Victoria University of Wellington
Careers and Employment
Student Services
Home About Us Students and Graduates Employers For Staff Resources Career Development
Related Topics

Career Essentials
Series of guides covering a number of issues from career decisions to job hunting skills and the job interview process itself.

Downloads

Career DecisionsMaking Career Decisions
(290KB PDF)

making career decisions Making Career Decisions
(print friendly)

Making Career Decisions

On this page:

Introduction

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.

Making Decisions

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.

Page TopPage top

Self Assessment

Begin your assessment by considering:
(a) your achievements
(b) your skills and abilities
(c) your personal values
(d) your interests
(e) any known disabilities
(f) personal and family circumstances

(a) Your Achievements

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.

Back to Self AssessmentBack to Self Assessment

(b) Your Skills And Abilities

"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?

acting
eliminating
motivating
selling
arbitrating
explaining
organising
sorting
budgeting
generating
persuading
supplying
hypothesising
presenting
testing & proving
completing
improvising
promoting
treating
consolidating
inspiring
questioning
unifying
creating
interviewing
recruiting
leading
devising
reporting
managing
dramatising
retrieving
editing
monitoring
selecting
analysing
examining
ordering
solving
auditing

gathering
performing
supervising
classifying
preparing
team-building
compiling
improving
programming
travelling
conducting
inspecting
purchasing
umpiring
counselling
interpreting
recording
detailing
rehabilitating
lecturing
directing
researching
meeting
driving
modelling
scheduling
advising
evaluating
operating
sketching
assessing
formulating
perceiving
summarising
checking
predicting
teaching
communicating
implementing
producing

translating
conceptualising
initiating
publicising
typing
co-ordinating
integrating
reconciling
writing
judging
developing
repairing
maintaining
distributing
restoring
mentoring
risking
administering
establishing
observing
singing
assembling
fixing
painting
studying
calculating
saving
synthesising
collecting
illustrating
processing
transcribing
computing
influencing
providing
tutoring
controlling
instructing
recommending
working

designing
referring
learning
diagnosing
representing
mediating
drawing
reviewing
adapting
enforcing
negotiating
setting-up
arranging
filing
overseeing
speaking
building
handling
planning
coaching
identifying
problem-solving
training
composing
increasing
proof-reading
trouble-shooting
constructing
installing
reasoning
upgrading
investigating
detecting
relating
listening
displaying
resolving
memorising

 

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.

Back to Self AssessmentBack to Self Assessment

(c) Your Personal Values

  • What are the most important things to you?
  • What turns you on... and off?
  • What are you committed to?
  • What comprises happiness for you?
  • What degree of integrity do you need in your life and work?
  • How much power and responsibility do you want in the work place?
  • How much of yourself do you want to put into your work - are you seeking to live to work or work to live, or a balance between both?

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.

Back to Self AssessmentBack to Self Assessment

(d) Your Interests

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.

Back to Self AssessmentBack to Self Assessment

(e) Disabilities

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.

(f) Personal and Family Circumstances

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.

Page TopPage top

Functional skills

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.

Activity:

Can be translated to functional skills in:

Structuring your time
so as to meet deadlines for projects

Work programming;
meeting deadlines

Completing research projects

Collection and analysis of data

Presenting tutorial or seminar papers

Oral communication

Writing essays

Analytical skills - creative or report writing

Collecting information to write research papers

Locating and using resources

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.

Page TopPage top

Further skills and experiences developed at University

Information Management Skills:

  • sort and evaluate data
  • compile and rank information
  • apply information creatively to specific problems or tasks
  • synthesise facts, concepts and principles
  • organise information effectively

Design and Planning Skills:

  • identify alternative courses of action
  • set realistic goals
  • follow through with a plan or decision
  • manage time effectively
  • predict future trends and patterns
  • accommodate multiple demands for commitment of time, energy and resources
  • make and keep a schedule
  • set priorities

Research and Investigation Skills:

  • use a variety of sources for information
  • apply a variety of methods to test the validity of data
  • identify problems and needs
  • design an experiment, plan or model that systematically defines a problem
  • identify information sources appropriate to special needs or problems
  • formulate questions relevant to clarifying a particular problem, topic or issue

Communication Skills:

  • use various forms and styles of written communication
  • speak effectively to individuals and groups
  • use audio-visual formats to present ideas
  • convey a positive image to others
  • develop effective listening skills

Human Relations and Interpersonal Skills:

  • interact effectively with peers, supervisors
  • express own feelings appropriately
  • understand the feelings of others
  • show commitment to others
  • teach a skill, concept or principle to others
  • analyse behaviour of self and others in group situations
  • demonstrate effective social behaviour in a variety of settings and under different circumstances
  • work under pressure

Critical Thinking Skills:

  • identify quickly and accurately the critical issues when making a decision or solving a problem
  • identify a general principle that explains related experiences or factual data
  • define the parameters of a problem
  • identify criteria for assessing the value of appropriateness of an action or behaviour
  • adapt own behaviour and concepts to changing conventions and norms
  • apply appropriate criteria to strategies and action plans
  • create innovative solutions to complex problems
  • analyse the inter-relationship of events and ideas from several perspectives

Management and Administration Skills:

  • analyse tasks
  • identify people and resource materials useful in the solution of a problem or task
  • motivate and lead people
  • organise people and tasks to achieve specific goals

Personal/Career Development Skills:

  • analyse own life experiences
  • transfer the skills developed in one environment (eg. university) to another environment (eg. work)
  • match knowledge about own characteristics and abilities to information about job or career opportunities
  • develop personal growth goals that are motivating
  • identify and describe skills acquired through education and life experience
  • identify own strengths and weaknesses
  • predict and accept the consequences of own actions

Generic Skills:

  • comprehend written material
  • communicate: write effectively, read, listen, make effective speeches and presentations
  • identify problem areas and make decisions
  • develop alternative approaches to problems
  • analyse and evaluate ideas
  • use library and research facilities
  • supervise and lead
  • co-operate with a work team
  • persuade others to accept your ideas
  • help people with their problems
  • organise time effectively
  • follow well-defined instructions
  • work on projects
  • establish goals and follow through
  • undertake detailed and accurate work
  • relate to a wide variety of people

© 2004 VUW Careers and Employment