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A few words of advice for ambitious teens

#HRLADYSHIP Travel Heather Gupta • June 19, 2017
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Without wanting to sound like some ancient auntie doling out career advice to the kids, there are a few things that I wish someone had told me when I was in my late teens:

1. It’s never to early to start

In the UK, kids usually pick up part time jobs early. Although new regulations mean that teens can’t work officially until the age of 16, there are plenty of “cash in hand’ jobs to be had before that. Starting to work, for a little extra pocket money, is a great idea. Although washing dishes, delivering papers and tidying up may not have obvious links to your long term career, this kind of “work” builds resilience, determination and drive from an early age.

2. Keep your options open

Unless you’ve wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut since you can remember, it’s good to stay flexible on your eventual choice of career. The universe has a funny way of taking you in random directions, and if you let yourself go with the flow, you might just end up doing something amazing. Easier said than done, if you have pushy parents, but there are plenty of success stories from people who have trodden their own paths that you can fling at them.

3. Don’t choose a subject based on your opinion of the teacher

I did exactly this, and gave up history and geography as a result. I’ve spent the last 20 odd years regretting that my knowledge of life before the end of the last century is pitiful, and my geographical awareness only exists for places I’ve travelled (luckily I’ve travelled a lot). If you’re really passionate about a subject, and your teacher sucks, find a way to study it regardless.

4. Don’t underestimate the importance of grammar and spelling

It’s tempting to dismiss this as old fashioned. Grammar Nazis have no place in the 140 character world, right? Actually, the opposite is true. A resume and job application full of mistakes isn’t going to even get you an interview, and you’ll look really dumb in front of your co-workers if you use textspeak when you’re sending e mails about serious stuff. If you get it right now, communication in future will be effortless.

5. Read!

With the advent of social media, and the distraction provided by all of our gadgets, you may think that there’s no real need to read any more. You couldn’t be more wrong. People who read books as kids and teens just end up being way brighter than their peers, and that’s a proven fact. Just google “kids who read are smarter” and you’ll find a load of articles based on science and fact. I can always tell someone who’s a reader – they tend to be more articulate, better at analyzing situations and even more emotionally intelligent (nothing like reading to give you a sense of perspective).

6. Don’t think that the cramming is all worthless

While most of the stuff you’ll have to cram into your brain to pass exams in our archaic, fact based learning system will turn out to be irrelevant, you’ll be surprised by what sticks. Even now, almost 30 years after my A levels, I can quote lines of Shakespeare and the list of German prepositions still trips from my tongue. Granted, I have very little use for German these days, but you never know.

7. Enjoy being at the start of your life

This is a time of relative freedom, although it doesn’t feel like it most of the time. You have no financial liabilities, you have the time to experiment in all kinds of ways, and you have your whole life ahead of you.  Don’t be that person who looks back and regrets the opportunities which they could have taken. Be the person who always grabbed things with passion and enthusiasm.

8. Figure out your values early on

“Values” are your moral compass, the framework which guides you and keeps your behaviour congruent. While yours are probably still developing, take the time to think about the kind of person you want to be and the way you’d like (ideally) to behave. No-one is perfect, but developing a strong sense of self, identity and values from an early age will distinguish you from the others, and help you make better choices in life.

9. Give your parents a break

All teens think their parents are a waste of space, and some verbalize it more than others. Eventually, you’ll come to realize that your parents are awesome, but meanwhile, give them a break every once in a while.  They’ve read all the books, they’re prepared for the teen hormones, but it doesn’t hurt to show them a little appreciation every once in a while. Rather than rolling your eyes when they give you advice and tell you their stories, listen every once in a while. Some of it just may be useful!

10. Listen to your heart

If all else fails, listen to your heart. You may not yet legally be an adult yet, but your heart will be speaking to you loud and clear. Life always works itself out, and what seems insurmountable right now will be no biggie when you look back from your future.

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