Friday, 28 March 2014

Yo Adrian I Did It!

Ever wondered how you would react if you won an Oscar? Would you blub uncontrollably like Gwyneth Paltrow or launch into a political rant like Michael Moore? I recently had my day in the sun, collecting the award for Outstanding Contribution to Work Experience at the National Undergraduate Employability Awards and was rather relieved that there was no requirement for an immediate acceptance speech. If there had, I can only imagine it would have taken an alarming resemblance to the one delivered by a certain Mr R. Balboa


The keynote speaker at the NUEAwards was Sahar Hashemi, co-founder of Coffee Republic, who said a number of things that struck a cord with me. We often see the term 'Overnight Success' used to describe people or business that very suddenly come to public awareness. As Sahar pointed out, there is always a backstory to go with the success, and it may be that rather than achieve success in a very short space of time, there could be years of hard graft to reach that point. The speaker used the figure 15 years. As somebody whose first job after graduation was engraving trophies 13 years ago, this point felt pretty close to home when a few minutes later, she presented me with an award that had my own name engraved onto it.

Success comes in different sizes
Success isn't always measured in terms of winning. I attempted my first half marathon last weekend and while the fancy union jack flag medal was awarded for completing those 13.1 miles, the success in my mind is all the training and preparation that went into getting me fit to run the distance. All those miles run in wet and wintry conditions, plus years of weight management and dieting. Crossing the finish line only tells a very small part of the story.

My students are currently 6 months into their placement search. We formally started out on the journey last September in the introductory placement lectures, and a good number of them have since secured a role. For many others, the pursuit continues, having had a few setbacks along the way in the form of unsuccessful applications. I understand and sympathise with those who feel jaded and perhaps a little disillusioned at drawing a blank thus far, but things don't always happen quite as quickly as we would like. To get where we want to be, we have to learn from our mistakes or where things don't quite go according to plan. The inventor James Dyson built over 5000 prototypes before getting his vacuum cleaner right. I hope it wouldn't take my students this many applications or interviews to be offered a placement, but it is a valid comparison. If you've not previously gone through the rigour of applying for jobs, it can take time to become job savvy. The key is to ensure we learn from each experience, until we find the correct formula.

A key message I share with my students to keep them motivated is based on hard fact. In every year I've been doing this job, most of my students secure placements from March onwards, and I've no reason to think it will be any different for the class of 13/14. To borrow from the Rocky/Mo Farah school of cliches, we are only half way through this fight, and the finish line is not yet in sight. There is still plenty of time to get there, so any thoughts about giving up on placements should be cast aside.