Goals and values

Advice to my sixteen year old self

Having a mentor is a great way to develop both professionally and personally. If I could go back and be my own mentor to my sixteen year old self, what would I say?

I was fortunate that I didn’t make any life altering mistakes in my younger days, however I do think I could have made a bit more of my opportunities. If I’m not allowed to break the time travel rule and tell myself exactly what the future holds, here’s some of the general advice I’d give.

Earning a low income is not a reason to not start saving and investing. Whilst I was studying I worked part time, but all of my earnings went on living expenses. I thought that because my income was so little there was no point in saving anything. Putting aside even a small amount would have added up over the years and compounding would have started to take some effect by now. I also maxed out my student loan which I didn’t worry about at the time as I assumed I would just pay it off when I was earning bigger bucks. I could have been a bit more careful and not burdened my future self quite so much.

Don’t wait to be the person you want to become. At sixteen I wasn’t taking life too seriously. I had the attitude that ‘when I grow up’ I’d be the professional high achiever that I wanted to be, and for now I’d have fun. What I didn’t realise was that there is no cut-off to being grown up, it just sort of happens, and everything you do up to that point builds the person you are. Including the bad habits and hanging around with bad influences.

Find yourself before you go looking for someone else. Looking back, I really wish I had spent more time figuring out who I was and what I enjoyed doing before getting a boyfriend or choosing friends. My early relationships were formed because of coincidental proximity; I lived near someone, I sat next to them in class, rather than being based on mutual interests or values. I was so worried about making friends that I wanted to engage with everyone and was led by what others did. If I’d have focused on doing what I liked, I would have found more meaningful friendship circles.

Live your own life, not the one you think everyone else is living. When I was young I was convinced that everyone else was out partying and having an awesome time every weekend. This false sense of missing out on something pressured me into creating an imbalance between work and play. I constantly burned the candle at both ends trying to do everything.

Expand your world! I grew up in fairly homogeneous environment. The town was blue collar, most of the people I knew had been born there and I didn’t know anyone who had been to university. This lack of awareness of what’s out there, especially in a professional context, really reduced my opportunities. I hadn’t even heard of engineering (all I knew were school subjects), didn’t know what a consultant was and wasn’t aware there was such a thing as a graduate program. I wish I’d have been a bit more proactive in seeking advice and trying to expand my horizons, rather than assuming the world ended at what I already knew about.

What would you go back and tell yourself at sixteen? How do you think it would have changed you? Let me know in the comments!

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