We like to imagine that most people who emerge from university enter “the real world” with an intended career in mind for which they likely prepared by way of their education and experience gathered along the way via work experience and/or internships.
The truth is, however, that the road to that career is paved with a mishmash of stepping stones, some of which may or may not pertain to an individual’s specific goal. Setbacks in studies and working the odd job here and there may signify a detour from the straight and narrow but this idea could not be more incorrect.
On the contrary, it helps to view every opportunity or experience as a chance to attain new skills that will contribute to improving in one’s ideal career but at the same time, this does not mean throwing caution to the wind with the reassurance of ending up at your destination. In order to optimize your opportunities, strengths, and precious time, consider several ways to grow in the direction of your preferred career path.
The most important step is to identify the career(s) best suited for both your needs and ambitions. Unless you are in a financial pinch or do not yet have the expertise required for a given job, try to apply for positions that are aligned with your goals. Even better, choose positions that provide exposure to the world of your ideal career by enabling you to practice what may amount to your future work.
On the other hand, if you are unable to afford to be choosy with your jobs, envision each one as a stepping stone that offers equally valuable learning opportunities and skills available to be employed in your next job or used to advertise yourself to future employers.
To aid in the quest to find the most appropriate job for you, research is crucial — researching qualifications, employers, salaries and even potential interview questions. Reading online reviews of companies is especially useful in helping you determine if their values and practices are the best fit for you. If you have goals you are aiming for and if you do not have outstanding financial or professional needs to meet, do not settle for just any position unless you are confident it will provide the experience you need an environment in which you will thrive. At the same time, it helps to be practical. The perfect job for you may exist but may not come your way and as a result, you will need to make necessary compromises. In addition, be aware of the consequences of taking on a position that is beyond your capabilities. Be realistic by knowing your abilities and limits as well as knowing how to challenge yourself.
When you finally set your mind on a position or several, prepare for one of the greatest opportunities for personal improvement. Proving your value to an employer is one of many chances to analyze your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences in relation to your career when you advertise yourself. This is no time for false modesty! Perform well on your interviews with the confidence that you are gaining professional experience by assessing the qualities expected of you and making connections. However, the same amount of experience can be found in failing, which is another reality of climbing the career ladder. Accepting rejection is yet another chance for growth and better still when you learn that the best option is to always have a plan and press on.
Every step forwards or backwards is a learning experience and the process of applying, being rejected from, and succeeding in obtaining positions until you reach your desired rung on the career ladder is often a lengthy but rewarding one.