Doing Well At School Isn’t The Only Way To Get Ahead

Doing Well At School Isn’t The Only Way To Get Ahead

I graduated high school with honours in four of five subjects and was named 1 of the top 10 achieving students of my year. For me, the road to high school academic success was long and painful.

Most of us want, or wanted, to perform well at school. For me it was to get good grades that would lead me to bigger and better successes in the adult world. My teachers and schools encouraged this. My senior years of school felt like test after test just to prove how smart we all were. And let’s not even start on receiving that dreaded score at the end of the year. A score that doesn’t represent my own abilities and hard work in school, but one that shows how my abilities stacked up against the rest of my state.

And now, in my second year of university, I wonder what the point of it all was? What has it done for me post high school?

Soon I will also have a university degree to my name and I am still unsure about what I will do with myself after that is over. No amount of studying and high scores has helped me discover what I want to spend my life doing.

So then you’re probably asking, why did I begin a university degree? Well, it just felt like the “right” step to take after high school. I had done well academically, and knew I liked the idea of Journalism as a career possibility, so studying a university degree seemed like the logical path to get to a career. High school, university, career, success – this was the general order of the life that I had painted in my head. But unfortunately, as I am realising now that I am about to graduate the road to success is not this easy.

The biggest issue I have found with relying on traditional education as a pathway is that academic abilities and degrees no longer directly equate to successful careers. It is generally only when you are 15, in high school, looking for your first part time job without any previous experience, that an employer is going to look at your academic ability. After that, depending on the path you take, future employers will seek more from you.   

From what I’m experiencing right now, employers look for people who more have experience than just a high school education or an undergraduate degree. They want to know what skills you already have that sets you apart from everyone else applying for the same job. I’ve learnt that A’s mean nothing to a media company if you have no physical evidence of your filming/editing abilities.

So what does this mean for those of us who have been encouraged to pursue good grades as an idea of success? What can you do now if a high school education and degree is no longer enough of a resume for someone looking for their first full-time job?

I’ve found if you want to compete with everyone else who has the same goals as you, you need to outsource. By this I mean seeking other opportunities which allow you to experience the skills and requirements of your chosen career, before you even find a full-time job in the field. Doing so, gives you the experience that employers look for, which sets you apart from everyone else, but also allows you to decide if it really is the right career for you. Usually this means working for free or interning.

For me, someone pursuing a career in Journalism, I find writing opportunities which help me to build a portfolio of work for potential employers. On top of this, I am seeking opportunities in other areas of Journalism, like radio, to actually experience the role as way of helping my own indecisiveness.  It may seem unfair and impossible to do (on top of study and part-time work) but for me and so many of my peers, it’s expected of us if we want to get ahead career wise.

This is in no way an encouragement for young people to give up school. Schooling and education will always be an important step, which gives us so many other skills in addition to being able to write 2000 word essays and solve complex equations. It helps to teach us important life skills that everyone needs: commitment, respect, independence, and team work to name a few.

What I am attempting to do is reconsider the belief that education alone guarantees future life success. I think it’s time to not just emphasise what the purposes and results of hard work at school is, but to also encourage the idea that on top of schooling, we now need to explore other opportunities to bring us closer to our career goals, whenever we actually figure out what they are.