Many of you have taken on board the message that early career planning is a good thing but then get stuck trying to decide what to do – and do nothing – or consider options that aren’t the best fit. Students often comment: “my flatmates are applying to do law and banking – maybe that’s what I should do?” and this is sometimes accompanied by wistfulness or envy….how come other students seem so sure and so confident about their choices!?
Plenty of you feel panicked into applying for graduate jobs, as it feels better to do something than sit and procrastinate. However, this can often prove to be counter-productive. Recruiters can spot a lack of focus or clear motivation a mile off and typically these applications find end up on the reject pile. One rejection is hard to swallow but multiple rejections can be pretty demotivating.
Why is it difficult to make career plans?
Often it’s because nothing really stands out. Maybe you’re a good all-rounder with no strong preferences. Perhaps you’re fearful of making the wrong decision? Or maybe you’re so busy enjoying life as a student, that you’re putting career decision-making on the back burner for a while?
You’re not alone
Many, many students are unsure what they want to do beyond university, so you are not alone and it is quite normal to feel pretty clueless about your career path. But the good news is you can move from a position of anxiety and uncertainty to one of greater clarity and confidence. Here’s how:
Find out what makes you tick
Ask yourself the following: what motivates/energises you; what are you good at; what do you enjoy; what are your priorities; what are your non-negotiables; what matters most to you? It may have to complete some of our online self-evaluation activities and if you’re looking to take it a step further why not try TARGETjobs Careers Report or Prospects Planner.
See a careers consultant
Many people mistakenly feel they must have an idea before they can come and discuss this. Not so. Careers consultants are trained to work in partnership with you to explore ideas and options. Sometimes you need a nudge to get you started – talking to someone might just help. Don’t forget careers consultants are impartial and are not invested in any particular outcome, beyond helping you discover what’s best for YOU. We can also help you to narrow down the possibilities if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Follow your curiosity
Sometimes the things which absorb us in our spare time can provide clues as to where we are most fulfilled. This doesn’t always translate well into a career, but some lucky folk are able to combine both. Don’t worry if you decide on something that doesn’t relate to your degree discipline. The skills and experience you’ve gained through your degree will never be wasted. You might become one of those individuals who unearth a job by ‘chance conversations’ with interesting people. Read up on Planned Happenstance to see if this approach could work for you.
Interview 6 people
Find six people you don’t know well and ask them to share their career stories. It’s fascinating to hear how other people get to their current position. You might be surprised at their routes and could learn something that might apply to your own job search. Start tapping your networks: why not ask one of your primary connections on LinkedIn to introduce you to other people. Pretty soon, you’ll have more than six to choose from! It’s also worth tapping icould and CareerPlayer for video inspiration.
Don’t make assumptions
Remember that most recruiters aren’t looking for a specific degree unless they’re recruiting for technical or scientific roles. This gives you a vast array of careers – and job functions – to choose from. It’s also wise to consider the SME (small to medium-sized recruiters) route, as this can be good way to gain a breadth of experience early on. Not to mention early responsibility. SMEs need graduates who are willing to get stuck in and apply their problem solving skills across the business, not just a niche area. Local SMEs have a strong showing at the Summer Careers Fair this year so come along and find out more!
Sometimes we can be frozen into inaction through indecision. The only way to approach this: do something. Why not try out a short work experience placement just to see how you feel about it. If you’re lucky you might enjoy it and decide it’s the right area for you but if not, well – what have you lost? Nothing. In fact, you’ve got something to put on your CV and have eliminated a career sector – it’s just as important to know what you don’t want to do. Remember experience is never wasted and in time you’ll start to become clearer about your likes and dislikes.
Accept there is no magic wand
If you’ve ever attend careers or alumni events, you’ll be struck by how many grads have taken a more meandering path to career success. A good number will tell you they didn’t plan to do the job they’re currently in. Most careers are not a vertical take -off with predictable progression. Most are like crazy paving! Just make sure to keep building your network, making contacts and trying to ‘stand in the path of opportunity’.
Maybe there are opportunities which are not a ‘perfect fit’ but might be a good starting point. Given the fluctuating nature of the jobs market, consider taking something from which you may be able to gain valuable experience and move sideways from later on.
Don’t forget that our summer workshop programme – the Finalist Career Success Toolkit – is now open for bookings. It’s never too late to start thinking about your career. Just don’t leave it so late that time and opportunity pass you by. Make the most of us while you’re still on campus. We’d love to see you!