X marks the spot
Securing a job and building a career are two different, yet very much related endeavours. It’s all well and good securing employment, but if you’re keen to make your step onto the first rung of the career ladder, it’s important to remember that starting a job doesn’t necessarily result in automatic security or opportunities to learn and develop. Of course, a career may not suit everyone’s needs, but if you’re looking for longevity and a chance to make your mark, building the right foundation for a career is essential.
To kick-start, it’s integral to define what differentiates a job and a career. Typically, a job is a singular, regular post of paid employment. Whereas, when we take a look at the multitude of definitions of the word ‘career’, the terms that arise again and again are occupation, profession, life, success and course – to name just a few – and what we can derive from these denotations is that a career is not merely constituted of one job, it’s a journey and a development.
And as is the case for any journey, a plan needs to be put in place; a map drawn up where X marks the spot and this is no different with a career. When you strip down a career to its basic constituents, it’s not only about the individual roles themselves, it’s about the conjoining sections – how you make the next step, what qualifications or skills you pick up along the way, it is this that truly defines a career – that, and the end result (if there is one; after all, the sky’s the limit!).
How do I start planning my career?
Aim high. Careers do not grow overnight; they require aspiration, nurturing and a whole lot of hard work. When you think of your ideal job, set your sights high, this doesn’t mean unreachable or unrealistic, but having something to pursue is essential, otherwise you could quickly become complacent. This dream job, and the quest to get there, will shape your career – this is your journey.
The way you get there and the steps you take are up to you, but the most integral aspect of this procedure is to research thoroughly to understand the standard path that many people take to get to that position, and where someone with your skills set would start on that ladder. A good font of knowledge may be found by speaking to someone who’s already carving themselves a career in your industry of choice to find out how they got to where they are today. Not everyone’s path will be the same but it helps to observe how others have made their ascension to the top.
There’s a multitude of factors that you need to consider when starting this plan, these mainly focus around the impetus behind your career; is it a big salary, the responsibility of running a team or making a difference to the world? (These questions will also help you narrow down your career of choice if you’re lacking inspiration.) If you’re a school-leaver or graduate, chances are you will have to begin at entry-level but if you’ve already got some experience in a previous job or a transferable skills from a career that you built up previously, then you may be able to enter your preferred field in a slightly more senior position.
For many careers, there will be minimum qualification requirements that you will need to meet, whether this be in the initial stages or as you progress. If the prospect of studying for a new qualification or going back to college makes you think twice about your career avenue, then perhaps it’s not for you. A career will demand constant attention and effort on your part, but hopefully what you put in will be matched by what you receive in return. Having a goal or the ever-elusive career-treasure to hunt for will help give your journey direction. Just don’t forget to bring a map!
Tips and hints
- During an interview, if the opportunity to ask questions arises (which it almost certainly will!), find out whether there’s room to develop in the company; are you able to study whilst you work for extra qualifications to benefit your career? Asking important questions will help you decide whether that organisation is going to help or hinder you…
- Are you taking the job for the sake of having a job? Of course, being employed is important but accepting a position that will not help you develop your career may not be the answer… You need to weigh up your priorities and decide whether you might have to make a slight detour during your journey, such as a part-time role in an unrelated field.
- Throughout your career you must always be thinking about how you can learn or achieve more; if you’re not enjoying your position or you feel that you’re no longer finding it challenging, then perhaps it’s time to look for the next opportunity.