On Taking Your Own 'Sage' Advice

  1. Do what you love.

  2. Be brave.

  3. Be agile.

Young people today have the world at their feet, technology dramatically changing the landscape of what is possible and little idea about which direction (career-wise) to head in. It’s stressful and daunting and scary.


Sage advice

It’s sage. It’s a visual pun. (it’s also a ‘smudge-stick’ commonly used to erase bad energy for those who believe it works)

Some of my year 13 students are currently applying for halls of residence and making plans for gap years and tertiary study and, at the same time, option lists are going out to junior students who are thinking ‘Science’ or ‘Arts’. They are trying to define their careers by the subjects they take and thinking about which subjects will benefit them more economically. They ask me for advice and I tell them that employers are looking for 21st Century skills. They want problem solving skills, technological know-how, digital competence and creative thinking (arts AND technology!). They are not looking for people who fit a box and have done one thing and they are not seeking graduates who are automatons who can’t work out problems for themselves. So what’s my advice? Do what you love, be brave and keep agile.

Why do what you love? I’ve worked out that life is too short to be miserable and that sometimes a job is part of keeping a life in balance rather than pursuing a career that seems to meet all of your needs or makes all of the money. Since leaving university I’ve worked in retail management, hospitality, education (secondary and tertiary), fashion, design and corporate areas. Each area had its own merits yet I’ve worked out that I would rather take home less pay as a secondary teacher in order to have more time with my family (school holidays!) and the ability to still enjoy some of my own creative pursuits. I might have had more mana as a learning designer in the corporate sector or more kudos as a teacher of teachers in the tertiary sector but the office environment made me feel like I was dying from boredom and the tertiary environment was tricky working evenings and missing out on bedtimes (and holidays) with my kids. I love my family. I love making things. I also love teaching (thankfully) but my happiness today comes from finding the balance of mostly doing things I love.

Why be brave? This advice is because it takes bravery to decide that something is not for you and to try something different. When I handed in my notice at my corporate job, my boss said she admired my bravery to take a leap and to act on the fact that my job was making me unhappy. I chose less pay (and further distance to travel) in order to chase more balance in our family life. It takes bravery to try things and even more bravery to be able to say, ‘this is not for me’ or ‘I’ve changed my mind’. It is a brave move to leap from the top of one ladder to test out the bottom rung of another and I tell my students that it’s ok to change their minds. Make a decision by all means, but feel strong enough to change your mind if your gut tells you it hasn’t been the right one. That’s just how life is - and it takes bravery to follow your gut.

Why be agile? So, it definitely helps that I’m currently researching how lean and agile methodologies can be put to use in multi-discipline classroom environments but the ‘adaptive’ aspect of agile processes is good advice to follow outside of the classroom too. Paths, especially career paths, need not be set in stone and certainly not so early in life. Now with a return to education and more balance in my life, I am flexible to still write copy, still design textiles, still pain, collaborate with educational projects and learning design and kind of ‘flow’ with where the passion is. And with this flexibility, it means I can take on more or less projects as needed. Because life is about more than work and you have to do what makes you happy (see how it all goes full circle and back to ‘do what you love’?).

So, what is the best advice to give to teens and young people feeling anxious about career choices? Be brave. Work on adaptable 21st Century skills. Fill your own gaps in your learning. You might not be able to be everything, but you can do anything.