Discovering the leaders within ourselves : Coping with transitioning from a study lifestyle to a working lifestyle

By Patrick de Kretser

The biggest test we all face tends to come around in our early adulthood years. By that I do not necessarily mean when we leave home to study abroad at university, although I am sure that is also a huge obstacle to overcome. No, the biggest test comes after the studying stops. It comes when we realise that we are literally transitioning into that time in our lives where all what we have learnt throughout school and university finally gets tested, when we venture off into our career paths.

A lot of you would have experienced a taste of what that is like even before you leave school or university, such as by taking part in internships, getting involved in community projects, and getting side jobs during university or your gap years. But there is a certain uniqueness to what we experience when we completely leave the classroom for good, because our focus is on one thing – our careers. The workload that we get while we study in school or while we complete a course is immense, hence we get distracted by trying to pass our exams and do well on the subjects that will aide us for our futures.

In that regard, the stress of the classroom distracts us from the stress of the real world. The more time we have to ourselves, the more we think about what we aim to do and how we aim to do it, hence the more time we spend pondering about the positives and the negatives, and the more we get stressed out by it. That is why in a school or university environment, we feel inherently shielded from the problems of the real world in a way, because we spend so long on our own studies that we often tell ourselves that we need to focus on what we have in front of us and concern ourselves with the rest as it comes.

‘A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example’

– Joe Dimaggio, historically famous baseball player for New York Yankees

It is quite a daunting prospect to ponder about your future…to think about the path that you are to take and how well you are going to do by going down that path. There is always that sense of fear within ourselves making this transition because we do not know what to expect, as we fear the things that we do not know, predict, or understand. But the first thing we need to understand is that this is a natural feeling to be scared. The fear of venturing into the unknown is not a disadvantage holding us back; it is a reminder that what we are about to do is important and that we should be ready to embrace it. Being the leader of your own life, the navigator of your future path, requires you to first embrace the emotions that flood your mind and accept them for what they are. That is always the first step to take to prepare for your new life.

‘Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead’

– Les Brown, American motivational speaker and author

The next thing to remember is to be prepared for setbacks – to start out slow or have to drastically change your plans in a short period of time. When you suffer setbacks as a student, you pick yourself up from it by benefitting from the pillars of support you have from your peers, teachers, and family. But the moment you embark on that new journey in life and begin your career, a lot of that can change. You might find yourself alone, you might find yourself desperate for guidance, and you might contemplate if you are even capable of succeeding in your chosen career path.

The setbacks you experience, especially in the time after you just leave school or university, will weigh you down a lot and may feel like a reality check. But to realise the true leader within yourself is to expect failures and expect that you will not progress through life as quickly as you would have liked to sometimes. We do not often realise that in school because we focus so much on striving for excellence that we do not take the time to process the importance of failure, as we learn a lot from both being successful in what we do and not being successful.

‘Every great thinker keeps a journal, you know’

– Trenton Lee Stewart, American author

Thirdly, to stay grounded in your life and maintain a cool approach to embracing your future also means that you need to actively take care of yourself. After all, the average person can have anywhere between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. Combine that statistic with the daunting realisation that you have to accept that you are now an adult and you have to step up for yourself; you end up getting a lot of negative and concerned thoughts flooding your mind.

That is why an effective method to rectify this is to keep an active journal with you. Not necessarily a journal that you use to plan out your schedule or sort out your work, although you can do that as well, but rather a journal that you keep to collect your thoughts and one that you use as a brain dump whenever you just need to unwind. Keeping a track of our progress is essential if you aim to be the leader of your own life, because we need to understand how to take care of ourselves during times of crisis when other people may not be around to help us.

‘If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim’

– Richard Bach, American writer

Finally, the most important thing is to remember we are responsible for everything we do, including the mistakes we make at our own hands. Owning up to what we do is the key to staying humble – to move forward in whatever you do with a sense of humility and respect for others. If there is one thing you should remember the most from this article that will help you a great deal moving into adulthood, it is that you should always keep an open mind to things. When you are in school and university, the only way you get through the subjects that challenge you is by owning up to the fact that you are struggling at it and work towards bettering yourself, without blaming others for something that you are capable of changing.

Leaders are not perfect and leaders often make mistakes as well, but what leaders do best is accept them instead of running away from them. These skills are some of the most important skills that we will learn in our lives and many people have the misfortune of learning them later rather than sooner, which is why you should take these pieces of advice to heart and apply them when the time comes to leave school or university. So keep these tips in mind and you will already be mentally prepared for whatever challenges await you in the future.

PHOTOS Cohort Go, National Baseball Library, The Best You Magazine, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Pinterest


Pic captions:

Joe Dimaggio

Les Brown

Trenton Lee Stewart

Richard Bach