like a good idea and apparently it might lead to some good career options.
While there are many students that will go on to University, love what they study, graduate and transition in to their chosen career, there are many that will drop out 6 months, 12 months or 18 months in to their studies because they don’t love what they are studying. They have somehow ended up in a course, wondering what am I doing and losing their way because the career paths at the end are not a good fit for them. I know this because as a recruiter I’m often the first stop for the disillusioned uni student who wants to know what other options are there for them to enter the workforce, to just get some experience and work out what they want to do. This is where our model is all wrong. Why are we not encouraging those students who are not 100% sure on what they want to do at Uni to go out in to the big wide world and try a few different things before they commit to more years of study?
What advice would I give a Year 12 student starting to prepare for exams over the coming weeks?
I’d tell them to do their best. It’s all they can do. I’d tell them that the exams are one moment in time and they don’t define your future career. What I’d encourage them to focus on instead is:
- Gaining experience
Whatever the outcome of the exams, it’s not about success or failure, it’s about gaining experience. Life experience. Maybe that experience will be gained at University, maybe it won’t. If plans change and it’s not university experience, there are plenty more ways to gain experience to help you forge your career. Don’t be afraid to try new things, push yourself outside your comfort zone or ask for an opportunity. Do some work experience, undertake temp work, apply for different jobs, volunteer, travel. Just do something. It’s these experiences that over time will truly shape your future career, not an exam score.
- Learn about yourself
By gaining experience as I’ve just mentioned, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. What you like and don’t like. What plays to your strengths and where your weaknesses are. What gives you satisfaction. You’ll learn about the real world of work and the opportunities that exist. There will be opportunities that you uncover that you didn’t even know existed when you were completing those year 12 studies and exams. In year 12 I don’t think I even knew what a recruitment consultant was. Human Resources certainly wasn’t on my uni preferences. If I had of accepted my uni offer I would have studied a Bachelor of Commerce which would have been a big mistake, it wasn’t the right fit for me but I didn’t know that at the time because I hadn’t learnt enough about myself at that stage to know what was for me.
- Do what feels right
Listen to the opinions and advice offered by your parents, friends, career teachers, school teachers and whoever else might be willing to offer up their opinion. Take on board the feedback but don’t let it control you. You have to do what feels right for you. Not what your VCE score tells you fit in to studying. Just because you ace your exams and get the uni offer you applied for doesn’t mean you have to take it. Or just because you didn’t get the score you want doesn’t mean the door to Uni is forever closed. Maybe you just need to take a slightly different path to get there. In the end only you can make the decision of what feels right and what the right next step for you is. Have the courage to listen to your gut and do what feels right, even if it isn’t what others are advising. There really is no wrong decision because you’ll always have the option to change your mind and try another path.
Good luck to all the Year 12 students about to commence their exams – enjoy the experience!
Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.