Introduction to how to choose a career
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
Many students don't have much time to spend in career planning during their degree course. You may be too busy working to earn money to pay your way through university, or perhaps you are a mature student with a young family that you need to support. You may be too busy to regularly visit the Careers Service. These pages will allow you to do much of this career planning via the web.
First let's look at what factors go into choosing a career:
Choosing a career involves 4 main stages:
- Self Awareness
- Opportunity Awareness
- Decision Making
- Taking Action
Sometimes these stages will overlap and sometimes you have to return to a previous stage Be aware the cycle is not always as linear and consistent as it is presented here.
The first stage of Career Choice is Self Awareness. This involves looking at your SKILLS, VALUES, INTERESTS and PERSONALITY and analysing where your strengths and weaknesses lie. This is important both in choosing the right career and also for success in applications and interviews where you will find many questions which test whether you have been through this process.
You can start with looking at your SKILLS here. You can now also look at your INTERESTS , VALUES and PERSONAL STYLES on the web.
Once you have done some preliminary self analysis, the next stage is to gather information on the opportunities open to you. There is a range of resources to help you here:
There is a range of general careers talks each term which are listed here
There may also be specific careers education programmes for your degree subject, usually during your second year of study.
Information on what you can do with your degree subject
A major recruiter of graduates, annoyed with the great expense of running their annual graduate recruitment programme, decided on a radical new approach to save money. When the student arrived for interview they were taken to a room with just a table and two chairs. They were then left alone for two hours for two hours, without any instructions. At the end of that time, the HR manager went back and see what the student was doing.
If they had taken the table apart, they were put in Engineering.
Many jobs are open to graduates of any degree subject, and it's important not to only focus on the jobs related to your degree, but if you are doing a vocational degree, or simply want to find out what previous Kent graduates in your subject have gone on to do, the following resources should help.
Early in your course you should look at the Work Experience open to you. As well as allowing you to earn money, they may allow you to gain relevant skills and perhaps an insight into the types of job you are interested in, putting you at the head of the queue when you eventually apply for jobs.
The Careers Information Room has a wide variety of booklets, reference files, books, DVD's and computer programmes you can use.
You may like to enter Postgraduate Study instead of directly entering a job, or it may be required for a particular career such as law or teaching. Here it may be important to apply early in your final year and to look at whether funding will be available to pay for the course.
INFORMATION FOR SPECIFIC GROUPS
We try to cater for all Kent students whatever their needs: Mature Students, Students with Disabilities, International Students, Ethnic Minority Students, Women Students. Sometimes this may affect your career choice - for example, mature students often enter public sector jobs and the helping careers where greater life experience may be to their advantage.
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKBOOKS
Unusual jobs entered by Kent graduates
- "Career Management Skills" - a profiling and self-awareness booklet for 1st Year students. See our web version
- "Postgraduates and Contract Researchers" - a booklet specifically for these groups. See our Web version.
The computer programs below allow you to put in a number of factors on what you want in a career (such as helping others, promotion prospects) and will give suggestions of possible careers which might match these. Regard these as useful suggestions rather than gospel truth, but they should bring up some possibilities that you haven't considered before.
Prospects Planner www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Pplanner is a powerful program to help you choose a graduate career. It allows you to answer questions about your values and interests and then to relate these to a database of hundreds of occupations to get suggestions on appropriate careers.
Alternatively Careers Explorer is a quick and simple program which will also suggest graduate careers
Talk to graduates already working in your chosen career area. You can use the Kent Alumni Careers Network to contact a graduate directly. Work shadowing (spending a day with) a person in the career you are considering is the next best thing to actually doing a job, to find out what it is like. If you have done this, you will come across as much better prepared at interviews.
Of course, the other important part in making decisions is discussing it with other people. Friends, family and tutors can all play an important part here . The Duty Careers Adviser is available every day without an appointment for a short discussion and can often help to inject reality into your ideas for example, pointing out that you may need to fund your way through a postgraduate course to enter your chosen career.
This is the final process of career planning. It involves:
First look at the Timeline, which gives you an idea of what you should be doing when during your time at UKC in terms of Career Planning.
Sometimes you may have to return to previous stages in the process, for example, if you are not able to get into your first choice career
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
From Steve Jobs address to Stanford University graduates in 2005
Having a career strategy is important. It can help you manage the direction you want your career to take, the job skills and knowledge you will need, and how you can get them.
Do you need help developing or reviewing your career strategy? We have developed a simple, five-step plan to help you head in the right direction.
A great career strategy relies on strong foundations
The form of your career strategy will depend on the kind of person you are. It may be very structured, or you may just need a few notes in each area - such as knowledge, skills and qualities, what you like doing and the type of jobs that interest you.
Step 1: Self-assessment helps you understand your personal and career goals, your interests, preferences, strengths and weaknesses.
Step 2: Consider your career options and identify which available roles fit your interests and abilities.
Step 3: Decide on your career goals
Step 4: Develop and implement a career strategy
Step 5: Review and adjust your career strategy
Step 1 Self-assessment
Consider what is important to you. We all have different values, needs and motivations. Our work takes up a significant part of our day - usually a third or more - and has a significant impact on other aspects of our life, including our sense of self-worth and wellbeing. This is why it is very important to carefully consider your values and needs when planning your career direction and developing your career strategy.
Use these exercises to help you establish your life values:
- career planning chart
- examining life values
- career/life planning timeline.
- general requirements of a job.
These exercises will help you decide your essential and preferred job requirements:
- where am I right now?
- motivated abilities patterns
- career questions.
Skills, knowledge and personal qualities
It is important to understand your skills, knowledge and personal qualities so you can match them to jobs you would like to do. This will also help you identify the knowledge and skills you might need to acquire, or the personal qualities you might need, to achieve your career goals. An accurate and realistic assessment of these things is vital to an achievable career strategy.
This kind of understanding is a powerful aid when selling yourself for potential jobs. It will also boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Try to think of your skills in terms of those that are transferable and those that are specialised. Think about how the skills you use in one job could be used or adapted elsewhere. A smart career strategy needs to be flexible and adaptable. So describe your skills in a way that makes them applicable to the widest range of situations.
To assess your skills, knowledge and personal qualities, use these exercises:
- what are my skills?
- what are my job requirements?
- what are my short- and long-term goals?
Career planning barriers
Despite working hard on your career strategy, you might sometimes come up against obstacles or hindrances you were unaware of or had not considered. The 'Examining the barriers using force field analysis' exercise will help you to explore those obstacles.
Step 2 Consider the options
Often, the most difficult part of career strategy and planning is finding out what jobs are likely to suit you best. The good news is your choice might be wider than you had realised. It's important to consider each of the options against your values and preferences. Your options are broadly described in the table below. You can also get more information about jobs in government by browsing these links:
Step 3 Decide on your goals
Now it is time to make some decisions. Carefully consider the information you have gathered. If you have completed the 'career/life planning timeline', you might have already decided on your career goals (the cornerstone of career strategy) and be ready to enter them on your career planning chart.
If you are yet to decide on your career goals, or you want to revise them, start by considering your career goals for the next two years. What do you want to be doing in two years' time? What about five and ten years' time? This kind of thinking helps break down big picture career strategy and planning into manageable pieces.
The SMARTER system can be useful for planning your career goals:
Specific: be as clear as you can and avoid ambiguous statements.
Measurable: so you can see what you have achieved.
Achievable: provides motivation, but also keep your goals reachable.
Realistic: be reasonable and avoid the realms of fantasy.
Timely: create timeframes for completing steps, for example, doing short courses or talking with someone about the skills required for a particular job.
Empowering: make sure your goals feel right for you and help you make the changes you want.
Reviewable: do not set your goals in concrete; be flexible.
Write clearly defined, short statements you can work towards. If you are unable to identify a specific job you want, indicate your goals in more general terms. This is all part of good career strategy foundations. But remember: the more specific you can be, the easier it will be to plan. For example: I want to work in an office, in the Bendigo area, four days per week providing advice to the public.
You might have more than one idea in mind and might want to keep your options open. In this case, specify your goals, but bear in mind it is unlikely you will realise all of them, so plan accordingly. You can begin to prepare yourself for all your options, and over time you will probably find yourself gradually become clearer about what you want to do, and the goals you are capable of fulfilling.
Step 4 Develop and implement your career strategy
Now you have decided on your goals, you can develop an action plan to help you put your career strategy into action. Remember, planning will increase the likelihood of success, but it's important to remain flexible and open-minded. You might have a couple of choices that interest you so take opportunities to prepare for both.
As you progress, your ideas might become more specific. The career planning chart provides a simple way to put the information together. As a starting point, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Career planning checklist
- Do you need additional job skills, experience or information?
- What areas of yourself will you need to develop?
- Do you need to develop a wider network or links with specific people?
- Is there a course you need to do (perhaps to gain specific qualifications or skills)?
- Do you need to find ways to demonstrate your skills and knowledge so you can provide evidence of what you can do?
- What actions do you need to take to realise your career goals?
- Do you need to find out more about what would be required to achieve your career goals?
- Do you need to find out more about what is available? If so, how will you do this?
- What kind of work experience would be helpful to you?
- What new job skills or knowledge will you need?
- Do you need to demonstrate you have job skills in particular areas?
- Are there contacts you can make, or relationships you can develop, that might help you?
- Are there any changes you could make to the way you deal with people or work situations that might increase your likelihood of achieving your goals? How will you start to do this?
- Who can you discuss your goals with? When will you do this?
- Are you clear about the type of work you would like to do? How can you clarify this further?
- Do you have a supportive network? Do you believe you are recognised as able to contribute information to this network? If not, what could you do about this?
- Do you have a mentor with whom you can discuss both the technical content and the intangibles of your job? If not, have you thought about finding a mentor? Is there someone in your workplace or elsewhere you could approach?
- Do you need to make some radical changes to your present direction? What are the first steps to achieving this change in direction and how will you take these steps?
- Do you think you will need to undertake further study? What steps could you take to do this?
- Do you feel in charge of your own career direction? If not, how can you gain more confidence and take charge?
When preparing your career strategy action plan, include WHAT you will do and HOW you will do it. Make a list of people whose help you will seek and draw up a time plan of WHEN you will do each action. The timeframe should be at least 12 months, however, a longer period may be appropriate.
Step 5 Review and adjust your plan
Career planning is a way of making the best use of your current situation and foreseeable opportunities. Given that unpredictable events and changes can occur over time, view your plan as a guide and allow space for adjustments and changes to your approach.
Draw on your experiences at work to help you achieve your goals. You will generally find it helpful to revisit your plan each year. Remember, the career strategy you put in place at one stage of your life may not be relevant once you have achieved certain goals and experienced other job and life events.
Revisiting your strategy will help to reinforce and clarify your thinking, and can help you decide if you need to change your career strategy, seek help or advice or put more effort into achieving your goals.
Personal career planning journals
Keep an ongoing journal or record of your achievements and the training and development activities you have done. Include any work experience you gain and outline what you learned from the experience. Retain any letters or other communications that provide feedback about your work or other matters, and refer to them when you apply for new positions. Reflection and documentation provide assistance with ongoing career strategy planning.
Many people find a loose-leaf ring-binder is ideal as a career planning journal, but choose a system that works for you. The journal will help you understand your career development and will be a useful resource when you apply for new positions.