Career Searching…It’s Good To Be Picky Sometimes

Choosing a career path can be a hard decision for the majority of students. The long hours spent in online research, opaque corporate websites and other application paraphernalia is enough to drive anyone crazy. This post aims to highlight my opinions on key things a student should consider before embarking on the job application process.

I’m not going to bore you with the ‘what do you enjoy thing?’, which many advice sites mention; I disagree with this because if you already knew, you wouldn’t be looking for advice! However, I do think it is important to ask yourself certain broad questions, like ‘Am I able to work well in a team?’ or ‘How good am I at public speaking?’ These are just two examples off the top of my head, but chances are that most jobs will require you to have those sorts of skills, so it’s good to be aware of that.

A good way to understand this, is thinking back to when you applied to university. A lot of students are just interested with gaining admissions into a certain university or course because of branding and reputation, but don’t actually properly stop and consider what the course itself entails and what life will be like doing that degree. Despite being happy when being made an offer, that can quickly change when a student starts a degree and realises that actually they hate it! Likewise, the most important thing for the prospective job applicant is to get offered a role at a certain company, and once they start working, they discover that they really dislike their work life. The point we are making, is that it would do a world of good for people in both positions to really try and understand what they are getting into, so they don’t end up unhappy later on.

Once you have identified broadly what will be palatable for you in terms of your job, a good way to start narrowing down is thinking about if there is a broad sector of work that you are interested in. This really helps narrow down options. Instead of thinking about ‘I want a job that pays me X amount of money’, it’s better to consider specific sectors that you could be interested in, because the former approach is too generic and non-focused. For example, you could have a broad idea that you are interested in Law, NGO, or civil service work. Perhaps you are interested in the corporate world, or finance. Having a filter like this helps you to focus and reduces the time wasted considering other areas of work. It helps to make an early decision like this, and then you can really learn in depth about the area of work that interests you, meet people, try and get work experience (I know this is easier said than done, but having narrowed down your options already does help a bit!).

Let’s practically demonstrate what we mean here. Perhaps after a few episodes of Suits and talking to some Law students, you are inclined towards Corporate Law. The first thing you find out is that you don’t need a Law degree to be a lawyer. At this stage your interest may be unfounded but that’s OK. Now that you have a focus on a specific job, you can work towards finding out more about it and quickly deduce if it really does interest you or not. The best starting point is to find out if you know anyone who is a corporate lawyer (family, friends, connections).

This really is the best starting point, as if you can arrange a get together, then that half hour will save you hours of online research, as you will be hearing the information directly from the source. Not only that, but after the meet-up if you find that you liked what they had to say about their job, then you can leverage that contact to help you try and get work experience. They will most likely be able to help you with online forms and interview preparation. Work experience is really the deal maker or breaker for most people, so chances are that at this stage you can make a substantiated final decision.

Now you may ask ‘what if I am interested by more than one line of work?’ That’s absolutely fine, as long as you are making targeted efforts to acquire work experience in each and have a plan. Compare this with this applying to dozens of different places for work experience, most of which you have no interest in, and wasting time. It’s much more efficient that you target a few, try and meet contacts and arrange work experience.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on going about finding the right career path; if you have any thoughts, feel free to comment. Till next time!