As I begin my final year at Loughborough University this week, I have taken some time to reflect on the year that has passed. I have been so lucky to meet some inspiring people, who have really pushed me this year. I was fortunate enough to have a great placement year with an even more amazing manager who really wanted to see me excel. As part of my placement year I got to network with various media owners who taught me a lot about the industry. I was also chosen to take part in The Aleto Foundation, a leadership programme that enabled me to present to leading tech professionals, network with other student doing amazing things, and hear stories of resilience from specialists leading in their field. To top it all off I was featured in the 11th edition, of The Future Leaders Publication, 2019- 2020 which profiles 150 of the most outstanding British University students of African and Caribbean heritage.
So, as I reflect on my experiences and achievements, I wanted to share a few things that I have learnt over the past 12 months, in the hope that others may be inspired. Below are my top 5 followed by a couple smaller lessons I’ve learnt.
1. “Your Network is your net worth”
I kind of already knew this one, but every person I have spoken to this year has drilled this into my head and so i’ll drill it into you too! The lovely Matt Crabtree who I was fortunate enough to hear him talk during the Aleto Foundation, Leadership program put it so simply. Have you ever witnessed someone get a promotion or receive something they weren’t necessarily qualified for, or even deserved, purely because they either knew someone or were well known and liked? That is the power of a network. I am privileged to really enjoy and be quite good at networking and talking to people I don’t know. In turn, this has lead me to some great experiences, that I would have otherwise missed. I cannot stress enough how far this will get you. If you’re not sure where to start, how about “Hey, I’m X, what’s your name? and what do you do? You’ll be pleasantly surprised where it might end up. Once you have met new people make sure you maintain and nurture that relationship. There is nothing worse than needing to ask someone for a favour, and not having spoken to them in a very long time. Make sure you check in regularly with your network, even if it is just saying happy birthday. A networking relationship is two sided make sure you serve them a purpose too.
2. “Being a good leader isn’t about knowing everything”
Some of the best leaders / managers know little about the specifics of their job but know their team incredibly well. A good leader is someone who hires people who are better than them and knows how to motivate and manage a team. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the individual who heads up an EMEA team during my placement hadn’t achieved a specific training certificate for a piece of software we use day to day. However, that is the power of having a great team to support you that does have that level of expertise and knowing exactly who to go to and for what. A good leader can motivate, manage and inspire a team to go on and create some amazing work.
3. “Everyone is human and makes mistakes. However, own up and come with a solution rather than just a problem”
This lesson comes in two parts, everyone that you work with in a professional capacity is human and has a life outside of their work. I was often scared of clients and some media owners out of fear of looking silly or making mistakes. However, I came to realise they are just as human as me and we all make mistakes. Secondly, it so easy to sit and dwell on the mistakes we make, often feeling sorry for ourselves and drowning in self-pity, but I have come to realise that doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s important that we own up and reflect on all our mistakes, big or small, so we learn from them and hopefully avoid making the same mistake twice. If you follow these two simple rules, you’ll often find your team and managers are a lot more understanding, especially if you come with a solution to the problem.
4. “Communication is King”
Effective communication is king when it comes to EVERYTHING especially positive working relationships. During my time on placement and throughout the Aleto Leadership process I realised how important it is to communicate effectively as it will be the make or break of an amazing project or idea. In everything you do make sure that all parties involved fully understand the project, their role and any deadlines you may set. Luckily for us, there are various pieces of technology out that can with this.
Microsoft Teams – Software allows you to speak to team members and share files
Google Hangout, Zoom, Skype – Great for group calls
If all else fails, go for a coffee and talk about it face to face, as often technology can also cause misunderstandings regarding an individual’s tone. NOTE: you are sometimes going to have to work with people you don’t like, you must learn how to communicate effectively with that person to avoid personal confrontation. This is especially important if you’re in a client facing role; learn how to bite your tongue and pick your battle
5. “Education never stops – Invest in yourself”
It’s so important to keep investing in yourself and learning. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt this year is the importance of spending money on my professional and personal development, outside of the lecture hall. It’s all well and good knowing that you cannot code, public speak, use excel, or do mental maths, but what are you actively doing to change that? So many young people are quick to spend £1,000 + on the latest iPhone but won’t spend money on a training course to better their future prospects. This was exactly me, but personal development and learning is so important. A lot of universities have free subscription to online courses, services that can support you with soft skills ect. For those who are already in the world of work, companies will often fund courses for individual development. Money aside, there are a lot of free courses out there and sometimes it’s just about investing time.
Here are a few more little things that I have learnt…
People can be smart and have no common sense
A bit of a funny one, but there are many people out there who are extremely smart but have zero common sense. It could be client, co-worker, manager or if you’re really lucky they may be running the country. For goodness sake, please help them out!
Always have a side hustle or hobby
It so easy to get wrapped up in the end goal that we often forget about what puts a smile on your face. Make sure you’re still working on that project that makes you happy and maintains your edge. Whether that is your YouTube channel, blog, playing football, or just simply ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, because just talking about work can get very boring for you and those around you.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Following from my last point, there is a time to be professional and a time to have fun, just know when that is. As you don’t want people to think that you’re too serious an you can’t take a laugh. Enjoy yourself.
Always read your emails
Please, please, please read emails, especially before you reply. There is nothing more annoying than someone replying to your email, to ask you a question that you have already addressed in the previous email.
Know your worth, stay humble and learn from others regardless of their age, race, gender etc. Everyone can teach you something, soak it up.
Everyone has the capacity to learn from others regardless of how junior or senior they are and regardless of their background. Make sure you listen to others and have faith in things you say, even if no one else does. Some of the greatest ideas are crazy but take on constructive criticism and make it better. Failure builds character.
Say yes to everything.
Step out of your comfort zone and say yes to everything. Cliché but very true. “Life begins at the end of your confront zone”
Apologise when you’re wrong.
Learn how to apologies there Is nothing worse than someone who can’t say sorry. Like I already said we are all human and we make mistakes just make sure you take ownership and apologise when you are in the wrong.
Hopefully you have learnt something new. Comment below some of the lessons you’ve learn in your career so far.