career decisions / Self awareness

How to be an effective career planner – my 7 top tips

It is Autumn and that means falling temperatures, leaves falling off trees, the start of a new academic year and the start of another recruitment cycle. It is the time of careers fairs, workshops and presentations and you are probably thinking you should be doing something. Well, are you ready?

Are your career plans in place?

Goal without a plan is just a wishPlanning your career will help you focus on what you want to apply for so take some time and get it right for you. What do we even mean by career planning? It is about taking the time to reflect on yourself, the sector you are interested in and how you can get experience and develop your skill sets to land that role. Often we change our mind about things and we need to be adaptable throughout our career.

Consider your time-frame 

  • Are you a first year? Where would you like to be in three years?
  • Second Year? What have you enjoyed most about your degree? What volunteering have you been involved in? What clubs and societies have you joined and what did you do? Are you thinking of applying for the Exec of your society?
  • Final year? What is your project focusing on? What work experience have you had? What skills did it develop? What did you learn about yourself and the industry you did it in?
  • Are you a Master’s student? Then you will be balancing a heavy timetable with the big graduate recruiter’s deadlines. So you may need to prioritise.

Do`s and don`tsFor some people they have no idea at all what they can do career-wise. Often a careers consultation will begin with a list of the jobs that people don’t want to do. That’s great, as knowing what you don’t want to do is good. We might ask you why you don’t want these jobs, not to convince you to change your mind but to work through your thinking and motivation.

And so to the Top Tips…

1) There are different approaches to successful career planning

Everyone wants to do things differently. Often we see students who are panicked into career planning as they watch their friends going to interview after interview when they haven’t so much as completed an application form. Some people will know exactly what they want to do and have picked their degree specifically to achieve this. Others pick their degree because they enjoy their subject. For some of us it can be hard to unpick the things we have gained from our degree and therefore we struggle to know where it can take us. What suits one person won’t suit another so find out

2) A degree is a starting point, not your final destination.

Start line new road journeyIf you study politics, for example, it doesn’t mean the only options open to you are in politics. You develop transferable skills from your degree, of value in any sector. Check out ‘What can I do with my degree?’ as well as an on-line quiz to help you find that ‘perfect’ career.

3) Understand how your values influence your career choices

Your values are who you are. Spend time thinking about what is important to you. If you are someone who wants to make a difference you need to consider how you are going to achieve this. Do you want a job that changes lives? Helps people to make the most of their skills and abilities? Or maybe you want to influence policy and policy makers.

4) Can you provide evidence of your skills?

Try to move on from just listing the skills you think you have, consider instead what your experiences have taught you. Take time to reflect on the skills you have and where your gaps maybe. Our Moodle course contains a skills audit that you can download to spend time reflecting on

5) What are your expectations?

What Do You Expect?How do they fit with the sector you are entering? If you are applying for a job do you know the salaries offered in the sector? Why are you selecting certain companies? Commercial awareness  is a key skill to develop throughout your career.

6) Self and occupational awareness 

Develop an understanding of both yourself and the sector you want to go into. Are you a good fit? What companies share your values? What do you really know about the sector(s) of interest to you? You may need to research smaller companies that do not attend university careers fairs.

7) How and when will you start on implementing your career plan?

You need to be aware of the deadlines for the schemes you are interested in and think about your back-up options. Balancing study and application deadlines means you need a realistic and achievable plan. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember you have you have access to My Advantage for careers advice and information. Don’t be frightened to ask questions and you don’t have to know what it is that you want to do to talk to us. If you are final year student or even a graduate and still have no idea don’t worry. Come along and talk to a member of the careers service ,that’s what we are here for. Good Luck!

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