A Level Results: Welsh Business Leaders Give their Advice to Class of 2020

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Young people across Wales will today be anxiously waiting to receive their A level results, in a time of unprecedented uncertainty for young people.

With GCSE results also set to be released this month, under unique circumstances, Business News Wales and Technology Connected sat down with some of Wales leading figures and emerging stars in technology, creative and skills to get their advice and career tips for the ‘Class of 2020’.

Recognise your achievements

Avril Lewis MBE, managing director of Technology Connected and member of the Cardiff Capital City Region Skill Board said; “Often we tend to find ourselves always focusing on the ‘next thing’, but taking the time to properly recognise our achievements can be just as important as planning our next steps.

“Be sure to properly celebrate what is a fantastic achievement, and also take the opportunity to identify where your strengths lie and where there are opportunities for you to grow ahead of your next step.”

Steve Wiley, CEO of Deeside based smart switching service monva added; “Those in education have faced a huge level of disruption this so just to have crossed the finish line is a huge achievement. Recognising and celebrating success is a major part in building a successful career, so before you embark on your next journey, make time to reflect on what you’ve achieved so far.”

Follow your passion

Gemma Hallett, founder of mifuture app, which provides real-time job, course, apprenticeship and volunteering options, in a swipe, said; “The most important thing is to find something that’s aligned with your passions, something that’ll make you want to jump out of bed in the morning, your work-life will better align with your values and purpose and life can be pretty sweet.”

Martyn John, director of digital PR and creative agency Good Brothers, also emphasised the importance of passion; “Passion tops everything when it comes to your career, and nothing compares genuinely enjoying what you do.

“That doesn’t mean you need to love every single aspect of your future profession, but right now you have an incredible opportunity to build your skills around doing something you enjoy or feel strongly about. I’ve always thought the ultimate goal of any career isn’t about how much money you make, but to think ‘I can’t believe I’m paid to do this’.

Try new things

Jo Daniels, Chair of the CSconnected Skills & Education Group and Learning & Development Business Partner at Newport Wafer Fab urges young people to put themselves out there in the job market. “Don't worry if you don't have exactly the qualification the employers are looking for, employers can train all the technical aspects of the role.  What they can't train is the right attitude, enthusiasm or resilience, so be positive, be willing to volunteer for a task, even if you get it wrong, it's more important to try.”

Scott Jones, managing director of web agency Illustrate Digital, offered his tips for those not sure where to start in their career journey; “Don’t be afraid of starting ‘somewhere’, even if that’s not what you expected to be doing this year.

“The world of job hunting may seem daunting, but it’s always best to have something on your CV rather than nothing. Could you take an unpaid internship to get a head start in your industry, or get stuck in at a supermarket to help the economy? Either approach will help you gain valuable experience and boost your chances of getting work in your chosen field in years to come. 2020 is a part of your story, just make sure you tell it well!”

Gemma Hallett added: “Say yes to trying different things. If you like it, great. If you don't, fine, jump out and say yes to something else. It's so valuable when you learn what you don’t like, it's the quickest way to finding out the things you do like.

“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable; the best things happen outside of your comfort zone. The secret is, the more time you spend there, the less uncomfortable it is, we are amazing beings when it comes to adapting and we adapt fairly quickly. What felt like a challenge and painful at first, quickly becomes the norm.”

Open yourself up to a career in tech

Andy Brockway, CTO of Confused.com says: “Tech innovation must be driven by curiosity, ambition and fresh ideas. Diversity is key to achieving that.

“Did you know that Hewlett Packard found that men will apply for roles when they meet 60% of the requirements, but women will only apply when they meet 100%? We’d love to see more women and people from diverse backgrounds coming into the tech fold. So, if you have some but not all of the skills, be confident enough to apply even if you don’t meet the full criteria.

“There’s a national shortage of people with tech skills, so our industry welcomes anyone who wants to learn more about tech. Curiosity can make up for lacking experience. And as new tech emerges so quickly, everyone in the industry is on a continuous learning curve together, which means you’ll never be too far behind.”

Avril Lewis MBE said; “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the technology industry has been resilient, innovative and helped enable and drive our economy through the crisis. It’s never been clearer just how important and diverse our technology sector is, and this, combined with a plethora of opportunities for career progression, means you’re really missing a trick if a career in tech isn’t on your radar.

Steve Wiley added; “Across A Level, GCSE and university, the class of 2020 have already shown that their adaptive, resilient and able to work under their own initiative in challenging circumstances, all winning traits that disruptive tech businesses value hugely.”

Set a goal

Phil Jones, Director, Prince’s Trust Cymru, which helps school leavers build new skills and find employment said; “Congratulations to all school leavers on reaching this important milestone in your lives, during some of the most challenging times we have seen. I encourage you all, whatever your results, to set a goal and seek to find that all-important next step.

“Aspiration is vital to this next stage; I’ve witnessed the transformational effect on young people when they discover a focus and something to aspire to. This world’s current challenges will not be easy to overcome, but with determination and hope, each and every one of you can start something amazing.”

Jo Daniels added: Think about your goals and write them down.  There are many routes to get to there, most people in business will advise you, they started out on their career/learning journey heading in one direction and ended up reaching their goal by a totally different route. Be open to new or different opportunities.

Don’t give up

Jo Daniels stressed the importance of determination in the face of a tough job market; “Fact – It takes an average of 3.8 failed attempts, before success is achieved. From every failure we learning something, so show GRIT and try again; always – it's the courage to continue that counts.

Steve Wiley said; “Remember, your exam results are just the first chapter in the story of your future career, so don’t be disheartened if your grades aren’t quite what you were hoping for. One of the most exciting things about a career in technology is that things are evolving and changing all the time, so there are always opportunities to learn new skills and expand your horizons.

Avril Lewis MBE added; “With so much economic uncertainty in the world at the moment, it’s understandable that things might be daunting for people coming out of further or higher education. But remember there are a huge amount of resources at your disposal, and people who want to help you succeed.

“These include some of the programmes offered through our Technology Connected Next Generation initiative, such as our Year in Industry scheme with Cardiff University, or the variety of free video resources such as the Careers Wales skills talks that took place as part of Wales Tech Week, which are now available to watch again, for free online.”

For more information on Technology Connected’s Next Generation programme and resources visit the Technology Connected website.