I wrote this article recently to help young people who have recently achieved their Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, as part of our #WorldReady campaign. But I think it’s equally applicable to folks who’ve gained recognition in other ways…
So you’ve achieved your Award.
Congratulations! It’s a real mark of achievement, recognised internationally, and worth celebrating. But what can you do with it? How can it be helpful in getting you to the next level of education or into employment?
In some countries, achieving an Award gains you extra points towards a university place. If that’s the case for you (and if you’re not sure, ask the institution), make sure that you keep your Award certificate safe as proof of completion.
Alternatively, you may have the opportunity to write about your Award experience as part of your application, or talk about it in an interview – whether for education, or employment. If so, these pieces of advice, distilled from the experiences of Award achievers around the world, may help you make the most of your Award.
- Be ready to explain it. Whilst the Award is widely recognised, many people don’t really understand it. In some countries they think it’s just about the Adventurous Journey (or expedition), or only involves voluntary service to the community.
- Deconstruct your experiences. You will have developed a range of skills, behaviours and attitudes as a result of the Award activities you chose for yourself and the targets you set and achieved. Reflect on what you took away from each one.
- How has it helped you to become #WORLDREADY? Research into the Award suggests that the following outcomes result from participation. Consider how these might apply to you:
Resilience and determination
Relationships and leadership
Creativity and adaptability
Planning and problem solving
Personal and social well-being
- Structure your thinking. What activity did you do? What skills, behaviours or attitudes did you develop by doing it? How do these relate to the course you want to do or the job for which you are applying?
- What makes you stand out from others? It may be that your voluntary service experience is directly relevant to what you want to do next. Or it may be less easy to make a connection. Good skills to highlight include self-discipline, time management and organisation. So, for example, your Adventurous Journey may have improved your communication skills, as well as your ability to work under pressure and solve problems. If you’re looking for a job, they will help you build relationships with your new colleagues, deal with what gets thrown at you and perhaps provide a different perspective to a business problem being faced by your new team.
- Sell yourself. This can feel uncomfortable at first but it’s very important that you promote yourself to the person who’ll be reading your application or interviewing you and convince them why they should offer you a place on the course or take you on as an employee. One way to sell yourself is to use positive action verbs such as “achieved”, “completed” and “developed” throughout anything you choose to write. Be careful not to overdo it though. The key is to promote yourself without appearing arrogant. Back your skills up with evidence. One way to promote yourself without appearing arrogant is to explain how you could contribute to university or work life and make the most of the many opportunities on offer. If you took part in a team sport as part of your Physical Recreation section, is there a team you could join at Uni or at your new employer and continue contributing?
- So what? Once you’ve prepared your material, give it the ‘so what?’ test. Get in the mind-set of an admissions tutor, HR director or your future manager and read over what you’ve come up with. Is there anything that the person might say ‘so what?’ about? Is there anything you need to expand on more? Or is there anything you’ve forgotten to include? You could also give it to your Award Leader to look over and give you some feedback. Once you’ve made the changes, get it checked again, including for spelling mistakes in any written material. It’s always a good idea to get a fresh pair of eyes to check over it.
- Remember ‘KISS’. Keep it short and simple. Use language you’d use every day.
- Be your most likeable self. When companies hire employees, they’re also hiring the people they’ll have to spend half of each week with, and in any good company, culture is a top priority. If you’re yourself in the interview and you’re a good fit for the culture, that’s going to be a huge plus for you—if you’re yourself and you’re a bad fit for the culture, it’s not a company you’d be happy working at anyway.
- Be honest. Don’t overclaim your achievements. Remember, you probably learned more from that mistake you all made on your Adventurous Journey that when everything was going perfectly. Be ready to talk about that learning.