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Do HSC and ATAR results matter? CEOs weigh in

Students at St George Girls High School, Sydney, take their maths exam for their HSC. (Photo by Steve Christo/Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Australia’s senior students are awaiting their final results with varying degrees of excitement, trepidation and apathy, with students’ due to receive their HSC, VCE and ATAR results in the coming weeks. 

NSW, Tasmanian and ACT students will receive their HSC and ATAR results on Tuesday 17 December, after Victorian students received their VCE and ATAR results on 12 December. 

Queensland students received their results on 14 December, while Western Australian and South Australian students will receive their results on 19 December.

But as several high profile founders and CEOs know, final results are not the be-all and end-all.

We spoke to some prominent Australian business people to hear their advice for new high school graduates.

Angela Clark, CEO at payments platform Beem It

“Increasingly the world will belong to the people who hold their opinions lightly and respect the views of others, who can learn from their mistakes, and who care about customers,” Clark said.  

“If you are humble, curious, open minded and love solving problems with the help of others, the world is your oyster.”

And Clark has a point. According to Swinburne University’s Dr Sean Gallagher, soft skills like creativity will serve Australian workers better in the changing world of work.

Additionally, Goldman Sachs venture investor Natalie Fratto has said adaptability and compassion are incredibly important for success.

“Whether you're navigating changing job conditions brought on by automation, shifting geopolitics in a more globalised world, or simply changing family dynamics and personal relationships, each of us, as individuals, groups, corporations and even governments are being forced to grapple with more change than ever before in human history,” Fratto said. 

Rudy Crous, CEO at HR startup Shortlyster

Crous wanted to become a corporate psychologist when he left school, and couldn’t picture himself becoming the co-founder of a tech startup. 

“The way my career has evolved has been full of wonderful opportunities that I couldn’t have predicted, and I think that's the same for a lot of people. You can’t control the future but you can influence it,” he said.

“So my advice is, don’t worry if you don’t know what career path you want to take – it will fall into place as long as you are committed to learning, work hard, and embrace opportunities to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

And, he added, make sure you consider your values and motivations in addition to your strengths when it comes to deciding where to start. 

“A career is more than just a job, as the workplace and industry you join will become your community.”

Alexie O’Brien, COO at $5.5 million parenting e-commerce platform Tell Me Baby

As a mum of high school leavers in recent years, O’Brien knows the pressure on students at this time of year. 

She thinks it’s important to be “okay with failing”, and remember to stay curious, resourceful and tenacious. 

“Today, there are so many pathways to get to your end goal. Know that with hard work and tenacity you can get to where you want to go. It doesn’t end at high school, or with an HSC or ATAR result,” O’Brien said. 

“There are many options and alternative ways to get to the end goal. But remember it is about the journey as much as the destination. This is true in life and in your career.”

She said school leavers also need to know how to learn from failure. “Lean into fear, and ask for guidance along the way to continue your growth. And if a door closes remember it is just the end of a chapter.”

How much does your ATAR actually matter?

These CEOs aren’t the only ones urging students to shake up their perspective on results. 

Last year, the Rio Tinto managing director Kellie Parker told the Sydney Morning Herald that many large companies don’t scrutinise students’ year 12 result.

“I think we've got to sit back [and look at] what actually happens in year 11 and 12 and how it's a cookie cutter to get into university, rather than a mind-expanding opportunity,” she said. 

And several CEOs didn’t even attend university, taking the sting out of ATAR result pressure.

Peter Harmer, chief of one of Australia’s largest insurance firms IAG did not attend university, instead beginning his career as an underwriter and claims officer at New Zealand Insurance. 

Trevor Croker, the head of pokies machine company Aristocrat, also didn’t need an ATAR. In the last five years saw its share price grow from $5.70 to $30.67 in the last five years.

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