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Monday, October 3, 2011

Bmag October 4th 2011 - Spencer's advice to high-schoolers

My attention was recently drawn to the amount of work that must be completed by Year 12 students in term three. A concerned dad emailed me his daughter’s assessment list which included seven 1000 word essays and seven in-class exams.

Discussing this on my ABC radio show, the consensus from teachers and parents was that term three of Year 12 was the toughest period in a student’s life, often much harder than university. All this prompted me to pull out a speech I gave to Year 10 students at Aspley State High in 2004. Show this to anxious teens in your life if you think it will inspire them as they begin term four.

Year 10 was a shocker for me. I barely passed. And yet I left Year 12 with a T.E. score of 990, now known as an OP1. The reason I did well in Years 11 and 12? I knew it was time to get serious but also I chose subjects which I enjoyed. At university, I could have done anything but I wanted to study journalism. So I did. Again, I chose a course which I knew I would enjoy. And, from then on, I’ve been having a ball!

I know what you’re thinking – it was easy for you, Spencer! You knew what you wanted to do! I was lucky in that regard. But, if you don’t know what you want to be doing at my age, it doesn’t matter. What do you want to be doing right now? Work towards that. Your goals will change.

My wife Nikki started off studying anatomy. After a year, she switched to journalism and ended up working as a TV reporter and producer. Her anatomy year wasn’t wasted. She was able to take credit points into her journalism degree and she learned that anatomy wasn’t for her.

A friend who works at The Courier-Mail, Michael Lund, started out in a mathematics course. Then he worked out that what he liked about maths was taking complex models and explaining them simply. This led him to a job at a newspaper, where he was taking complex news stories and explaining them simply. He never regrets studying maths, otherwise he might never have ended up in journalism.

What I’m saying is pursue your current dream with all your energy. As long as it doesn’t involved sitting under a tree somewhere, or watching daytime television while the dole trickles in. You do need a job. And you do need money. But you don’t need a great job. And you don’t need lots of money. It helps to find out about jobs before they’re advertised. Do this by mixing with people in your chosen industry. If you don’t know any, do some unpaid work – anything to get your foot in the door – and to build relationships with people you would like to work alongside.

Once you’re inside an organisation – as a casual or intern – there are three things to remember. If you’re asked to do something, do it. Secondly, do it well. And thirdly, be likeable. I don’t think enough is said about likeability. It’s certainly never mentioned in job advertisements, although sometimes you see “team player”. At the ABC in Brisbane, I see casual staff and interns come and go. They’re all capable and reliable. But the ones who go the distance, and end up with full-time jobs, get on with everyone.

There’s a well-known saying that Bill Gates likes to repeat. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you will end up working for one. What I would say is be nice to everyone because you could end up working for them! At high school there are people you like and people you dislike. There are people who like you and people who dislike you, but when you leave school shake hands with everyone and wish them all well for the future.

Life just keeps getting better and better. I have a job which I enjoy. I’m paid money which I enjoy spending. I have a wife and son, whom I love very much. If you’re having a tough time now, it does get better! And to those who are already having fun, that’s great. It gets better still!!

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