Making Career Decisions
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We are all individuals, and the decisions we make have to suit our individual personalities, needs and satisfactions. Whether you have given a lot of thought to your future career or not, this handout is designed to give you some very practical assistance in making your career choices. The golden rule is not to feel pressured into making a quick decision.
Feeling that you are under pressure can actually make it more difficult to sort out ideas in your own mind. Career decision making can be a slow process. Begin by trying a few constructive activities.
Whatever degree you have studied, you have an element of choice in the career that you follow. Initially, try not to say "what job can I do with this degree subject?". Instead, try to start off by looking very broadly at a variety of jobs. Eventually, you will need to come back to your degree subject, but at first you need to be able to let your ideas run freely. You may well feel constrained if you limit your research to jobs that relate directly to your degree.
To make decisions, you need to know enough about the various possibilities. You probably would not choose between six different holidays without knowing something about all of them. The same applies to jobs. One person may love something that you would hate and vice versa, so you need to use any advice or information from others to form your own opinions. Allow yourself some time each week to devote to career activities. Timetable it if you can.
Start your research with "you". Find out more about who you are and what you have to offer. This exercise does involve some work, but after a number of years of study, you are no doubt familiar with the link between doing the background work/research and results! If you spend some time on this you will discover a lot of new things about yourself, or remember things you had forgotten. Writing things down is an important part of the decision making process.
Reflect on your achievements - the easiest way to start is with your academic achievements at school or at university. In many situations, particularly for new graduates with little or no work experience, it is important to go back to school days. Some employers feel quite strongly that a pattern of achievement at that stage is likely to be repeated in later years.
Think about what led you to choose your course of study, and the kinds of strengths you have developed along with specific knowledge gained. Try to identify which courses you enjoyed most and resulted in your best achievements.
Now, think about your other achievements, eg. responsibilities accepted in organisations, within your family, vacation work, socially, etc. You are more than a degree statistic and have other roles in addition to "student" or "graduate". Recall those positive comments that friends, classmates or colleagues at work have made.
"But I haven't got any skills", you might be saying to yourself. Of course you do! We all do! You might recognise them by other names - talents, gifts or aptitudes. Skills are the essence of what we contribute to the world. Advising, coaching, communicating, analysing, researching, organising, painting, repairing..... recognise them? These are only a few of the hundreds of skills you possess. Here are just some skills to think about:
Have you these skills?
NB. It is unlikely any one person will possess all these skills. Even more significantly, it is unlikely any one job requires in equal measure all these skills. Remember you used your abilities and skills to complete those achievements you have already thought about.
Work through this list thinking about situations in which you have demonstrated these skills - highlight skills that you would enjoy using on a regular basis as part of your ideal job.
There are no right or wrong answers to these and other questions. But your answers will have implications for your job search. The closer the match between your philosophy of life and your job, the happier and more successful you will be.
Think about the things you like doing - list 20 things you love to do, and then pick 4 or 5 favourites.
You first job may not involve many of these but if you haven't taken time out to think along these lines it will probably involve even fewer!
Give some thought to areas which most interest you, i.e. administrative, artistic, computational, literary, mechanical, musical, outdoor, persuasive, scientific and / or social service.
Consider such aspects as working on your own / with other people; giving / taking supervision; dealing with the public; persuading people; working with machinery; working indoors / outdoors etc.
Be honest with yourself about known disabilities or physical impairments that may impact upon what you want to do - allergies, colour blindness, back problems, etc. It doesn't always mean you can't do a particular job, but you need to be aware of how you would manage any obstacles which could restrict you from doing the work successfully.
Be realistic. Face up now to the impact of these on your employment in terms of hours, financial commitments, limitations with regard to location or personal commitments etc.
Employers look for functional skills (marketable skills) in a new graduate and often presume you have acquired these skills during your years of study. A valuable exercise is to list your academic activities you are experiencing/have experienced as a student and then try to translate them into functional skills.
There are many personal skills or attributes which may be developed during your time at university and which some people consider to be part of an all-round education. These include the ability to work as a member of a team, an ability to get on well with other people, competitiveness and a sense of direction.
You can also develop specific vocational skills through campus activities. Such activity may include helping run a student newspaper, organising and chairing meetings, persuading people to join in activities and tutoring. Part-time work to support yourself financially, from waitressing (tact, energy, carrying out requests correctly) to working in a shop (always valuable if you hope to go into marketing or indeed into any work where you have to deal with clients regularly) to data entry (accuracy, an eye for detail) and so on also provides valuable work experience. All activities say something about you and they differentiate you from your peers.
Information Management Skills:
Design and Planning Skills:
Research and Investigation Skills:
Human Relations and Interpersonal Skills:
Critical Thinking Skills:
Management and Administration Skills:
Personal/Career Development Skills:
© 2004 VUW Careers and Employment