How do exams prepare you for your future career?
One of the many purposes of going to school is to prepare for future working life. But, what role do exams play in this?
Business leaders are regularly complaining about candidates lacking the key skills required for a successful career start in their industry. Some of them have even started creating their own courses to prepare students for the workplace.
Whatever you have in mind for a future career, there are skills exams can help you develop which will come in handy no matter what you end up doing. So, if you’re in middle of your education at the moment,
how can you ensure you’re getting more from the exam process than just a set of grades and numbers against your name?
My approach was, if I have to do exams anyway, I might as well try and build some useful skills whilst I’m at it (in addition to achieving good grades). Instead of being branded an ‘exam robot’, here are 5 skills you can focus on developing through studying for exams which are desirable to all kinds of employers…
In order to do well in your exams you need to start making things happen independently.
Whether it’s as simple as showing up to lessons on time or making a revision plan, something has to be initiated by you in order to make progress.
Look on any job application and you’ll see initiative is a desirable quality for any employer.
It’s usually termed as being a 'self starter' or ‘can work independently’.
In a world where we’re often conditioned by technology to expect things to be done for us immediately without exerting much effort on our part, the ability to be proactive rather than passive is a highly desirable trait.
People want to work with people who can solve problems. Commit to forming the habit of taking the initiative during your exams and you’ll be well positioned for any career you choose.
Exams are meant to be challenging, quite literally, they are a test.
You’ll need to develop some grit and determination to overcome the learning curves and obstacles you’ll undoubtedly face.
For example, it’s common that even when your effort in class increases your exam results may stay the same.
It’s then up to you to reframe this positively, analyse what you’re doing objectively and figure out what you need to change to make progress and continue moving forward.
In all the jobs I’ve had things don’t come easy or instantaneously.
Whether it was learning how to cut a green on a golf course properly or the specific processes you’re required to follow when you’re working in a team of people out of different global offices in a company of 800 people.
With your exams try to see everything as a learning experience and come back ready to hit it again day after day. You’ll need to apply the same thinking to your career.
3. Self Management
I really do believe exam success is about so much more than whether you can regurgitate a load of information onto a piece of paper in two hours.
Exams are an ideal opportunity any student can take advantage of to develop a system of organising and using their time effectively in order to achieve a long term goal.
This ranges from setting a daily schedule, to managing your friendships and relationships, even the time you spend on your Smartphone is important.
Listen to the audio recording below for a quick insight into one of the habits I used to ensure I was productive after my lunch break whilst working at VaynerMedia. Yep, occasionally things got a little repetitive, but that’s to be expected when you’re trying to become really good at something specific. Just like how Kobe Bryant only stops training once he’s made 400 baskets, I tried only stopping for lunch once I was totally clear about what I needed to do after lunch and in what order.
Quick tip: try the above hack out if you’re spending the day revising or if you’re about to do a long study session. Clarity about what you need to do reduces the chances of distraction and increases speed as you move between different tasks.
Constantly realigning your day-to-day activities with your priorities is a skill you’ll need for any career you go into. A career also has to fit into your life and all the other stuff you’ve got going on, the same applies for your exams.
4. Understanding and memory skills
For any exam you need to be able to do two things:
You need to understand the information you’re being examined on so you can give good answers to the questions
You also need to be able to remember that information and how it’s all connected so that you can recall it in an exam situation without assistance
Whether you’re working as a waiter or you’re in a corporate meeting, people are going to ask or tell you things which you’ll need to remember to pass onto the rest of the team so that they can do the work they need to.
The first step is being a good listener and understanding what the person is communicating to you, the second is remembering the information.
Sure, you can use a list to keep track of things, but what really sets people apart is when they can remember important information off the top of their head.
Think about it, everyone knows good bar staff or waiters remember the drinks and dishes their regular customers usually order, that’s good customer service.
The best business people I’ve worked with were able to use knowledge they’ve remembered from the past and combine it with new information to come up with good ideas and solutions on the spot in the present. This kind of quick thinking can change the course of a meeting or a business pitch, that’s why it’s highly valued in many industries.
5. Self awareness 👀
A good way to think about this is understanding where your strengths lie.
The reason for taking a wide range of subjects when we’re younger is so we can do just this. To figure out what subjects we like or what we tend to be better at.
As we go through the education system we’re gradually required to hone in on an area of interest.
If you can carry this forward with you and apply the same thinking you’ll be able to build a unique combination of skills, which, when added to a team of people, is going to make you valuable to employers or even a company you end up creating.
Comment below what career you’re looking to get into. Do something to become clearer on what kind of career might suit you. Even if you’re not sure yet, moving in some sort of forward direction is always a good thing, then adjust as you go.