When your career path is not exactly a straight line
How to get there valuing your previous experiences and not loosing the way
You may be one of the lucky graduates who knew right away what they wanted to do and where they intended to work. But the journey to your dream job may be long, full of unexpected obstacles, and not as smooth as you initially expected it to be. Getting to the perfect job will, most probably, not happen immediately after graduation. Actually, in most case, it is a long and complex process, and often not a straight line. So, here are some tips to help you make the utmost of the journey and challenges you will most probably meet on your way there.
As someone once told me: “half the fun is getting there“. Despite all the challenges to face and the potential issues to solve, enjoy this particular journey! And take every failure more as an opportunity to learn and grow, than a failure as such. So, good luck in your next steps!
How to get there: use your skills and develop new ones
When looking for your first job, there may be several different opportunities you would like to take or fields you may want to work in; or, conversely, only a few specific opportunities. Before getting frustrated and scared by your lack of experience, limited number of positions and absence of practical knowledge in the field, make a personal assessment and ask yourself:
- What are my skills?
- In which positions could I work to use and develop those skills?
- What are my weak points?
- How could I improve them?
If you have already done an internship or a traineeship, or you are volunteering for an association, summarise which tasks you have performed and what those experiences have taught you. These questions will help you assess what you can do and where. The aim is not to get the perfect job tomorrow, but to go somewhere where you can develop your skills that will valued and valuable for you in the future. In a few words: build a skills portfolio and a practical knowledge of a specific field.
Meet and discuss with people
Discussing with people active in your field and with a specific knowledge of a profession is the best way to learn about it. By speaking with relevant people, you will be able to identify potential challenges in your field, but also build your network and key personalities. Go visible!
If you have the opportunity to do so, go to conferences: dare to discuss with people in person, but before going there prepare your own elevator pitch, rehearse a short presentation of yourself and list potential questions for your interlocutors. You can also become a member of a professional association. If meeting people in person is not doable for you, a good online tool to use is LinkedIn. Regularly update your profile and post once a week something related to your field – a news item, a decision, an article. Avoid putting your personal opinion, just summarise the content of your post in one line. You can also comment on relevant post by asking questions or clarifications. Follow key personalities in your field and contact a few of them for advice. People love to share their experience with you, and by gathering knowledge you will be also developing your own brand (but stay humble!).
Make an assessment of every experience you have
A career is not a straight line anymore. Do not consider as weaknesses your lack of experience; work experiences that are far from the job you are applying for; or a CV that is filled in with short-term experiences. On the contrary see all this as a sign of your adaptability and flexibility. But be smart and point out what you have learnt in previous experiences that will be useful in the position you are applying for. At the same time, explain how you intend to develop your skills and knowledge in this new company. It is all in showing your true motivation! Learn to appreciate and value your choices – each of them had a very specific reason behind it and you should never be ashamed of it.
by Marie Barani