Self awareness

Your ideal career… or not?

In a perfect world, you understand your skills, your strengths and your motivations. You do some research on jobs, you find the one which fits best, make a compelling application and “hey presto”, you’ve embarked on your ideal career.  Sadly, it doesn’t always work like this. These things are important, but sometimes life just seems to get in the way.

Are these dilemmas familiar?

Businessman standing looking at jigsaw puzzle in cloudy desert setting

1. You have been unwell and your marks have suffered as a result. Someone has told you that you can’t get a graduate job without a 2:1, which you are unlikely to get now.

2. You want a job which would require more study, but you can’t afford it at the moment.

3. You want be close to your boyfriend/girlfriend/Mum/utterly adorable baby nephew, but he or she lives on the tiny Scottish island of Ulva, and you were rather hoping to start a career in the City.

4. You are a mature student. You want to work full-time but the eldest of your three children has only just started school, so you have child-care responsibilities which you can’t avoid, (and certainly don’t want to).

5. You hate this whole capitalist consumerist profit-making nonsense and want no part in it, but you don’t much like the idea of moving back with Mum and Dad either.

There’s no magic solution!

Although these are invented examples, all of us in the team of career consultants regularly have these kinds of conversations with students and recent graduates. If you’re hoping there’s a nice easy solution coming up in the next sentence or two, then – spoiler alert – there isn’t. But my experience of conversations which go beyond simple careers queries suggest there are two things which it might be helpful to share:

Don’t assume that something is impossible.

needle_in_haystack150Sometimes people make the assumption that things are impossible, often without even checking whether their assumptions are accurate. ‘Difficult’ is not the same as ‘impossible’! Of course you have more work options with a 2:1, but in fact it’s only the largest and most popular companies which insist on it. Even many of those will be sympathetic if you can provide evidence that illness affected your grades. Any assumption that a 2:2 is valueless is simply wrong. (Now’s the time to read our post on what to do with a 2.2). Once you’ve got a few years of successful work experience behind you, employers are unlikely to pay much attention to your degree classification.

Meanwhile our parent has obligations, but we don’t know whether he or she has considered all the options. Does the work have to be full time?  Who else might share the child-care? Our anti-capitalist may have to work hard to find a suitable job in a non-profit making organisation, but such opportunities do exist. She or he may well be able to earn enough to live independently.  There are students who achieve just that, every single year.

Decisions have consequences.

There is no such thing as a decision which has no consequences, and even avoiding a decision turns out to have consequences, but careful consideration of the consequences may help to clarify which decision looks right. Simple approaches can be powerful. Divide a sheet of paper in half lengthways. Write your equivalents of ‘Move to Ulva’ and ‘Move to London’ on the top of each half. Fold it in half the other way and label ‘Advantages’ and ‘Disadvantages’. Which list is the longer? Which of the (dis)advantages do you feel most strongly about? The only person who can make decisions, such as whether being geographically close to people in their life that they care about is more important than a lucrative career, is the person affected.

Fortunately, we will never know whether life would have been better or worse if we’d made a different decision! But making sure that you are aware of the full range of options, and are going into any decision confident that you have considered the likely consequences, may help to move things forward. You may find that arranging a discussion with a careers consultant can help you put your own priorities and ideas in order.

Just in case you were wondering….

Mull, Scotland - Aprile 21, 2014 : Old promotional sign for tourism on the Isle of Ulva, Inner Hebrides of Scotland

You may not need to know this, but for your information Ulva is 7 ½ miles long and 2 ½ miles wide and a few hundred metres by ferry from the Isle of Mull. The Isle of Mull is 338 square miles and a 45 minute ferry ride from mainland Scotland. Mull has a population of 2,800 and Ulva a population of 11. The most successful “Ulvan” was probably Lachlan MacQuarie, who became the first governor of New South Wales.

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