Tips for Final Year Students
Jill Pierse, BBS and Business Student of the Year 2014 gives a refreshingly honest account of her anxieties as she journeyed into the uncertain future that lay beyond exams. Jill also shares advice on how best to overcome the fear, doubt and self-questioning that can dominate the final days of College. Read what she has to say below.
It's November 2013, final year of college (studying BESS), I'm walking through the Arts block at 9am on a Thursday morning about to face into a two hour double accounting lecture. Although this was over three years ago now there's a certain poignancy I associate with this period in my life that will forever make it a standout chapter in the ever evolving script of 'Jill'.
My roommate, Zara, had coaxed me to life with the promise of a Butlers coffee and croissant in a bid to get me up and at it in time for our lecture. This was a weekly ritual. We were 3 months into our final year of college and I was begging to press fast forward on a chapter in my life I was not too keen to linger on much longer. On this particular morning I remember sitting in that lecture hall, coffee in hand, physically present but mentally a billion lightyears away. At this time in my life, I had a very secret talent that I've since lost. Throughout my time in college I had somewhat magically acquired a wonderful gift of being able to predict the future. This I've now come to learn is something many of us twenty-somethings have but are slow to share with each other. I must say though, it really was quite the talent. There was nothing about my future I couldn't tell you with total and absolute certainty. For instance, I could already see how disappointing my future career looked. I could already feel the impending regret of not fulfilling my full potential. I could already hear the not yet spoken conversations of those around me agreeing on what a shame it was I had failed at achieving all of the things I had set out to achieve. In addition to my unique talent of predicting the future, I had also miraculously learned how to read minds. I read the minds of the recruiters I had not yet met and knew they wouldn't hire me because I didn't know anything. I could read the minds of all my classmates and see that unlike me, they knew exactly what they wanted and had all of the capabilities to get themselves there. I could hear my parents excitement for me as I embarked on what they thought would be the beginning of an exciting and successful career. Alas, with my nifty trick of being able to tell the future, I knew how disappointed they would be when they saw the underwhelming reality that was absolutely, without doubt, about to unfold.
I could see it all, that was exactly how it was going to be. Throughout that two hour lecture, I sat in silence, predicting my life away, with tears streaming down both my cheeks. As the lecture drew to a close I packed up my laptop, put on my coat, and strolled out of the lecture hall with my classmates, smiling and laughing as though none of the internal turmoil of the previous two hours had taken place.
When I think back on the trains of thought that dominated a significant part of my final year, it doesn't sound like the mindset of an ambitious young woman who would register her first business, be awarded Trinity College Business Student of the Year, achieve a 2.1 grade and subsequently go on to secure a job working in Google all in final year of college. It's a bit mad really how our minds work isn't it?
For many of you, final year is a breeze. Yes you'll have a few moments of panic as you put the finishing touches on group assignments and chase to the printers to get your essays handed in on time, but your moments of focus will greatly outweigh your moments of doubt and self-questioning. Having been part of the latter, and I would bet larger group of people, where doubt and self-questioning is a playlist that has been placed on repeat, there are a few things I've learned that will hopefully help you avoid some pitfalls that I fell into and have since crawled out of. At the very least I hope these can become a source of reassurance that it's perfectly normal to be fearful, it's perfectly normal to self doubt and these are absolutely not going to get in the way of your success. In fact, you may learn, as I have, that these fears and doubts can become the fuel to the engine that drives you forward.
So, here are my three tips that every final year college student needs to hear:
1. Focus on the reasonings not the questions
I remember so clearly sitting at family dinners with relatives in final year when an aunt or cousin would turn to you at the dinner table and casually ask "So what are you going to do when you finish?". In that very moment it's as though all the lights in the theatre have been turned off, the room is in total silence, and all you can see is a blinding spotlight blaring into your face as every eyeball in the room is on you waiting for your soliloquy of enlightenment. On reflection, a lot of how I thought about these questions was heavily influenced by what I thought I was 'supposed' to do or what I thought others would expect of me. I really thought it was a right and wrong answer situation. Well, I've since learned, there's no right or wrong answer. But there is however, a right way to answer these kinds of questions. And that is, to focus on your reasonings. A lot of my reasonings in final year looked at people around me and what they were doing, what my siblings had done, what other successful entrepreneurs had done, what university advisors tell you to do. With so many opinions you end up in a total tizzy of exhausting confusion. If you truly want to be an individual and learn about who you are and who you could be you have to move away from that. You have to move away from outside influence and really give yourself some space and time to listen to your reasonings. This will by no means be easy, and at times, it will take you wayyyyy out of your comfort zone. But beyond that comfort zone, past that space you're 'meant' to be in, is YOUR zone. Go explore it, it is yours after all.
2. Find a mentor
I have a handful of mentors that I lean on on a day to day basis. I am constantly in contact with the people I admire most, thankfully they haven't objected just yet. I can honestly say that without leaning on these people I wouldn't have the same level of self awareness and confidence that I have managed to cultivate in myself to this point. My mentors have been there to celebrate with me when times are great, to encourage me when times are tough, and to reinvigorate me when I've lost my mojo. Remember - behind every suit and tie, title and achievement are people, that were once twenty-somethings, just as unsure, uncertain and fearful as many of you are today. The best favour you'll ever do for yourself is find someone you admire, pick up the phone and call them. Ask them to be your mentor, talk to them honestly about your ideas and fears and where you're seeing the roadblocks. More often than not they'll be able to help you navigate your way through them. You may even surprise yourself and help them out from time to time. Never underestimate the power of an honest mentor-mentee relationship. The people you surround yourself by are your most valuable assets.
3. Choose choice not fear
When you remove fear from a decision you need to make you'll quickly arrive at the most honest and true to yourself answer you could find. Fear of what others might think, fear of what box you'll be put into, fear of how much money you can earn - all of these fears if not kept at bay will dominate the choices in a life that is yours. When fear is managed, it can be a powerful motivator. When fear manages you, it can be the biggest barrier to you achieving all of those dreams that are at this point so fresh and exciting in your mind. Realising this will be one of the most powerful tools you can add to the tool box of self-discovery. I realised this when I finally cut the cord and removed alcohol from my life completely. For a year I had intermittently given up alcohol, warding off nay sayers with the line "I’m on a health kick". It was only in 2016 I realized how much I liked not drinking, how much I didn't need it to have fun in a bar, how much I didn't like being drunk and how much I loved waking up on Saturday mornings fresh and ready to do whatever I want. Once I realised all of these things, the fear of what people would say became irrelevant. I could finally see a choice. I could choose to give up alcohol permanently. I could choose to be a non-drinker. The fear of judgement was and is absolutely still there, but the amount I gain every day from the choice I made, quietens that fear more and more every single day. Doing this with alcohol opened my eyes to so many other choices I was choosing not to see. To try and reveal to yourself possibilities you didn't know were there you have to be brutally honest with yourself about what your fears are. You have to sit down and confront the little voice in your head that holds you back just as you want to take off. You have to feel the turns in your stomach that arrive when you look into the future and see the things you're trying to avoid the most. Confront them, question them, challenge them and deal with them. It's easy to accept them as a part of life. It's harder to believe that they don't have to be. There's no easy way of getting rid of them, we're human, fear is a natural part of who we are. But how you choose to let them impact your actions, is a choice completely up to you. Reframe how you're thinking to avoid regretting what you've done. Choose choice, not fear.
One last tip for the road - it's important to say that I by no means have it 'all figured out'. More importantly, I've realised figuring 'it' out is impossible to do unless you've figured yourself out. We are all incredibly complex individuals, with the ability to think in extraordinarily different ways. By focusing on our reasonings, leaning on our mentors and acting based on choice not fear we can truly evolve into individuals and have some fun on this crazy, unpredictable and totally exhilarating rollercoaster. And just when you think you've figured yourself out, think again, as we are now, is not how we'll always be. Would you write a book tomorrow that has already been written today? Think about it.
Jill worked as an Assistant Account Strategist at Google and now travels the world as an Executive Assistant at PCH International.