Absolute Radio’s content director Paul Sylvester told us what he wished he’d known about the world of work (and life in general) when he was 22…

When I was 22…

I’d just left university which was, without question, the greatest three years of my life. I made my true friends and I developed an obsessive passion for radio. I didn’t do a media degree but you shouldn’t let a lack of qualifications stop you doing anything. I was knocked back by every post-grad radio journalism course in the land and I thought that was it!

I volunteered in hospital radio and, as it happened, one of my fellow volunteers was also the news editor of my local radio station. In the end, I busked my way into a junior reporter job at Lincs FM. Making contacts and living life is more important than writing essays. Yes, I was back home, but I was doing what I wanted to do and I knew (well, hoped) that the rest would come with time. Guess what? It kinda did… I was earning terrible money and getting up at 3:30am, but I just wanted to shout out loud “I’m on the bloody radio”.

Don’t compete

There were things in my life I’d not yet reconciled and decisions I’d not made, but that’s fine too. Don’t rush into the big stuff and don’t worry about the lives or careers of those around you. You shouldn’t compete, it’ll kill you. I was amazed when I saw friends with three and five year plans. If I’d done that, God knows where I would be. Don’t be a slave to a plan, if stuff doesn’t work then change it and don’t be bound to an Excel spreadsheet which is sloppily blu-tacked to a kitchen wall.

Remember to stop

If things get tough, don’t be afraid to stop for a minute, withdraw and re-group. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you ‘can’t cope right now’ and asking for help or leaning on others. Not enough people do this, and that’s why depression and suicide are so prevalent in young men. It can affect all of us whether you’re a bin-man or a broadcaster and it can feel easier in the short-term to carry on regardless – but please don’t.

The more people who come to me looking for career advice, the more I find myself saying “do what’s right for you right now, because at the end of the day, you’re the only person who has to spend 24 hours a day in your skin”. If you can go to bed at night and think that you’ve been the best person that you can be, then screw everyone else.

Take chances

After five years at Lincs FM, our news team was nominated for an award which we didn’t win. But, I used the opportunity to get in touch with the other losing news team and cheekily said “if you put me in your news team, we’ll win this next year” (trust me I still feel like vomiting when I think about it). It worked and within four months I was packing up and moving to London, starting an adventure which has led me to where I am today.

Other advice…

You should never take advice from just one person, so I decided to consult my eclectic, beautifully random and much-cherished friends on what advice they would give their 22-year-old selves. Here are just a few of the responses I received:

1) Worry less because, chances are, nobody even noticed.

2) Take risks – it’s better to have a life of ‘oh well’ than ‘what if’.

And I’ll leave the last word to my fabulous Mum…

3) Never eat or wear anything the colour of a highlighter pen.

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