Are you stuck for career ideas? Or do you know what you want to do but don’t know how to get there? Here are ten tips and techniques to set your feet on the right career path.
Explore your options, make plans and start building a network
1. Keep an open mind
Every career opportunity could lead you somewhere unexpected. What might seem like a way of marking time – say taking a receptionist job at your local climbing wall – might be the start of your dream career. Imagine it – a climbing instructor qualification, a friendship with a mountaineer, a trip to the Andes, filming a documentary, and finally a career as a movie director. You can expect plenty of twists and turns in your career path. If you keep an open mind, you’re less likely to let chances pass you by.
Volunteering helps you gain transferrable skills and discover which aspects of work appeal to you. Small, local organisations offer exceptional opportunities. You’re not tied to an official role. If you prove yourself to be dedicated and a fast learner you’ll get to expand your responsibilities and see more of the organisation. While you might start off shaking a donation box or minding the charity shop, you could end up exploring your skills in management, marketing and more.
3. Make use of small talk
Your mission when mingling – find out about the other person’s career. Ask what they do, why they enjoy it and how they got there. You’ll discover careers you didn’t know existed.
People love talking about themselves! Your victims – ahem, conversation partners – will remember you as attentive and engaging. It’s a great first impression to make on a potential contact.
4. Contacts, contacts, contacts
As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. That can be frustrating, if you don’t fit neatly into the old boys’ club – but if you learn how to play the system you can still make good use of networking.
Start with the obvious – your university lecturers and professors. They can connect you with alumni who had similar skills and goals. Careers fairs, networking events, public lectures and even family friends and neighbours are all great resources in your hunt for a career. Watch this video on how to build your network.
5. Learn the CV basics
One secret to getting hired is sounding good on paper. If you can write a compelling CV and covering letter you’re off to a great start. You’ll need to learn the conventions and get plenty of practice. There’s information online, books to read, and CV clinics to help refine your drafts.
Take the Bright Network Academy module on 'your guide to a stand out CV' to learn more.
6. Find social media role models
If a career idea hits you, find and some people who already do the job and follow them on Twitter. It’ll give you more of an insight into what they do and whether it might suit you. Once you’re sure it appeals, try replying to a few tweets. They’ll probably be happy to answer your questions.
7. Blog about your interests
‘A real interest in X, Y or Z’ – it’s something employers are always looking for. And while anyone can claim that they’re fascinated by the development of programming languages, not many can point to their three years of blogging on the topic. Even if your blog doesn’t turn out to be directly relevant to your career path, it demonstrates that you’re enthusiastic and proactive.
Keep your blog clean and not overly controversial. This is something an employer may read one day.
8. Analyse your passions
The things you love hold a lot of clues to your ideal career. Write down a list of your interests, from debating to decorating to board games. Then look for facets that these things have in common. Whether it’s intricate problem-solving or fast-paced action, you’ll be able to narrow down careers that match those qualities.
9. Try new things
Further to that last point – what if you haven’t found your real passions yet? If you’re still in university, it’s the perfect time for self-discovery. Try out some activities you might not naturally be drawn to. Stuck for ideas? Just tape a list of university societies to a dart board and let fly!
If you’ve already graduated, remember that life isn’t all job hunting. There are plenty of (cheap) events and online communities of enthusiasts to explore.
10. Ask for help
No, you don’t have to sort this out all by yourself. There are hosts of people ready to help you, from careers advisors and lecturers to parents and friends. Remember, an outside perspective can help you understand which career paths might suit you best.
Apply for your dream graduate job today with our handy application page.