Here at Warwick we have a competition this week to promote our Graduate Jobs and Work Experience event on Tuesday. We’re asking students to tweet about their first career ideas. It has made me think about my personal career journey and how my experiences might relate to Generation Y (or Z).
As far as I recall my first career idea was that I would be a nurse. My thinking was that the uniforms were quite pretty, clearly a gender stereotypical choice and deeply impractical since I can’t stand the sight of blood! I think I moved on through a desire to find the cure for cancer, eventually becoming a solicitor.
Job done? I thought so for a while, but actually, no! I found that the lifestyle didn’t work with my young children. After a career break I went into marketing. An administrative restructure and a move 200 miles north and I found myself working in a school supporting students on the C/D GCSE boundary. A further relocation, again following my partner’s change of job, saw me back at University doing the Post Grad Diploma in career guidance, and here I am dispensing information, advice and guidance on careers. So, are there are lessons in this for the current student or new graduate? I think so.
The key to employability is the skills you learn; these are transferable to different fields. You can’t predict the future and how circumstances might dictate your career moves, but building those skills and learning to articulate them efficiently, is likely to see you able to work flexibly in different fields and roles. It’s never too early to develop your experience, remember that you will learn skills from work experience, volunteering, on-campus society involvement, academic group work and from learning to manage your own life. You might draw on all these places in interviews, or on application forms, when you evidence your skills.
Happenstance can have a big impact on your career path, you may well find yourself needing to react to changing circumstances. Once you’ve identified those transferable skills you may have to be flexible when you look to see what jobs might be available to you. You might also need to be rather good at selling those skills to sceptical employers. Never be afraid to explain how you have garnered experience in a “different” way. It might make you the interesting “must be interviewed” candidate for a post. Once you’ve got the interview, it’s all to play for!
Your career will not necessarily follow a straight trajectory. You might be lucky enough to see your salary and terms and conditions improve year on year, but you might also find that life overtakes you and that your priorities change. Don’t be afraid to recognise that at different times of your life, different things will be important. Try to be happy with yourself and with the decisions that you take. Your career is not a monster to be served, it’s your ever changing journey. There was a time in my life when I wanted to earn lots of money and the idea of helping people didn’t really feature. My priorities are different now and that’s fine!
Be ready to embrace the unexpected and perhaps to challenge yourself to think in new ways. Your expectations can be upset at any stage of your career. It may be, that right at the beginning, when you are getting ready to leave university, you can’t get the job you coveted. Aspiration is great but resilience and flexibility are at least as important. If the job you wanted isn’t there yet, then think what else you might enjoy. You might choose something completely different, or you might elect to do something for a while which will enhance your chance of getting the dream job a few months or years down the line. Today’s graduates probably won’t reach retirement age much before 70. You’ve got plenty of time! If you’re in Warwick and feeling uncertain then come along to the Jobs and Work Experience event.
You may find that you can enjoy jobs you never imagined would appeal to you. Don’t be too quick to rule options out, without doing some research to find out what a job might actually entail. Don’t rely on your preconceptions – you could be completely wrong.
The “job for life” idea probably disappeared with your grandparent’s generation. Your career is likely to be a portfolio of different opportunities. Embrace the idea, it’s rather exciting!