Employment

Read this if you feel crap about your exam results

"Don't be hard of yourself": Four pieces of expert advice for people who are disappointed with their grades.

Things are finally looking up after a particularly difficult 18 months. If you’re a pupil receiving your exam results this week, it’s time to look forward to your next chapter.

However, it’s really important you don’t feel defined by their exam results and know you have a variety of options going forward. That’s the message from a range of employment experts The Big Issue interviewed for top tips and advice for young people taking the next step in life.

Laura-Jane Rawlings left school with two D grades at GCSE and is now chief executive of the charity Youth Employment UK

Her advice for those opening their results? “Don’t be hard on yourself, no one has lived through a Covid pandemic like this before and your personal circumstances will be totally unique to anybody else’s so give yourself a real break around that.”

Youth Employment UK is a not-for-profit social enterprise tackling youth unemployment by offering young people skills, careers support and tools to fulfil their potential. Visit its careers hub.

“There are so many other ways to achieve success,” Laura adds. “Success looks different for different people so it’s about knowing the information, dusting yourself down and finding your path which isn’t going to be the same as everyone else’s and might feel different to the path you thought. All of that is OK.”

Sam Stanyer, leads on digital employability programmes for Catch22, a charity whose work includes employment skills for young people and apprenticeships.

“University is a great option but it’s also not the only way to get into a career and that’s a really important thing to remember,” the operations manager tells The Big Issue.

“If you’ve come out of that assembly hall and realised that your results aren’t quite what you wanted them to be, that does not mean that the career that you want is closed off to you, it just means that you might want to go down a different route to get there.”

Catch22’s work includes programmes to give people a route into apprenticeships in the UK, particularly in digital skills. This year it also launched Step22 providing hospitality career paths to support the industry to get back onto its feet.  

“My biggest advice would be to explore every option and get some good help if you can get it,” Sam adds. “I’d always say to anyone who has just got their results: don’t just jump into the first thing that pops into your head unless you’re really really set on that career path. Explore all the options available to you. Remember: you will find your way, it takes some people a bit longer to get to their career path but you will find it eventually so don’t put yourself under so much pressure to have it decided immediately.”

Ally Owen is the founder of Brixton Finishing School, which offers free 10-week programmes for 18 to 25 year olds wanting to explore working in advertising.

“Exam results can show whether you are good in an academic manner,” she tells The Big Issue, “But you could be good at lots of things that could be really valued in a creative office or innovative environment that have got nothing to do with your ability to learn stuff and repeat it by rote.”

Brixton Finishing School doesn’t look at work experience or qualifications. It is focused on discovering and developing untapped talent and bringing diverse talent into the advertising industry.

“We value traits: listening, teamwork, being accountable,” she adds. “Stuff like that to us is more important than say an A* in German. Most jobs aren’t asking you who won the Battle of Waterloo. They’re asking you, can you project manage this, can you speak to this person? Our industry is a vocation, you learn on the job, you don’t learn at school or college about it.”

Ally stresses that ‘good’ grades are by no means the only path into a career you love: “The good news is, whatever you’re passionate about, there is a job in the creative and digital industries for you and you don’t necessarily need a qualification in it to do it because it’s more about what you enjoy doing.”

Sam Olsen is the chief executive of Movement To Work, an organisation helping employers provide work placements that combine employability skills training with on-the-job experience.

“There are many many different routes to a career you love,” she says. “For some people academic learning isn’t for them. For example, I am dyslexic and learning through doing is more rewarding.”

Her advice? “Believe in yourself. Know what your personal strengths are. Not everyone’s personal strengths are about delivering great academic exam results and you will be brilliant at something. Spend time thinking about what you enjoy doing and what your passion is and then think about careers around that.”

You can view all work placements here.

Get career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

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