Three ways to manage your graduate career expectations

Aug 19, 2013

When others hold high expectations for you, you also tend to hold them for yourself.

It often begins with the expectations your parents have for you, then the school and college, and then finally the university. When children are expected to do well they usually do, as Ofsted can tell you.

Chances are that other people have held high expectations of you throughout your education career, and that these expectations have rubbed off on you.

Whether you have graduated and are looking for a job, or are still at university but thinking about your career, you need to retain those high expectations for yourself. Here are three ways to help you manage them.

1. Self talk yourself into the career you want

Now that you no longer have form tutors or lecturers breathing down your neck telling you that they have high expectations of you, you need to start doing it for yourself. If you have never had anyone breathing down you neck telling you that ‘you can do it’ then all the more reason to start now – you have a lot of catching up to do.

According to research by the British Psychological Society, sport psychologists agree that athletes who talk to themselves perform better than those who don’t, and that talking yourself down equally impedes performance. So tell yourself out aloud that you have high expectations of yourself for your graduate career. Don’t apologise or feel embarrassed about having a personal ambition for yourself.

2. Raise your own achievement bar

What would help you to realise your potential? Simple. Raise the bar. You don’t have others there to set goals and targets for you any longer so you need to do this for yourself. Potential speaks of the best you can possibly be but how can you know the extent of your greatness if you never create opportunities to bring it out?

Try to be a bit more adventurous (according to what is adventurous for you) and to expose yourself to new experiences. How about introducing yourself to a new experience each week… imagine what that could do to you after a couple of months. It could transform your CV and make you a much more interesting interview candidate, and then employee. It could be the factor that sways things in your favour when you’re competing with a candidate that’s just as qualified as you are. When a person is exposed to the best of what has been thought and said it develops an appreciation of human creativity and achievement. So keep learning and building on what you already know.

3. Forget what others have said about you

Whether you have always had others rooting for you or not, this one is perhaps the most important of all, and it may seem contradictory to the rest: you need to separate yourself from the expectations others had or have of you. What do I mean? Well, in his latest review of the national curriculum, our rather enlightened education secretary Mr Michael Gove admitted that sometimes students have done better in exams than their educators expected and so his review aims “to help all children do well and learn without being restricted by our [that is, their teachers’] expectations”.

Society is littered with individuals who have gone on to use their talent to do well in life despite their teachers’ predictions of flop and failure. Richard Branson was labeled as lazy and stupid. Sir John Gurdon, who won a Nobel Prize for research in genetic cloning, was ridiculed by his biology teacher at Eton. Our past deputy prime minister Mr Michael Heseltine was labeled with too many names to list here. And newsreader Jon Snow, who wrote an article on the topic (The Stars Who Were Told They Would Never Amount to Anything, for the Express), was told that he “sets himself low standards which he fails to achieve”. If this has been your experience you need to start believing otherwise about yourself and proving those horrible teachers wrong. You can do it.

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