I remember when I left high school, I had no idea what to do with my life.
As the end of Year 12 approached, I remember being focused on getting the best grades so I could apply to Law or Medicine. Neither of which appealed to me. But that’s what was expected – I was a sheep, not a wolf.
My relationship with my Parents wasn’t great – I couldn’t talk through my life choices. In fact, I was told in in no uncertain terms, that if I wanted to go to university then I had to support myself through it. I could live at home, but everything else was on me.
Not surprisingly, I left home half-way through my first year at uni.
My results in V.C.E. were good, but Law and Medicine weren’t an option (thank God!), so I settled for what most kids do when they don’t want to do an Arts Degree but don’t know what to do – I chose Commerce (doubled with Science). A University Degree was the ticket to a prosperous and successful life – or so we were told. We were never told about Vocational Education and Training (VET).
Before I even started university, I was burnt out from V.C.E. During “O-week” I realised I needed a break from intense study but knew if I took a Gap Year, I might never return. I dropped the Science Degree almost immediately, taking me from 35 contact hours a week to 12. It was the one of the best decisions I ever made. I stretched my three-year Degree over four, hoping I could “hide” at University whilst I figured my life out. By the end of my Degree, I was nearly as lost as when I first started.
At that time, being a Stockbroker was the job to have (Gordon Gecko and “Greed is good.” were still cool, and the share market was booming.) My uni grades were average, and my choice of post-university employment was limited. In those days, jobs were posted in newspapers (remember those?) on a Wednesday and a Saturday. I applied for several jobs but was never successful. I had average grades, no industry contacts, and had not used my time at university to build professional networks.
On a whim, I went to my university Careers Centre. As a I scanned the walls (yes, the Job Ads were typed and put up on walls) I saw a role for an “Associate Adviser” at a small financial planning firm. I had no idea what an Associate Adviser did, and better yet, no idea what “financial planning” was. It had never been discussed at High School as a career and it was not a major offered at University. I applied for the role.
I spent the summer working part-time as a Baker’s Assistant, enjoying my last taste of freedom before having to “grow up” and join the drudgery of the full-time suited brigade. By February, I still had received no interview offers. Then one day, 3 months after my application for the Associate Adviser role, I received a letter (yep, pre-email) asking me to come in for an interview.
I was asked about my university grades. I explained the university lifestyle had impacted my results in the early years, and my need to work part-time to put myself through university had an impact in the latter. During the interview I didn’t perform well. I was nervous and unsure, almost desperate because I knew I was running out of options to get a job. I was sure that I had blown my chance when the topic of grades came up.
A few days later, I got the role. And that is how I “fell” into financial planning as a career.
Soon after starting, Ian (my boss) asked me why I thought he chose me. Other candidates had excellent academic results, and some even had corporate work experience. I mentioned I was a little surprised I had been chosen.
To this day I still remember what he said, “When you mentioned that you had to put yourself through University that resonated with me. You see, I too had to put myself through University. I had no family support and I know how tough it can be. I respect that you did it and were able to do it. And that’s why I offered you the job.”
It was my attitude and determination, evident through my actions, that got me the job – not my grades.
I spent 18 months with that firm. In my time there, I learned 90-95% of the industry knowledge I ever needed for years to come. My experience gave me a taste for being in control of my own destiny as a business owner, as I saw first-hand what it took to run a small business.
I will be forever grateful to Ian for the chance he gave me, and the opportunity to start the journey of finding my way in life. It taught me an important lesson of giving back where I can. So that’s why I shared this story.
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