What I Wish I Knew When I Was 18

How many 18-year-olds do you know who have a clear picture of what they want to do with their lives.

I don’t know any.

When I was 18, I was more concerned with how many A’s I could rachet up for the GCE ‘A’ levels, because they would determine what courses I was eligible to apply to in university. I had always been inclined towards the Humanities, but had no idea what I wanted to do with that, or what I wanted to be. Even in the Arts faculty, there were so many majors and minors on offer that I was completely confused. Overseas scholars typically studied PPE, but I had no interest in Political Science. In the end, I picked Law because it was more specialized, more prestigious, and I knew no one in my family or social circle would question it. If you had the grades, why wouldn’t you pick Law over Arts?

Since then, the workplace has changed tremendously, people change careers several times over, technology has reinvented the way we work, and your degree is less a predictor of your occupation and more a door-opener to possibilities, if you are willing to take them.

So my advice to any 18-year-old considering their career options is going to be completely different to what I was told. I would recommend them to do an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses, get clear about what motivates them and makes them happy, keep abreast of technology and its various applications, and choose work not only based on financial rewards, but a more wholistic model that includes their emotional wellbeing, social needs, a values match between their employer and themselves, and their sense of what they are called to be and do in life.

It’s more important than ever to have a growth mindset, to be flexible enough to thrive in the midst of change and transition, yet clear about our boundaries and what we won’t settle for.