HSC exams are underway for our Class of 2021 and to say they’ve had to do the hard yards in the past two years is an understatement. This cohort has had to endure more than any other group of seniors in recent memory, and whatever their final results they deserve to hold their heads high and know when it comes to resilience, they’ve all scored an A.
At this time, too, given all the challenges and disruption for our students – and teachers – in 2020 and 2021, it’s worth reminding our Year 12s that your results in the HSC do not define you as a person, and do not determine your entire future. Students are often told this but there is so much pressure and expectation around the HSC, that it’s easy for this kind of sentiment to be treated as a token reassurance. However, it’s anything but.
That HSC mark may be important if you have a particular university course in mind, but even then, there are so many different ways to get into uni these days, that while it may take a bit longer, it doesn’t have to be the end of your tertiary dream if the HSC doesn’t deliver. And, then, there’s so many different career options now that don’t require a degree, or where you can earn qualifications while you’re working.
My best piece of advice to young people at the end of their school years is to remember that every job you do, no matter what it is, could potentially be the first step in a longer career. So, whatever it is, do it well and with pride and enthusiasm, because there’s always someone watching who may recognise some potential and present a new – and improved – opportunity.
I’m also a big believer in ‘life experience’ and how that can shape a person’s character and work ethic. For this year’s Year 12 graduates that ‘life experience’ has been delivered in spades in the past two years. No-one wanted the rug to be pulled out from under them as it has, but to these young people, I say, don’t underestimate the importance of what you have learned: adaptability, endurance, resilience, self-sufficiency and independence. In many ways, you’re more prepared for the reality of life post-school than any other Year 12s who have come before you.
In saying that, I don’t want to downplay the mental health toll this pandemic has taken on our youth. The mental scars will remain for many, and we must be there with continued support and assistance – through organisations like headspace – as these young people embark on this next chapter of their lives.
Finally, it’s important to understand that ‘career success’ looks different for each of us. For some it may mean a high salary; for others it could be job satisfaction; and some may value being their own boss in their own business above all else. But whatever the career path, if you can maintain a high degree of integrity, honesty, fairness and empathy, then you’ve succeeded. A good character, hard work, passion and positivity will get you much further in the end than a mark on a piece of paper.