My son Tim is doing his NCEA Level One this year, reminding me of my own intense stress, angst and self-doubt when I completed School Certificate back in 1987.
I remember all the "motivational" comments from well-meaning teachers and random adults such as "Fail School C, and you will live under a bridge for the rest of your life."

As Tim (and many other young adults in secondary and tertiary study) face the biggest exams of their lives in the coming months, I thought I would add some of my advice to the cacophony of voices they are hearing.

1. Hard Work Almost Always Trumps Brains

My mum failed terribly when she attempted School Certificate, dropping out of the education system totally to work as a secretary. Fast forward five years and she owned her own recruitment company, entering a highly successful 50-year career in this industry. She always reminds me that hard (and smart) work will always trump an intelligent but lazy person.


2. Your Attitude Is Your Main Strength

Being involved with thousands of interviews over the years, it has become obvious to me that having the best qualifications does not mean you are the best fit for the organisation. Most employers I know hire for attitude alongside (if not ahead of) qualifications and experience. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, "It is attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude".

3. Resilience and Perseverance

Life is hard and sucks sometimes ... However your ability to roll with the punches and persevere, despite setbacks, are giant life-skills. Many people struggle with this and get stuck in their career, afraid to try new things and step out. Remember that nothing worth doing is easy ...

4. Like (If Not Love) Your Job

It's a lot easier to enjoy Mondays (and life in general) if we genuinely look forward to: 1. our job, 2. the organisation we work for or 3. the industry we work in. If you can like two out of three all the better! Many people just "fall into their career" and end up doing a job they are not passionate about for the rest of their lives. Take the time to plan your career (it's never too late), knowing that changing your mind down the path is okay too ...

5. Failure can be good

Failing is what we do on the way to success, not the endpoint itself. It should drive us on, and give us a fire in our belly to do better next time. No truly successful person ever succeeded without great failure along the way. Just looking at entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson and Elon musk should remind us this. As Michael Jordan says "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."


So Tim, remember to study hard, try your best, and no matter what the outcome, your attitude and ability to persevere will determine your success. Love Dad.

Contact Tom O'Neil and the team at CV.CO.NZ for a free CV assessment or to be your personal career coach.