Remember studenthood to stay sane in business


IMG_1296 - Version 2Jackie Sykes is the Director of Sixth Sense Consulting and since graduating with BSc and MSc in Occupational Psychology has worked with companies across the UK and internationally in a diverse range of sectors. Jackie works with organisations using business psychology, neuro-linguistic programming and psychotherapy to maximise the full potential of staff. Jackie’s work begain in psychometric research and test publication, developed into HR consultancy and line management, and Jackie now co-directs an assessment, development, coaching and therapy business.  In this piece, Jackie looks back on her days at Hull and considers what a student’s approach to life can teach the workplace. 

As a Hull graduate and an ex-employee of the University I often look back on that time of my life with fond memories.

Now as a business owner of Sixth Sense Consulting Ltd and co-author of Staying Sane in Business, (Sane Works, 2015) there’s no doubt that my student days had a significant impact on who I am today.  Yes, my BSc. and MSc. in Occupational Psychology equipped me with knowledge, but my time at Hull gave me much more than that.

For me, university was my first taste of real, personal freedom.  I soon noticed the differences between the way my school teachers and my lecturers operated.  I found the change in the way I was required to learn both empowering and motivating.  In addition, my parents had much less influence on how I spent my time and who I spent it with!

Navigating through life started to become my responsibility:  I no longer had so many messages regarding what I should, ought and must be doing.  There’s no doubt that this shaped my values, beliefs and attitudes.

Many people think university is all about academic goals but it also teaches us to be ourselves and perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all!

You might argue that once university is over, it’s time for graduates to buckle down and conform and that individualism should take a back seat.  I’d argue the opposite. It’s organisations that have much to learn from fresh young minds, so here’s my advice more than 20 years after leaving Hull:  if you are now leading an organisation, embrace the culture that university life represents:


  • Be creative – some of the most innovative businesses I work with encourage people to personalise their working environments. It’s hardly surprising their offices often look like student houses with posters, gadgets and even the odd traffic cone!  New graduates are a great source of ideas and innovation and they are less inhibited when it comes to sharing more radical solutions, so be more like them.
  • Encourage dreams – students often have hopes and dreams and they move towards them with enthusiasm and energy, without being inhibited by those automatic negative thoughts that can hold us back as more established members of the world of work.
  • Embrace emotions – make it ok to have feelings at work. Remember the impassioned debates, late at night over something in your student house?  Don’t kill the passion that makes people individual.  Organisations these days can’t differentiate themselves on the basis of efficiency alone.  Everyone is using more or less the same software, the same processes.  It’s the people that are the real difference.
  • Treat people as individuals – create the environment where people can express what they want and when they want it and feel safe stating their needs. Give them permission to make mistakes and take calculated risks.  We don’t reach our full potential when we are micro-managed.
  • Get curious – learning doesn’t stop immediately after graduation. Encourage questions, exploration, investigation and the mind-set that wants to seek out the answers to problems.  We can be so busy doing endless tasks that we don’t give ourselves time to think and reflect.  Reading books and attending training courses etc. are essential to personal growth.  New graduates often still have a hunger to learn and acquire new knowledge and skills so why don’t most established business leaders and managers invest enough in their personal growth?
  • Have fun – we all knew as students how to work hard but also play hard. Need I say more?

Staying Sane coverFor more tips on enhancing self-awareness, coping with pressure, managing mood, and being mindful have a look at and read Jackie’s flagship book called ‘Staying Sane in Business.’







© Jackie Sykes, (BSc, MSc Occupational Psychology 1996) 2016







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