Careers advice I wish I could give my younger self
Do you sometimes feel like everyone else has got it together and you are making things up as you go along? In actuality, many professionals are just better at winging it than the rest of us. This is some careers advice I wish I could give my younger self. And there’s more.
I wish that my younger self had known that there is no such thing as a fool-proof career plan. Everyone is different and half of the advice you receive will be irrelevant to you. There are a lot of things that you need to try out for yourself but equally some hindsight is universal.
Don’t be afraid to ask for training
If you are not taught how to do something then you may never learn. Employment is more than the job you are doing right now. Personal development within a role, then beyond that role, is beneficial to both you and your current or potential employers. To develop, it is important to be trained.
Most workplaces will have a training budget but some are more generous than others in letting you grow your skills within a role. Cynically speaking, a lot of employers will be content to train you only as far as the boundaries of your current role. It takes a confident person to demand anything more.
Training is something that I wish I had been more assertive about asking for earlier in my career. Extra training courses look great on your CV and are a lot easier to complete if funded by your employer. If you come across a course that you think may progress you within your current role, then bring it up with your manager. The worst that will happen is they will say no.
Know your worth
A lot of graduates are put off by the jargon surrounding job roles and are reluctant to apply for anything that doesn’t say ‘graduate role’. Obviously, I am not saying that you should apply for that Directorial role straight out of your Undergrad; you do need to make sure your skills and abilities match the job description. However, impostor syndrome is something you are not alone in suffering from. We all doubt our accomplishments at times.
Just because your current role says assistant does not mean that you shouldn’t aim for an officer or coordinator position next. As long as you feel you meet the person specification then do not be afraid to apply. As with everything relating to the job world, the worst that will happen is that you will not get an interview.
You will hear this over and over again; the benefits of volunteering for your wellbeing, your career prospects and your community are difficult to overstate. Students are constantly reminded that your degree is only a piece of the puzzle and that work experience, be it paid or voluntary, is needed to secure a position after graduation.
Although I was undoubtedly told this, I never truly understood it until I sat on the other side of the fence, assisting with interviews for internships. If every student comes through with a degree from the same university then it is the extra voluntary experience that sets them apart from the masses.
As a student studying towards my degree, I thought I had no time for volunteering. As a graduate, working two part-time jobs with freelance writing on top, I now know what having no time really means. I wish I had dedicated more of my time to gaining more voluntary experience during my university years. You are unlikely to have the same chances again.
Sometimes a job is just a job
Don’t beat yourself up about it; we all need to make money to live. Ultimately, the dream is to achieve a job that is more than just a way to pay the bills, but not everyone is at that stage yet.
University is expensive. Needing to get any kind of full-time job to balance the books after studying is something I know I was not alone in realising. Maybe the job you really want asks for several years’ experience in the field? You can take a year out working somewhere that is not quite what you envisioned entering into your degree. See it as a stepping stone, not as a rock in your path.
You don’t need to have it all planned out
From a young age, I had a clear idea of the sort of jobs that I would like to do when I grew up. I always knew heritage was where my interest lay. I cheerfully slogged through my undergraduate history degree and then my postgraduate with little doubt that it was the right path for me. I emerged with two degrees and a fair amount of voluntary experience under my belt.
As Captain Picard once said: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”
Like many before me, I have ended up compromising on my ‘dream job’. I found that my chosen career path, coupled with the current economic climate, lends itself towards fixed term or part-time roles with all the stability of a broken floor tile. It was not a case of seamlessly stepping from degree to full-time career as I had naively hoped.
On the other hand, I have come across jobs that 10-year-old me could not even have imagined would exist. With advances in technology and changes in society, new jobs are literally created every day. It doesn’t matter if you have planned your whole life or have no idea what you want to do with next month. Searching for a career is not an exact science and everyone takes different paths to get to where they need to be.
You are on the right track for you.
Cat Dennis is a history graduate living and writing in Canterbury. For more, visit Cat’s blog.