By Sir Rod Aldridge, OBE

Even though so much has changed in the world since I was in that position as a young lad, many years ago, it’s frustrating to see that the education system still focuses purely on academic performance as a measure of success or failure. 

Less attention is given by the system to whether a young person has developed the important life and enterprising skills, critical to having a fulfilling and successful career. The ability to work in a team, along with developing attributes such as creativity, determination, passion, problem-solving and risk-taking are so important to have – and equally relevant to an employer.

I believe that all young people have the right to a good education and there is no denying that getting good grades can open doors and opportunities. However, there are many young people who, like me, will excel irrespective of their exam results – and I would love if they could focus on this and continue to fulfil their full potential.

I left school with only a handful of exams, and could have felt like I’d failed to get the necessary qualifications to be successful in life. It was at this moment that I had a choice to make: to accept that I wasn’t in a position to achieve my dreams and give up, or to turn my emotions into something more positive – into the motivation to prove myself, and other people, wrong. I chose the latter.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Exam results aren’t the only thing that define you

There are more things than exam grades that land you a quality job and help you achieve your dreams. There are so many other ways to showcase your skills, talent and ability to do the job, that can set you apart from other applicants. 

For example, if you’re interested in a career in sports journalism, you don’t necessarily have to have a degree; what’s stopping you from starting a blog or a podcast where you comment on major sporting events or interview sportspeople from local teams? Not only will this act as a portfolio / digital CV to potential employers, it demonstrates passion and drive.

Remember, you have the power to decide what steps you take next. 

2. You can’t have success without failure

As you go through life, you will inevitably fail again and again – everyone does in big and small ways. See each of these failures as an opportunity to learn and grow. Whenever you think you’ve failed at something, ask yourself ‘what can I learn from this experience, how can I move forward?’. Turn the failure into something that can help improve your future actions and success.

3. Don’t wait for a job, create one

If you have a great idea for a social enterprise or business, explore that idea, even if you start off doing it alongside your full-time job. Find people who believe in it and have skills that complement yours to help take it to the next level. Take inspiration and learn from people who have already gone through the process, but don’t be afraid to do things differently.

4. It’s not where you come from that matters, it’s where you want to get to that counts

Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to remember that anything is possible in life with determination, hard work and resilience. Dream big and aim high!

5. Be prepared for a ‘wiggly’ career

You may know what you want to do and have a plan to get there but, if not, don’t panic! One size doesn’t fit all, and where some people will seek a steady career in one industry, some people will want to try out lots of different things. Find out what you’re passionate about and what your skills and strengths are and be open to where they might take you.  

When it comes to success (whatever that looks like to you) there are no deadlines, so celebrate all your achievements, no matter how small and don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

Good luck to everyone receiving exam results this week and to every young person reading this, as you find your place in the world, remember you are what you make of yourself.