Robert Burns: five career lessons learned

25th January marks the birthday of Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns. Although Burns Night traditions are being marked differently this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, his timeless words act as a source of inspiration to generations of people.

I have fond memories of being at primary school and learning Burns’ poems to recite at the annual Burns day poetry competition. The achievement of a merit certificate for my recital of ‘To a mouse’ springs to mind! So… my trip down memory lane inspired me to put together this blog highlighting the career lessons learned from Robert Burns:

Be career curious

Throughout his life, Burns was a hard worker and had various jobs: farmer, tax collector and poet.

Finding out about different roles, employers and ways of working, can help determine what is a good fit for you. Our ‘Understand Yourself’ and ‘Discover What’s Out There’ toolkits can help you become more aware of possible options –  get started by logging in to MyEd and Learn, then search for ‘Careers Service Toolkits’ in the self-enrol channel.

Understand which routine works well for you

Burns wrote:

“Up in the morning’s no for me,

   Up in the morning early;

When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,

   I’m sure its winter fairly.”*

Our work and study routines have changed drastically as a result of the pandemic but don’t be tempted to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock during these cold mornings. Get some morning motivation before responding to emails or watching recorded lectures by easing yourself into the day; listen to some of your favourite music with a tea or coffee. Our recent “New year; new semester” blog also provides top tips on keeping your motivation on track throughout this semester.

Research what the employer is looking for

Burns was aware of the importance of understanding his audience – he set off on various tours of Scotland to research its traditions. Regardless of the role you’re applying for, there are steps you can take to be application ready – take time to review your skills and experience. Use our guides to ensure your CV or application reflects what employers are looking for and catches their attention for the right reasons.

“No” stands for next opportunity

Things don’t always go to plan; be resilient. As Burns said:

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley”.**

Although he wasn’t successful as a farmer, Burns’ back up plan of publishing his book of poems certainly worked and the rest is history!

The ability to bounce back after a disappointment or set back will help you to be flexible in your career planning and adapt well to uncertainty in an ever-changing environment. Our webpage provides advice on how to develop resilience.

Stand out on social media

Burns didn’t have the luxury of social media to promote or publish his work like we do today! Social media is an excellent platform to showcase your skills and experience to prospective employers. However, there are so many social media options to choose from, where do you focus your efforts to stand out?  Start by watching our ‘Getting the most out of LinkedIn’ video which provides advice on creating an effective profile, using LinkedIn for careers research and making connections.

Although the traditional Burns Night celebrations have been shelved until next year, you can still celebrate at home:

  • Historic Environment Scotland are hosting a free Virtual Burns Night, Monday 25th January, 5pm. Follow their guides throughout Stirling Castle and hear some of Burns work.
  • The Nest Collective are running a free live ceilidh online via YouTube, Monday 25th January, 8pm. Join in at home.
  • VisitScotland has compiled a Burns Night Spotify playlist.
  • Test your knowledge of Burns with this quiz from The Herald Scotland.

So dig out your tartan, tuck into some haggis, recite some poetry and raise a wee dram of whisky in honour of the life and works of Robert Burns.

Enjoy your night, for Burns will be with us:

“Till a’ the seas gang dry”.***


*        When all the hills are covered with snow, winter has arrived.

**      Often go wrong

***    An infinite length of time


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