We’ve all been through that dreaded feeling of going back to school, where you already feel tired for tomorrow morning. Well it was a very different feeling going back to my high school as an adult. (Mainly, the realisation that I am actually an adult … when did that even happen‽)
Alumni Group PictureI was invited back to my High School, The Radclyffe School, with 13 other alumni for a World of Work Day by Future First.

What is the World of Work Day?

The World of Work Day is a workshop aimed at Year 8 students (aged 12 and 13) who are about to make their option choices for GCSE. The aim of the workshop is to support students with choosing their options for GCSE and making key decisions by bringing in former students to inspire and guide them to realise what they can achieve.
Usually the first two years of high school are a mixed bag of awkwardness, friendships, hormones, breakups and memories.
At the age of 12–14 most students don’t realise what the impact of picking GCSE options can have on the decisions you make later on in life – college, courses and further advancements. It is kind of a big deal. When I was in this position, I would have really benefited from talking to former students who have been in this position.
I didn’t have any older siblings and as supportive as my father was, he did O-Levels, so things had changed since his time. Teachers knew what you needed to do in order to academically succeed, but didn’t have the rapport you have with people who can relate to your position.

Speaking to the Students

During the day there were two sessions with the Year 8 cohort who were split into tables where the alumni rotated to speak with a close group of students. They had the chance to ask questions and take advantage of having a former student who was in their position at one point.
The most challenging part was explaining what my job is into simple language so that a teenager can understand. How’s this? “Making websites readable for Google so that it can rank on the search engine results page”.

Question and Answer

Here are some of the questions I had throughout the day and some of the responses I gave:
What courses did you take at GCSE and how did you make your choice?
The options that I choose at GCSE were Business Studies, Religious Studies, ICT and Graphics.
ICT was a mandatory course which I had to take, but I would have picked it anyway if it was optional. The way I came to a conclusion was by picking the subjects that I enjoyed the most and was good at. I was at a stage where I would constantly change my mind about the career I wanted to go into, which is why I chose a broad range of subjects which would allow me to shape my career to suit what I want to do later. I used to occasionally look at university websites and course entry requirements too.
What skills and qualifications do you think are important in the workplace, and how can young people develop these in school?
Talking to Group of Students
The qualification will depend on what field of work you want to go into; for example, the most obvious one is if you want to be a lawyer then you need to first of all have a Bachelor’s Degree and then go to Law School, etc.
In terms of skills, there is a universal range of skills which are required by nearly all lines of work. You need the fundamental communication skill, interpersonal skills, the right work ethic, etc. You can develop these by doing something that challenges you. If you do something without it being hard, how is this going to develop you as a person? There are great things you can get involved in, such as joining a sports team or doing the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.
What advice would you give to your teenage self about life, school and the future?
Be a little selfish. Think about what you need to do in order to get to where you want to be, and don’t chase after your friends on what they want to do. Don’t stress too much about having the ‘mainstream’ job that may look rewarding and very appealing because it takes hard work and dedication to get to there.
Do a self-audit of your strengths as well as your weakness, pick the subjects that you will be able to utilise those skills and the subjects which will challenge your weaknesses; this will only help you become a better person.  Someone once told me, don’t be afraid take the first step even if you don’t see the whole staircase.
Can you think of two or more ‘turning points’ that explain where you are today?
The turning point for me was back in Sixth Form when it was time to start drafting up your personal statement for university. It was completely the norm; the tutors would expect you to apply for university and didn’t really see any other options for further advancement other than deferring a year. The turning point for me was realising that I could go into a field of work without a degree, work up to a level which would get me in a better position than my peers in three years’ time. Also, turning heads and going away from the traditional route and doing an apprenticeship which has a lot of stigma attached to it.