Choose Your Own Adventure: insights from a young professional

Written by Tessa Donovan, Client Executive at SenateSHJ

Graduation

Dr. Martens are my favourite shoes. At university, I wore them almost every day. But on the day I graduated, when I walked onto the stage to collect my degree, I was in black heels.

I remember this because I was terrified of falling on stage. I didn’t realise at the time, but it was a kind of metaphor for entering the real world – standing taller, trying to keep my balance, hoping nothing would go wrong.

But I didn’t fall on stage. And, shortly after I graduated, I landed my first job: Client Executive at SenateSHJ.

The transition from student to professional was fast, but I knew I was lucky. I soon faced questions from other graduates: “How did you do it?”

This month I spoke on a PRINZ Insights from Young Professionals panel. With four others, I tried to answer this question for a crowd of curious students. We wanted to give them some insight into how to get a job – and why it’s not always easy.

I was struck, sitting there with my peers, by how everyone’s journey was so different.  It felt like we were characters in the Choose Your Own Adventure stories I used to obsess over as a child.

My own journey into communications was inspired by my sister. I was a demotivated and rebellious school student, watching too many reruns of The Jeremy Kyle Show. As my sister likes to remind me, some people have gap years; I had a couch year.

I watched her, living what I considered the dream, writing for a trendy magazine. So I got off the couch and signed up for a certificate in communications studies.

Through this, I acquired skills in time management, writing and critical thinking. I discovered an affinity for communications, and became enthusiastic about the industry and its potential to create change.

My attitude helped me get my first job, and I saw a similar enthusiasm reflected in the students who attended the panel. But I wasn’t able to give them one clear-cut answer on how to get a job. It’s an adventure only they can choose. Still, there are certain decisions that will guide them to the right door.

Here’s what I told them:

Choose your attitude

Be somebody that you would want to work with. Do what you say you are going to do, and do it with enthusiasm.

Take opportunities

Take up and create opportunities – no matter how scary or daunting. Employers offer opportunities to those who stretch themselves.

Learn as much as possible from those around you

It is normal to gravitate towards people like you. But you’ll miss opportunities to learn if you stick to colleagues or peers who are the same age or hold similar positions.

Network, network, network

Don’t wait for the right people to present themselves. Make an effort to meet people, go to PRINZ and other industry events. Polish your LinkedIn profile and start making connections.

If done right, talented junior staffers quickly become indispensable team members, but it’s a two-way street. So, along with the tips for graduates, I have some thoughts for management:

Give graduates opportunities

Graduates are filled with knowledge of the latest theory, and they are digital natives. Use their skills and enthusiasm to diversify your team and build a better business.

Nurture junior staff – their successes will contribute to yours

Graduates are enthusiastic; they work hard and they want to prove themselves to organisations that give them a chance. They have experiences and learnings to share. Good senior staff know this, and tap their junior team members for fresh skills and new thinking.

Consult graduates in decision making

According to the Harvard Business Review, the more diverse a team is in age, ethnicity and gender, the more creative and productive the team will be. Diverse teams are better and faster at solving problems. So don’t forget to ask for our ideas.

It’s been 18 months since I took this job. I’m back in my Dr Martens most days, comfortable in my role as a communications advisor.

And I know it’s not my shoes which will define my future, but my attitude, ambition and commitment to learning more every day.

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