Results day - 18th August, 2016 : The day I thought my life was over.
I could not sleep the night before. How could I sleep knowing that tomorrow I would finally get my results? I was so scared that I laid awake thinking of ways to open my results without anyone noticing.
Here was the plan: go into college, collect my envelope and leave straight away. Instead, I snatched the envelope from a teacher and immediately tore it open in the middle of the hall.
My eyes scrolled across the page and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I looked at my grades again and again, thinking they would change to three A’s. Never in a million years had I thought this would be my situation.
I had planned to attend Warwick University to study Law but to see that reality stripped from me has been one of the most painful experiences to date. The fear of studying at a non-Russell Group university shook me to the core. Family, friends and mentors had all mentioned that a Russell Group university, particularly for a course such as Law, was non- negotiable.
I believed it was an all or nothing situation but after deciding to read Law at the University of Leicester, I came to the conclusion that this is not entirely the case. I have grown to not only love the Law school but the university as a whole; the atmosphere, the vast amount of societies, the people and especially the city. This experience has taught me so much already, but here are the main lessons:
1. Love your University.
I understand the pain of attending a university you had probably never thought of studying at. However, this is your reality now and opening your mind to the possibility of attending other universities can mentally prepare you for any mishaps or unexpected scenarios beforehand.
When I stopped thinking about what life would have been like at Warwick and started to enjoy the amazing opportunities Leicester presented, my experience changed a lot. I realised I was missing out on many events, competitions and even special talks at my Law school.
The most recent lecture was from Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court who led on the majority judgement case for Brexit. It was an exciting event that not every university could offer and the thought of missing out just because I had not taken advantage of the opportunity saddened me.
2. Attend the Careers Fair
I met a lot of firms at the law fair but realised early on that I would have to take regular trips to London if I wanted to continue to build on these professional relationships.
At Russell Group universities, the same firms would hold events such as law balls and mentoring programmes. Therefore I knew I had to put extra work in to secure internships as I didn’t have as much access to these networks.
Attending events and expanding your contacts are incredibly important, especially if you want to gain insight on what employers expectations before you begin the application process.
Unfortunately some companies are more involved with Russell Group universities due to limited resources. However this should not discourage you as they have been taking massive steps to close the gap with diversity by holding inclusion events and collaborating with organisations such as BLD Foundation, Aspiring Solicitors and WCANetwork.
3. Good Friends Are Essential!
If I have learnt anything from being in university these few months, it is the importance of good and relatable friends. Not just friends who are purely there for the social life, although that is important too! I am referring to those who give you the side-eye when you tell them you are not doing the practice essay and tell you to “fix up.’’
My friends have helped me in developing confidence in myself and I have realised that my journey does not have to be an isolated one.
As soon as my friends and I are aware about any Law related events, we are instantly talking about it and encouraging each other to apply. We are constantly checking up on each other and I know if I have any problems, I can go to them without hesitation.
I have always imagined university to be this dog-eat-dog world where you had to be selfish to succeed, but my experience tells a different story.
Although my path has changed, my goal has stayed the same. I have learned that the most exciting and unique experiences in life are not always planned and accepting this truth has helped me to appreciate the path I am now on.
This week our contributor Sophia talks personal branding, and how to leave the best online and offline footprint!
If you were to type your name into Google, or the search Twitter for example, what would see printed about yourself? "A positive role model", "An Inspiration", "Funny", "Amiable", etc. What would your brand look like?
Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and careers as brands. It is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organisation. Naturally, on the first meet with someone or the first glance at their online profile, you get an immediate impression of that person. Personal branding is all about influencing that impression in the mind of others in a way that you want to be perceived. This practice is great for helping one establish themselves, and helps with applications for numerous opportunities from internships to jobs, so you clearly know what you're applying for, and why you're fit for the role.
Here are a few tips to guide you on your personal branding journey:
What are your strengths?
Jot down what your strengths are. What you are good at, the wonderful things you feel you've accomplished, and any obstacles that have led you to recognise strengths you have. In addition to this, ask your friends and family what they think your strengths are. This will also help give you a more objective perspective of yourself. It can also be quite nice to hear how other people perceive you, especially if it is in line with what you think your strengths are, so you know you're on the right track.
What are your weaknesses?
You may find it difficult to identify what your weaknesses are or think you have none (really?). Even Superman weakness is Kryptonite, so I am sure that we all have weaknesses too. You've probably heard the expression "keep your friends close: keep your enemies' closer." The same is true of strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know both. That way you can say "yes" to those things that employ your greatest strengths, and "no" to the activities that aren't going to serve your deeper purpose.
Additionally, it is important to identify weaknesses that may delay you in achieving your goal e.g. perfectionism, procrastination etc. Once you've identified these weaknesses, it is important to acknowledge them, especially when applying for opportunities as every weakness can be portrayed as a positive. For example, when I apply for certain opportunities, a weakness I often like to put in is that I am a perfectionist. However, I always add that it shows that I am determined to give my all to everything I engage in and make sure it is done to the best of my ability. See? It's that easy!
Once you have done this, make an action plan of how you will weaken your weaknesses, or even try to work on something you may feel your weak at, and try to strengthen yourself in that area.
What you tweet, who you follow, and conversations you engage in may sometimes give an impression of who you are. For example, if an employer looks online for your social media, they may consider your online presence as a genuine representation of who you are (Be Cautious!). In addition, if you offend anyone or a group of people, this could become known to your employer and have disastrous consequences. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the things you engage with online and make sure it's in line with your values and beliefs, as this is a big part of your personal brand. The biggest influencers of today have a big social media following due to the content they put out (their brand). Moreover, it is important also to follow like-minded people, people on the same journey, or have completed the journey. This will motivate you and constantly remind you to stay on track in pursuing your aspirations. Social media is also a profound way to connect with others, so if your online presence is positive, you are more than likely going to have people engaging with you.
Once you’ve done all these things…
Infuse them into your applications, CV’s, and even online profiles. Use what you’ve identified to pursue your passions and purpose as you will be more engaged in pursuing your goals, whilst serving as a “power house” of enthusiasm and inspiration to yourself and those around you. Make an action plan incorporating all these things and watch the difference it will make to your personal branding journey!
For further insight into personal branding, the PwC Personal Brand Workbook is a terrific tool to help you get thinking! Look here.
Sophia Adebisi Adedoyin
Self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love are big issues that many young women struggle with. Often, we suppress who we are for the fear of being misunderstood, judged, or rejected. We don’t want to subject ourselves to the intrusive inquiries from people who do not understand us, and do not seek to.
Many a times I have been questioned about who I really am, because I am South London girl who does not speak like a “South London” local (WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?). I’ve been told that I am pompous because of the level of my self-confidence, and labelled “overbearing” because I boldly and unashamedly express how much I love myself. Sound familiar? As others try to dictate who we are and how we should conduct ourselves, we slowly begin to internalise these things and slowly lose ourselves. I’m write this to remind you to be yourself and value yourself.
According to a report by the Dove self-esteem fund, 62% of all girls feel insecure and not sure of themselves. Such an alarming figure indicates that more needs to be done to help young women break this cycle. To quote the legendary Michael Jackson, we must start with the [wo]man in the mirror, and ask her to change her ways. The change begins within.
To help you begin the journey to self-love, here are some practical tips I feel have helped me and I hope it helps you:
1. “Knowledge is Power”
Knowledge can be acquired through various platforms. Educating yourself; reading encouraging books, blogs and articles about self, the mind and body can really prompt you to take charge and be happy in your identity, and in your now. One of my favourite books is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. This book inspires me to remember to live for myself, my purpose, not other people and what society says about me. It reminded me that to love myself, I need to appreciate every conscious moment, now. Appreciating what you have at this present moment encourages further happiness and builds up gratitude. There are many other great books such as “You’re a Badass” by Jan Sincero, and “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.
People who project their negative emotions and worldview onto you are just manifesting how they feel about themselves. In the inspiring words of Chidera Eggerue (aka @theslumflower): “Don’t bother yourself with emotional turmoil because they’re fighting an even bigger battle with self.” What angers and influences you also controls you. You don’t have to tolerate or succumb to others’ persistently negative energies and outlook. Believe that you are great and can accomplish anything you set your mind to do. Be obsessed with being a better you, and work for it. Work to become the woman you’ve dreamed yourself to be, and as you do this, you’ll build your self-esteem, which then fuels a more positive projection of self and facilitates self-love.
3. Self-Affirmation: Speak Things Into Existence!
It does not matter how you go about this, but a few ideas include; standing in front of the mirror, writing on post-stick notes and sticking them around your room, using it as the screensaver on your lock screen etc. Daily, affirm who you are to yourself! Speak self-love e.g. I am great! I am confident! I am perfectly imperfectly me! I will get that training contract! I will graduate with a first class! I will start that venture! Write down your affirmations and repeat them to yourself as often as you can. You will subconsciously internalise, and remember them when the others come spouting their unsolicited advice and opinions. You will remember them when you begin to think negatively about yourself. Reciting these affirmations will help you put things in perspective.
Credit: iStock Images
I know all I’ve said may be common knowledge, but sometimes it is good for things to be re-affirmed, and sometimes it sounds better and feels more motivating coming from someone else. I hope you gain something from this post and remember to aspire to be the best version of yourself. You are valid. You are beautiful, and you are enough.
I leave you with you this quote by Alex Elle: “Claim it. All of it. Release what no longer serves you. Journey forward. Be unashamed. Be unapologetic, love yourself anyway.”
Sophia Adebisi Adedoyin
Our contributor, Yemisi, shares a short yet poignant post about the burden of comparison, and the bliss which accompanies overcoming it.
Credit: Shop Dandy
This month has been a reflective month for me, and it was filled with a few lessons. One lesson that I would like to share is about being weary of comparisons. Social media has everyone, myself included, putting their best foot forward. We see posts and updates about new jobs and promotions on LinkedIn; we see friends and acquaintances celebrate anniversaries with Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome on Instagram; we see people advertise their new business ventures on Twitter. After rotating across all the social media apps on our phone, I think it’s safe to assume that at one point we can also feel a bit disappointed in ourselves. We can start to beat ourselves down.
I went through the comparison phase for a while and it started to eat away at the joy and contentment I had. I didn’t feel like I was achieving as much in comparison to others. I have a decent job, but it’s not a front office job in Canary Wharf. I’m single with a dusty hotline that isn’t blinging. I still haven’t thought of a world-changing idea that will make me a millionaire. It was only after my Mother said a prayer of gratitude about life that made me realise how self-critical I was becoming. I was reducing the value of my achievements, my relationships and my happiness because I’m looking across at someone else’ life. I was focusing on the negatives in my present circumstance, negatives that may cease to exist in a few years’ time or even by the end of the year, that I completely ignored the positives in my life. It was becoming emotionally draining.
I returned to my old secondary school to give a talk about my academic and career choices thus far. Preparing my speech forced me to take stock of my achievements. Trying to remember my thought process of why I studied this, or did that made me appreciative of my experiences, support and guidance I’ve had. In one way or another, I’ve tried to add value to myself, my inner circle or community. It has shaped me into the woman I am today.
As I walked around the school, I asked myself if my 11 year old self running around the corridors would be proud of where I am today. After a long think, I would have to say ‘yes’. I am content with my portion. I know that time and chance will continue to work in my favour. I believe that opportunities to progress forward will present themselves at the appropriate time. What I can do, and you also in the meanwhile, is appreciate this thing we call ‘life’. Enjoy the journey.
Appreciate the small moments of happiness. In the last few weeks, I have laughed, smiled and celebrated. I have added value back into the things I took for granted. Rather than focusing on the negatives, I have chosen to embrace and learn the lessons life had presented to me.
Yemisi is an Economics graduate from the University of Kent, and currently working in Financial Services. Connect with her on Twitter @YemisiDreams
In need of inspiration? Law student Dalitso recommends her 5 favourite TED talks by black women to help motivate you this week.
Since its inception, TED has provided a platform for people from all walks of life to share their ideas with the world. Among the thousands of stories that have been told on their stages are those of black women – an often-underrepresented group whose voices have historically been silenced. From the child who risked FGM for an education to a woman who refused to conform to society’s expectations, there are myriad lessons to be learnt from these incredible black women who, despite ordinary beginnings, have overcome adversity and made great strides. Hopefully their stories will inspire you to do the same.
Kakenya Ntaiya: A girl who demanded school
At a young age, Kakenya made a deal with her father to undergo the traditional Maasai rite of passage of female circumcision if he would let her have an education. She used her experience to help other young women pursue an education by opening a girls’ school in her community. Her story taught me, in her words to “be bold, stand up, be fearless, move out … as you change the world, you are going to change your community or a country.”
I want to be that woman,
You know the one that has it together,
No I don't mean in the physical,
I mean that woman,
The one that has her head screwed on so tight she does not waver,
She is not easily swayed and stands for what she believes in,
That woman that prays,
Prays so hard even when things are great,
She gives God the same praise on the good and bad day,
I want to be that woman,
Forget happiness she has joy,
Joy in her heart that overflows with love,
Her cup runneth over with compassion,
That woman that has blessings on blessings on blessings because she stays faithful,
I want to be that driven and ambitious woman,
Courageous beyond belief,
That woman that speaks good of the next,
No bitterness and no foul play,
But everything done willingly and in love,
A love that never fails,
A love that endures all things.
I want to be that woman,
I'm on that path and this is my journey,
To do better to be better,
I want to be that woman.
This week, something that caught all of our eyes was the poem that went viral, and turned into a movement of solidarity amongst women, #ThatWoman...