10 things I wish I knew as a student

Originally featured on icas.com

As I backpack around the world on my 12-month honeymoon, I reflect back on my last six years and recognise that a lot has happened. I qualified as a CA, worked on numerous projects all around the world, led international humanitarian projects, founded my own business and married the love of my life, to name a few. I barely recognise my naïve self in 2011 when I first entered the workplace.

I want to share ten tips and pieces of advice for my younger self and the thousands of graduates starting a programme in the city.

1. Take time to reflect on your achievements

This time in your life is a major milestone shift from years of schooling and progressing along the academic ladder. You’re now a bona fide adult - reflect on that journey but also consider what you want for the future (remember - it’s OK not to have a definitive plan but rather a path of direction).

2. Save for the future

For many, this is likely the first time you’re receiving regular income (let's ignore the student loan!). You’ll need to further develop (or start!) the habit of regular saving. The rule of thirds is a good place to start; a third of your income towards long-term saving, a third towards medium-term saving and a third for day-to-day expenses.

Whilst on the topic of saving, let’s talk pensions. It’s not the sexiest topic but it’s definitely worthwhile enrolling on your company scheme, especially if your employer matches your contributions – your retired-self will thank you later down the line….

3. Cut out coffee shops

On the other end of the spectrum, ditch the frivolous spending. Specifically, forget the fancy coffees and lattes. There’s a culture in the city of grabbing a daily hot beverage of choice from your local coffee shop. It’s not something you need to adopt as a fresh graduate – it’ll zap your wallet.

4. Say thank you to those that support

Your parents, guardian or others who support you no doubt played a huge role in where you are today. Get them a gift or set time aside to thank them - highlight your gratitude and appreciation to your loved ones.

5. Invest in your self

Formal education may have come to an end but that doesn’t mean you should stop investing in yourself. The CA qualification is a perfect example of continuing your professional and educational development. Take some time to also consider your physical and mental well-being, and find ways to develop these over time.

6. Be open-minded

You’re in a totally new environment from university / college. Take an open-minded approach and embrace the uncomfortable reality of not knowing everything. Try and work with as many people as you can in as many different situations as possible.

7. Carve out a lunch break

Working at your desk during lunch is a necessity at times but don’t make it a regular habit. Instead, carve out time to take lunch and use it as a time to build your network. Connect with peers, colleagues and meet new people in the workplace. Your mental wellbeing and professional network will thank you.

8. Build resilience

You’ll likely be studying and working at the same time. It’s a dynamic you’ve probably not encountered before. Academic life teaches you that if you fail it’s because you didn’t learn and may not graduate / complete; it’s very black and white. The corporate world isn’t like this, you will fail, and when you do, take them as valuable lessons.

Embrace mistakes as an opportunity to learn and turn them into action. You’ll be simultaneously handling these dualities during your three years of training as a CA.

9. Workplace dynamics

Understand the workplace dynamics / politics and what’s required of you as soon as you enter. Understanding ‘the lay of the land’ will help you navigate the sometimes-unfortunate nature of the corporate world. Above all, work hard and understand how your daily priorities align to broader business goals.

10. Find a mentor

Perhaps one of the most important ones for me, seek out a mentor. Nothing beats experience. Just as companies have a board to steer growth and hold accountability, you should have what I like to call a ‘Personal Board’ across the spectrum of personal, professional and passions.

The exchange of knowledge with mentors is absolutely invaluable, coupled with the accountability for development, which inevitably arises, provides a potent combination for accelerate growth.