What I wish I knew before leaving school

As someone who spent nearly 20 years in school from the time I stepped into my kindergarten class to graduating from my masters’ programme, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when stepping out into ‘the real world’. 

Now, nearly two years into my career as a Communications Advisor, there are three things I wish I knew before leaving school:

Ask questions, but make your own decisions 

I have three older siblings who all went through school and entered the workforce before I did, so I was lucky that I was surrounded by people who could answer any questions I had about things such as salary expectations for a first job and how to stand out during an interview. Whether it is a sibling, a parent, professor or friend, ask for their advice to get as many perspectives as you can – arm yourself with as much information as possible.  

That being said, my siblings all had different interests to me and I was tempted to go my own way despite it not being the traditional path. As clichéd as it sounds, trust your gut – you’ll never know if you don’t try! 

Prioritise learning 

I was absolutely thrilled when I finished my final tests and assignments mostly at the thought of never having to sit hunched over a textbook, highlighting and memorising again. 

However, those tasks I was so pleased to tick off my to-do list completely prepared me for my first role, and every day I still learn on the job. As a relatively new member of my team, I am constantly asking questions and asking for opportunities that are out of my comfort zone because that is how you continue to grow in your career! It will also demonstrate to others that you care about your work and want to excel, which is always a good thing. 

You are allowed to change your mind

When I told my parents that I wanted to major in Creative Writing at university, they were supportive but apprehensive. There was a lot of discussion about what I would do with a degree where the most obvious trajectory was to become an author. Upon starting school, I found my footing at the student newspaper and thought I would become a journalist, but realised after graduating that it wasn’t the path I wanted to be on.

I found a happy medium with corporate communications, which allows me to engage with my creative side and has opened my eyes to how vital good communications are within any company regardless of the services it provides. I never thought when I went off to school that I would be where I am today, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t willing to pivot and try something new. 

There are very few people in the world who are actually doing the job they aspired to have when they were first asked at the age of six, and there should be no expiry date as to when you can change your mind on how you want to spend your time and live your life.   

Emma Hicks

Communications Advisor, RBC Wealth Management

Take the Lead is a free employability programme from The Old Vic for students aged 15–18. This programme is created in collaboration with schools and businesses and draws on The Old Vic’s expertise as a theatrical institution to support young people to take ownership over their next steps after school and prepare them for the working world of the future.