What would you tell your 17 year-old about the world of work?
24th June 2016
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I am a parent of four. One of them is 17. He is Sid. He can already grow a better beard than me. Mind you, he could do that when he was 15.

I also have Robyn, Jake and Lily. They are either too old or too young to be relevant to this, but they need a nod. Robyn is 31. Lily is 8. Jake is somewhere in between.

And no, I'm not going to explain that spread of ages. You don't have the time to understand and I don't have the will (or the ability - or the memory come to that) to explain. Let's just say all's good and leave it at that....

Back to Sid.

He's approaching the world of work. He's had earnest careers advice at school, but it's outdated and wrapped in beige corduroy. It's going to mean nothing when he walks into the rough and tumble of the real world. It's also delivered on paper (you remember that stuff?) and not via SnapChat, so it's irrelevance is simply reinforced.

As a responsible parent I want to give him a head start.

(Let's not have a conversation about "responsibility". That's just subjective and I'm going to get very defensive - we all do that).

What would you tell your 17 year-old that he or she would listen to? You have to remember this audience think they think they've already worked it out and will change the world, so the language has to be blunt and pointed. I don't want Sid just to say "Yes Dad". He just needs to listen and think. I don't just seek agreement. That would be stupid.

So here's what I plan to tell Sid about work.

Life's not fair. When you know that it's a little easier to take sh*t when it happens. Having said that, the more effort you put in, the fairer things seem to be. It's just the way it works. Don't waste 5 years to work that out for yourself.

Always be early. Never be late. Respect time. People notice.

Be self-aware. Understand your strengths and limitations. Work with them - and if nothing else, always have clean shoes. People notice.

Learn the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. Work with facts. If you have an opinion, support it with facts. People notice.

Avoid surprises. That's good and bad surprises. Either way, surprises look like you're not in control of what's coming. People notice.

Good communications start with listening. Learn to listen. Properly. You will be taught to talk by many people, but that's only half the process. SID!!! ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME??

Always be learning new skills. The more skills you have that are unique to you and up to date, the more money you will earn. With no skills you are likely to be on minimum wage.

"Why?" is the best question. Always use it. All the time. Be inquisitive. Seek to understand. People notice.

We're here to make money. Or at least spend as little as we can while we do as much as we can. Profit is a good thing. It enables organisations to put something back.

You will meet some great people. You really will. Learn from them. You will also meet some absolute idiots. You can learn from them too. Do the opposite of what they do.

There is much more to learn than the 10 listed above. But they make a great start.

OK. I'm off to deliver this stuff to my 17 year-old. If you have one (or had one) what did you do?

I'm interested. I'd like to think I have this stuff worked out, but it's dangerous believing your own publicity. That's something else I've learned.

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About the Author

Martin Ellis

Member since: 30th September 2014

An East Sussex based Headhunter leading the Executive Search function at RSE Group. I am interested in everything that happens in business and that effects the local community. I think East Sussex is a...

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