Graduates could learn from ‘Young Apprentice’

December 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

No one ever warns you about the soul-crushing, all-consuming fear that suddenly comes upon you in the weeks after graduating. It’s hinted at, of course, what with all the news features about graduate unemployment and the bleak outlook for the future, but on a personal level, it’s never really mentioned just how scary and disheartening the whole process can be.

I suppose for me, life after university was an even bigger culture shock. I’d secured this great internship for my ideal career and was working in London full-time. Pret lunches, creative brainstorming sessions and free breakfasts on Fridays; suddenly I was living the graduate dream. But just as suddenly, graduation came, the internship was over, I’d turned 21 and I was sat in my room, on the dreaded Jobseeker’s Allowance and feeling like I’d just taken a huge step back. Where were the free breakfasts and the brilliantly busy working-girl lifestyle now? But more importantly, where were all the prospects we’d be promised as we started university?

I guess that’s the bit that hurts the most – at school and throughout university, we’re told that if we work hard and stay focused that it will be worth all the money and time and effort. As someone who graduated with a good degree and plenty of extra curriculars, volunteering and responsibilities to show for my time, this was all starting to feel like a big, fat lie. I was focused on copywriting throughout my time at school and uni, worked incredibly hard and still here I sit months later with little to show for it and no further along on my path to becoming a writer.

Except that’s not necessarily true, is it? Just last month, my writing was published online at Guardian Careers. Over 100 people read and shared my article (and not just my Facebook friends, promise) which is pretty exciting stuff. But whenever people ask me about it, I play it down, telling them how simple it was to contact the organisers and offer my ideas. I think we are all a little guilty of this, especially as job-seeking graduates; we play down potentially our biggest achievements out of modesty or through our own lack of self-belief that we could actually be as good as people say we are.

If there was some kind of career food chain, I’d put myself pretty near the bottom. It’s not because I don’t believe I’m a good writer, just that I probably don’t have enough experience to rate myself higher. And yet, after my article was published online, I had several people contact me, and ask me for advice on pursuing a career in writing. I mean, what do I know? After all, I’m struggling just as hard as everyone else to find my niche, to develop my contacts and hopefully get that lucky break. But people were delighted to hear back from me with advice, and suddenly I realised that maybe I am further along my path to pursuing my dream career than I realise or give myself credit for.

Watching Young Apprentice recently, what really struck me was not the contestants’ arrogance or immodesty but instead how people so young could have so much self-belief. Each of them was responsible for a project or business of some description, but instead of playing it down, they’ve made it seem amazing, emphasising how difficult it was to achieve and cementing the idea that they have beaten the odds to become the business brains of the future. All this made me wonder just how many of them are actually only running the occassional cake sale in their school hall.

I think we could all learn a lot of good lessons from these bunch of seventeen year olds. Instead of playing down our achievements, or sharing out our responsibilities and leadership to a team, we should take hold of exactly what we did and make it the best that it can be. Obviously, I’m not condoning outright lies or exaggeration in our CVs, but simply the truth, without the modesty or lack of self-belief, highlighting the brilliance of what we have actually achieved.

Here are some examples posted on The Guardian Careers website of award winning graduate CVs. These people have all done similar things to most of us graduates and yet their CVs convey the sheer amount of effort that this took as well as a range of  purposefully selected, focused and quantifiable examples of their work experience. If I was an employer, I’d hire them in a second. They are obviously passionate, committed and focused on their goals. More than this, they just shout, “I’m the best – pick me!”

Maybe all we really need to be sucessful in the current job climate is just a solid helping of serious self-belief.

With this in mind….

“Hi, I’m Jenna – a brilliant English graduate with original work published by The Guardian.”

What employer could resist that?

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