An Open Letter To A 16-19 Year Old

Dear 16-19 Year Old.

Let me start by congratulating you on completing another year of education. I have been in your position and have also now worked in education for 12 years. I know how much harder each year becomes as you advance along your educational journey. I am writing this letter to give you 4 pieces of advice. As I write this I am thinking about the advice that I want to give to my 16-19 year old niece. I am thinking ahead about her future career and the things that I know now as a (nearly) 40 year old that are needed for the journey of life. I am also thinking about the advice I would like to have been given when I was a 16-19 year old. So stick with me as I am trying to think like a 16-19 year old rather than an uncle. I also realise that I would not want to be reading lots of information so I will try and make this as brief as possible.

Advice 1

Go out and enjoy yourself, relax, do what you enjoy doing but keep safe this summer. It is definitely deserved and you should always make time to relax, enjoy life and recharge your batteries. Life is very short (it might not feel like that now, but it is), so take every opportunity to enjoy being with friends, family and again spending time doing what you really look forward to doing.

Advice 2

Think about your future. Unfortunately the education system may be letting you down right now. If you are in one of the best schools/colleges (and I am NOT talking about OFSTED ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’) you will have acquired knowledge and been prepared fully for any examinations you will have taken. More importantly they will have helped you to develop these important skills, as identified by UK employers and educational representatives in a recent research study:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time and self-management
  • Decision-making and initiative-taking
  • Taking responsibility

These skills are identified as the most sought after by employers in young people when you are applying for work, getting promoted or starting out in your career. You will also need to have literacy and numeracy skills and in many cases good knowledge of a sector or profession. These are what schools and colleges are directed at providing you with through GCSEs, BTECs or other approved qualifications. The problem is that some, due to the intense focus on exams, progress and core subjects have neglected to help you develop what you really need for life and the workplace. Don’t blame your school or college. They are doing what they have to do in order to meet government targets. Unfortunately, unless your school or college is prepared to do it differently, you will have only received part of what you need to be fully prepared for life and the workplace.

Advice 3

You may have already recognised that you have not had the opportunity to develop these skills. It could also be that an older adult has told you that ‘you need to be more mature’ or you have been told to ‘grow up’ or ‘take responsibility’, The chances are that they are referring to the development needed in some or all of these skills.

Don’t worry though, you can do something about it yourself. This is what you could do;

  • Get a part time job. Just a few hours a week during the summer holidays as this will develop your communication and interpersonal skills. This will also serve the purpose of developing your character for a professional environment and developing time and self management skills.
  • Taking part in team sports will also help with communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills.
  • You may be working with a group of friends to plan a holiday. That may also help to develop your communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills.
  • You may be a young leader within a group i.e. scouts, guides, youth and so having this responsibility will help you with your decision making and initiative taking.
  • When you take part in any of these activities you should start thinking about creating your CV around these skills. Giving specific, and the best, examples of each skill and how you are pro-actively developing these. I guarantee you, as someone who has employed people in the past, that this will put you head and shoulders above the competition who just have a list of qualifications.

Advice 4

You could of course decide that you do not want to do these things. That is your right, you are a young adult and that is your prerogative to make these decisions. Just remember though, and I take a quote from a Spiderman film “With great power comes great responsibility“. What I mean by this is that you have the power now to make a difference to your own life and your future. To get ahead of others in a very competitive job and career market in the 21st Century, you need to take responsibility for developing your skills. If you choose not to, then do not blame others as you are the only person that is responsible for your own destiny. Go out there and make it happen!

I will end this letter with one final thought recently said by James Caan from TV’s Dragons’ Den. He said that he would recruit, on interview, a person with good soft skills over someone with a degree if they did not have those qualities.

I wish you all the very best for your future.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Lewis (@Garethlewis76)

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