Pushing Toward Employment Nirvana – Part 2: Career Goals & Ideas

talking biz (photo by caito)

I’ve changed a great deal over the years. What I knew at 10 years of age was different to what I knew at 15. What I knew at 15 was nothing like the knowledge I possessed at 18. My outlook as a humble Fresher was nothing like my perspective when I had finished my degree.

What did you want to grow up to be when you were younger? At one point I wanted to be a teacher. Most of my class wanted to be a teacher, or a Mummy, or “what daddy does”. That desire was very short lived. For a couple of years later down the line, I wanted to be a solicitor. I don’t know why, but it interested me. I did some work experience at a local firm of solicitors and found it fun, but not something I wanted to commit all my time to.

I tell you all this because, as degree students, we sometimes forget how close we are to the need to find employment. After years of plucking various careers out of the air, we may start to believe how difficult it is to consider what we really want to ‘grow up’ to be. Your degree course may not have any real bearing on what you want to do after you’ve finished uni.

But it’s never too early to focus on your future. Even if you still have one of those ‘unrealistic’ ambitions that your parents didn’t believe was possible to achieve, it’s time to give it serious thought and see just how far you can take it. The earlier you pick up on a possible career, the further you can project yourself at the necessary moments. Gaining your degree is only part of it. Graduation is not in itself an easy path to money. Not even with a sparkly First Class Honours…

And if you’re doing a vocational course already, don’t forget to consider other career options and the various ways in to a number of occupations. Just like those people taking more academic and less vocational degrees, you would be wise to consider a number of career options, even if you decide later that none of them seem as promising. Closing doors before you’ve even considered something is a bad move. Similarly, travelling down a career path that doesn’t light up your own mind is not the best way to start.

To get a grasp of how your future might be shaped, first ask yourself some questions to get a clearer understanding of what you want. However well you think you know yourself, when you really consider the answers, new elements of thought sometimes shoot out and surprise you. Try to answer these questions and write the answers down if it helps:

1. What interests you?
2. What are you good at?
3. What are you looking for more, money or quality of life?
4. Do you know of any ethical barriers to certain jobs you might otherwise be good at? Is there any way around the barriers?
5. Do you want a long and steady employment, or a rough and ready employment? Long wick, or burn out?
6. Are you looking to continue your study? Why? For educational reasons, career purposes, or just to avoid the scary real world? 😉

The answers you give need to be true to yourself. They may have pushed some careers ideas into your mind, or you may be just as clueless as when you first started. Either way, you have some solid information about what you want. So it’s time to take the next step:


This takes two slightly different forms, based on whether or not you know what path you want to take…

Don’t panic about this. Even after considering what you want and have drawn a few blanks, it’s not a big surprise. The majority of students are not certain of their future plans, even if it looks like they all are. But it’s all the more reason to get some help in moving on and find out what’s out there once your academic days are over.

Before you do anything else, I suggest you check out your careers service. Okay, I have never been a big fan of getting a stranger to tell you what career paths you’d be best suited to based on surveys, personality tests, interests, degree/A-Level subjects, extra-curricular successes, previous employment, etc.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check it out and go through the motions. The final decision is yours, so all you need to do is remember that you are getting ‘advice’. It’s not a magic wand to all your problems and it’s not a direct command to do EXACTLY what the adviser is pointing you toward.

If you’re still not sure what interests you, it might be wise to take a wide selection of careers leaflets and booklets, in order for you to get a feel of what’s on offer. Seeing the outer shell of some career paths helps to shine a light on where you’d feel most comfortable and in control.

In Wednesday’s post, I will be suggesting ways to focus on your interests and think carefully about what you’re good at. It is another way to kickstart the brain into plotting the future and knowing how to show your true colours and shine.

You are in a positive position, but it’s not enough to have something in mind and then wait until nearer the time. Getting the initial work out of the way will help to focus you further, change your plans if a particular career sounds different to what you had imagined, give you time to dig much deeper than most potential candidates for future jobs, and understand more fully how you can climb that ladder and which direction you might be going in.

You can do all of the following:

  • Check out graduate employment and careers advice websites;
  • Search for companies that specialise in the type of career you are looking to set yourself up in;
  • Contact those companies for more information and possible ways in that they focus on;
  • Read the marketing information from these companies. Also check out their report and accounts. Some companies, especially the bigger ones, will have specific graduate advice that would be well worth reading as soon as you can (remember that the details may change and it would be wise to get the latest documentation nearer the time of applying);
  • Look up the trade associations and institutions that focus on the career you’re looking into;
  • Try getting some work experience or even a summer work placement at one of the companies on your list;
  • Speak to your careers advisers and see what information they can give you. Not only should you receive quite a lot of useful literature on your chosen path, but you should also be pointed in the right direction to other forms of advice. You may even learn of work opportunities that you would never have considered on your own.

Over the years, it doesn’t matter how dedicated we are about an aspect of life if we find annoyances to cloud our way. This is true for pursuing a career too.

Just like your time at university, you need to maintain an effective work/life balance. If your dream career doesn’t match up with the luxury lifestyle you live, a compromise has to be made. Maybe the perks will be better as you climb the job ladder. Maybe you can do without buying half the things you’re currently used to.

So before you go any further with those elaborate plans on how you’re going to become rich/famous/powerful/respected/comfortable (delete as applicable!), find out if that plan is realistic. Not all sparkling careers have vast salaries attached to them and not all highly paid jobs are full of fun and wonder. If you find you’ve been fooling yourself, it’s time for a rethink!

On Wednesday, I’m looking at how you can uncover your abilities and experiences you had forgotten about or didn’t even know you had.

This article is part of the Pushing Toward Employment Nirvana Series.  The full content links are: