Most of us were still discovering our identity and what we wanted out of life when we turned 21.
Speaking personally there are a few things I wish I’d known when I was younger that would have made the journey easier.
Being comfortable in your own skin
One of the things I often think about is when I was at school, I used to hold certain people in my year on a pedestal and think, ‘wow, I wish I could be like them’.
As I’ve got older, I’d look at them and I think, ‘why on Earth did I think that those people were so much more capable than me?’
Typically, it was the kids that were really good at sport, or they were popular, or both. Those two things used to go hand-in-hand.
As a result you’d find yourself trying or wanting to be like them, when in actual fact what they had was confidence and self-belief.
They made you think that because they told you that they were great, you believed that they were great. I never had that same self-confidence or self-belief.
The biggest thing that I would tell my 21-year-old self is to be comfortable in your own skin. You do have a right to have your own opinion. What you’re going to say isn’t stupid so have the confidence to feel and believe that you are good at what you do, that you are capable, and that those kids at school actually didn’t know everything.
Lastly, don’t seek affirmation from other people that you are great, the only person you need to convince is yourself. Nobody else needs to tell you, it will just become apparent by you doing a good job to the best of your ability.
With the rise of social media, this message can’t be loud enough for the 21-year-olds of today. There is a huge pressure to look and be a certain way.
When you scratch the surface, you begin to see beyond the perfect filter social media has over our eyes. Social media demonstrates people’s ultimate need for acceptance and affirmation from other people which makes it much harder for today’s 21-year-olds than it ever was for me.
It’s important that you believe in yourself, accept yourself for who you are, including most importantly the things you are not too keen on about yourself and learn to love you! Confidence is the secret elixir to being successful and that comes from us, not somebody else
Look beyond qualifications
There were loads of people at school who used to get A* in everything and probably went on to Oxford or Cambridge to get first class honours degrees. I got a what was termed a drinking degree, a 2:2.
I used to think those people were so much better than me because they got miles better qualifications. I’ve gone on to learn that what is on paper is irrelevant, there’s a lot more to being successful in your career than just what your qualifications say.
Communication is the key to being successful. Having EQ (emotional intelligence) is equally important, if not more important than having IQ.
I got told very early on in my sales career ‘use your senses in the proportions that you were given them’. You’ve got two ears and one mouth; listening is more important than speaking. And listening doesn’t just mean with your ears and your audio senses. It’s looking at body language and critically its hearing and understanding other people’s points of view.
One of the biggest things that salespeople forget is listening to what the customer needs. They go in and say, ‘let me tell you about what my product does’. You need to always look at the person that you’re working with, whether that’s in a sales and a customer context, or whether it’s a colleague or a partner, etc.
It’s trying to look at things from their point of view. What is it that they need and want from a relationship with you, rather than what can I sell you or what can I do for you without really understanding what it is that your needs and requirements are?
Looking back, I’d tell my 21-year-old self that grades are not the be all and end all, people excel in different areas and subjects in life.
To the 21-year-olds today, try to stop putting pressure on yourself. Everything happens for a reason… take each moment as it comes and enjoy every second of it. Life isn’t made to be perfect and it’s much better when you can share it with other people and so you need to understand what makes them tick and what’s important to them.