For this post, I’m going to talk about some solid advice I received during my student days. It’s advice that has served me incredibly well in my personal and work life since.
But first, let’s set the scene.
A part of a lot of people’s experience at university is anxiously wondering what the future beyond university looks like.
For me, the uncertainty regularly stemmed from not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life (career wise, at least). And while this wasn’t a particularly comfortable feeling to experience, the fact that it began to encourage me to start thinking about what kind of career I wanted could only be a good thing.
So, as any diligent student does, I dealt with the apprehension towards my future by putting it off and binging the first two of seasons of House of Cards.
*Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimised by Netflix’s ‘Auto-play’ feature*
The natural progression from this Netflix sesh was that it planted a seed. It got me wondering if being involved behind the scenes in politics could be the exciting and satisfying career for me beyond graduation. A place to get close to the action, without the spotlight being on me.
After chatting to a few of the right people, I decided to pursue an internship in the Scottish Parliament, where I worked directly for a Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP). (They’ll remain unnamed and without a gender throughout this blog post.)
Day to day, the majority of the work was made up of assisting the daily duties of the MSP – writing parliamentary motions, corresponding with constituents through letters, and summarising official reports for use in debates.
All great experience for a young whippersnapper, but… YAWN.
Wasn’t exactly what I had in mind (Nice one, thanks TV).
Looking back in hindsight, it really didn’t take long before I cashed in on some advice that really shifted my attitude though. In fact, it was the first day of the job – I just didn’t realise it immediately at the time.
My new boss and I sat down, I was introduced to the role, and the expectations of my conduct within the internship were set out plain and simply. Apart from all the usual stuff: timekeeping, uniform, dependability, there was one thing during the whole conversation that really stuck out from the rest.
They said to me:
“You will make mistakes, but that’s not the problem. Most mistakes are rectifiable. The problems start if you don’t accept responsibility for those mistakes. Because then I know that you won’t learn from them.”
But why did that leave such an impression on me?
It’s something I’ve reflected on a fair bit since.
At the time, I’m sure part of reason it was said was so that I would get the job done right (in the end).
But it was more than that.
Even although I was only an intern for a few months, my new boss had a vested interest in the way that I responded to my own mistakes and shortcomings. They knew the value of the opportunity I was faced with, and they wanted me to put it to good use by actually learning something.
The focus wasn’t that the job had to be done with pinpoint, laser focused accuracy by a complete novice. It’s that when I didn’t do a job quite right, I took responsibility, I learned from it, and then knew what to do so that it didn’t go wrong again.
And just as predicted, I made some mistakes in the job. All of them were rectifiable. And because I was encouraged (and not shit scared) to take responsibility for them, I learned from all of them – regardless how trivial those mistakes now seem in retrospect.
To validate the advice in my mind even more, I’ve yet to come across a situation where passing the blame and not accepting responsibility would have allowed me to learn and improve from that failure.
Whether or not it was designed that way, it’s advice that has definitely stuck.
Take responsibility for you, because it’s the quickest route to growth.
Let me just finish on a massive thank you for reading this #Write52 post. It has been awesome to have you here.
As well as that, Ed has been working his socks off to compile all of the #Write52 posts each week in a handy email newsletter – which you can sign up to here. Be sure to do that, and you won’t miss a trick.