Tips and advice for summer secondary school leavers

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Leaving school for good can be both exciting and frightening at the same time. On the one hand, you’ll never have to wear a school blazer again, but on the other, you’re now in control of your own destiny.

This post aims to provide you with some practical advice about leaving school and taking the next step in your career.

If you’re about to start a job…

We’ve already written a post about how to find a summer job as a student, and if you’re looking for temporary work to tide you over until you land your dream job, then this post is definitely worth reading.

But if you’re about to start a job that will mark the start of your future career, we have a few words of wisdom that may help you make the transition into the working world smoother.

First of all, you should get used to being held accountable. It’s different at school when teachers always remind you about homework or exams but when you’re working, it’s up to you to be organised and meet your deadlines all on your own. On that note, make sure your CVs always up-to-date (there won't be anyone to jog your memory) so you're ready to apply for work when it comes up.

There will be times when you’ll make mistakes and this is perfectly normal but it’s the way in which you deal with them that will help you get along in your job. It’s important that you take responsibility if something goes wrong on your watch.

By taking responsibility, you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to put things right and you’ll be able to avoid making the same mistake in the future. If the mistake came about because you didn’t have the proper knowledge or experience, then you should speak to your boss about receiving extra training.

If you’ve secured an internship…

Internships are a great way to learn the ropes of a particular industry. Our post on how to make the most of an internship has some really practical advice, so we’d recommend bookmarking this article for the future.

When you start your internship, you’ll be going from being at the top of the school to the bottom of the office (in most cases), so it might take some getting used to when you’re being asked to do all the ‘less exciting’ tasks in the office.

However, this is all part of your introduction to an industry and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll pick up just from being in the environment. Because internships only last for a limited time, you should grab every opportunity with both hands as you never know who you could end up talking to and what you might learn.

Be sure to take a note of all the tasks you complete during your internship so you can include them on your CV afterwards. And remember, in some cases, an internship can lead to a full-time job with the same company, so always put your best foot forward and show your enthusiasm…even if you’re making the coffees.

If you’re going to be an apprentice…

Starting an apprenticeship or a programme for school leavers can sometimes feel like you’re being thrown in at the deep end, especially if you’re doing a technical job. If you feel like this, don’t worry…everyone else will be feeling the same thing.

Normally, apprentices are assigned to a more senior staff member and spend some time shadowing them and getting to grips with the basics of the job. We recommend that if you’re given the opportunity to get involved early on, then take it, it’ll help you learn quicker and improve your confidence.

Perhaps the best thing about being an apprentice is that you’re given the opportunity to ‘earn while your learn’ and most modern apprenticeships require you to attend college for part of the time. Although it may feel like you’re going back to school, studying at college is a different experience. For a start, you’ll probably be in a class with people of all ages and everyone will be there because they want to be (not just because their mum’s are making them).

For more information on apprenticeships, have a look at the post we wrote on this blog about what an apprenticeship involves.

If you’re going to university…

Going straight to university from secondary school can feel like a big jump, especially if you’re still only 17 or 18. However, in our experience, most secondary school students take to university life like a duck to water. Sure, the first week at university is always a bit confusing, maybe even a little stressful, but it won’t take long until you’re navigating the campus with the best of them.

Our blog post What to Expect from your First Week of University, goes into detail about what you can expect as you make the transition from secondary school and we reckon the post is essential reading for anyone about to start university (we would say that though).

Once you’re first week is out of the way and you have your timetable and other paperwork sorted, you can relax and take in the student atmosphere. What you’ll probably find is that all the things you worried about before you started uni weren’t even on your radar. In our experience, it’s always the things that you can’t control that give you the most stress.

And in any case, if you can’t control something, then why worry about it? Just let the situation work itself out and do what you can help it along.

If you don’t have a plan…

For some students who leave secondary school, none of the scenarios above apply. Every year, students leave school at 16, 17 or 18 and they don’t have a clue what they want to do in the future.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Just because you don’t have your life mapped out in front of you like some people do, it doesn’t mean that you’ve somehow missed the boat. Often, it’s the people who take the longest to find their calling that become the most successful as they gain life experience in other ways.

If you don’t know what you want to do after you leave school, you could consider the following options:

  • Find a temporary summer job while you decide on a plan
  • Take a gap year and go travelling or work somewhere abroad
  • If you have the finances, do something non-work related for a while
  • Speak to a careers advisor to help you come up with a plan

If none of these options sound viable, and you’re only 16, then perhaps the best thing for you at this time is to go back to school? If you have GCSEs, you can still be accepted on to A-Level courses and in most cases, you’re school will try their best to accommodate you. Having an extra couple of years to decide what you want to do while you continue studying could be the best immediate plan for you.

Do any of these situations sound like yours? How do you plan to approach the transition from secondary school to the wider world? Do you have any advice or tips that you’d like to share with our secondary school readers?

For more secondary school careers advice, search the Success at School blog.

By Jamie Thomson 

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