I’ve never managed to make any resolutions – much less stick to them – but I do think there’s real value in taking stock. As 2013 fades into collective memory and we look ahead to 2014, it’s worth hitting pause before rushing headlong into the New Year. Too often people reproach themselves for their failures, missed opportunities and wrong turns without taking time to acknowledge the good bits along the way. Success often comes from incremental, small steps, not giant leaps.
Hit pause, not the panic button!
If you’re a final year student and haven’t really thought much about your career until now, try not to panic! It’s better to defer your job search for a while and concentrate on getting that 2:1. Without a good degree, you will find it hard(er) to compete for a graduate level job, much less the highly prized graduate schemes. I am not giving you a free pass to neglect your career development, but you do need to be honest with yourself and decide what is realistic and achievable over the coming months.
Try not to deal in “should”. Should offers nothing but a one-way guilt trip and can make you a hostage to fortune. Yes, you might like to have your job offer in the bag by the time you graduate, but what if this doesn’t happen? Success at this point is not necessarily a comment on your ability or efforts. Set goals but be flexible. Being too rigid in approach is often counter-productive.
Make a checklist of the positive steps you’ve already taken towards career success, whether that’s getting a 2:1 in your second year exams, developing your communication skills or building a professional online presence.
Take small, practical steps
Finding a job is a pretty time consuming process: don’t take the path of least resistance by applying for any and everything. Firing off hundreds of CVs may feel productive, but it’s little more than application spamming…and employers can tell! Secondly, you might just strike it lucky and get a job offer but find this sets you on the wrong career path. Don’t be tempted to skip the most important stage of your job search: research. Until you know what’s out there and how to get it, you’ll simply repeat the same mistakes or see your efforts wasted.
Don’t cut corners and apply for something that isn’t right for you. Take small practical steps instead that will give you a firm anchor until you have the time and motivation to fully commit to your job search.
- Talk to a careers consultant. They can help you make sense of where you are now and offer reassurance that you’re not alone. You may think that everyone else is sorted but they’re really not! I think it’s a great idea to bounce ideas off someone as vocalising your thoughts, dreams and aspirations can help them take shape or force you to consider more realistic alternatives.
- Get your CV and LinkedIn profile up to scratch. This is something tangible you can do now, and it’s also a good way to see how ‘job ready’ you are. Pretending you don’t have gaps in your skills or experience won’t make them disappear. It’s much better to know and take action, than ignore them and hope for the best.
- Start working on examples for competency based application forms. Students often invest a lot of time drafting and polishing their CV and neglect this aspect of the application process. Most recruiters will use some competency based criteria – whether at application or interview stage – so cover the groundwork now and there will be less work to do later on when you come to apply.
- If you haven’t got any work experience, make plans to find some. Fitting a work placement around your studies (and revision) might be a tall order, but it’s not impossible. Come and talk to our Placement Learning Unit and make the most of our ‘Get experience week’ in week 5 of the spring term (details coming soon!)
- Try to plug any skills gaps. If you’re not quite sure what graduate employers are looking for then check out this post from TARGETjobs on skills and competencies for graduates – they’ve even included handy tips to help you develop and evidence these skills. I also really like this blog which takes a more creative approach to workplace skills for young professionals.
- If you’re short on ideas then have a look at What Warwick graduates do? to help broaden your horizons. You never know it might just spark interest in something you’ve never previously considered.
Build your resilience
If you have been on the job search treadmill and simply feel like you’re standing still, now is the time to dig deep. Small changes in behaviour and outlook can yield surprising results. I know it’s not easy to maintain a positive, resilient attitude but it’s one of the building blocks for career success.
- Avoid repeating the same mistakes. If you’ve fired off 200 applications and not received a positive response, it’s pretty clear your strategy isn’t working. There could be myriad reasons for your “failure” but don’t just sit in your room and speculate. Swallow your pride and ask for help.
- Be flexible. The culture of instant gratification has made us all rather impatient, but it’s worth remembering that career spans a lifetime, not just a few years. Don’t lose sight of the long game: you may need to take a few detours along the way, but the “road less travelled” can be just as fulfilling – sometimes more so.
- Ask for feedback. Self-perception is not the most reliable barometer of personal ‘worth’. What do your friends, family and colleagues think about you? Be prepared to take the positive comments with the constructive criticism. Successful people know their limits and play to their strengths. And they don’t give up at the first sign of rejection!
Start as you mean to go on this year by joining our Twitter chat from 6th January to do #1thingin2014. Whether it’s getting your applications checked, booking yourself onto an Excel course or developing your presentation skills. Remember: small steps can lead to big changes….