Tips For Finding A Career Path That You Really Care About
Laura May, Digital Editor of Just Another Magazine, explores some of the best ways to find a career path that you're really passionate about in this guest post.
Finding yourself on a career path you really care about is a bit like trying to buy a house.
Just when you think you’ve found the perfect place, begun to imagine your future there and started tracking your long-term plans, someone comes out from underneath you and pips you to the post. It’s a demoralising feeling that can leave you settling for second best.
Even though most people struggle to find themselves on a career path they really care about, there are ways to get to the top. It just takes a cocktail of perseverance, contacts, natural talent and luck to get on the train, let alone make it all the way to your destination.
Today, we’ll cover some top tips for finding a career path that you really care about, even in today’s frustrating and competitive market.
Create a self-aware action plan
Before you can start to journey down your ideal career path, you need to plot a realistic course to follow.
An action plan is great, but a plan that is self-aware is even better. It’s about being honest with yourself, in terms of your own personal limitations and the harsh realities of the industry you want to work in. It’s important to temper your expectations early, without playing down your hopes too much (Gallup produced a great piece of this for recent graduates feeling lost).
Research your idols and people who have come from similar backgrounds as you. What can you learn from their journey, and what common themes crop up? Are there programmes in place to give people from your background greater access to the industry? This research might highlight possibilities you never knew about that you can integrate into your plan.
A self-aware action plan is all about not getting bogged down in the impossibilities (both positive and negative) of your career path. It’s a great leveller and an important part of self-motivation.
Find an industry mentor
Whatever your career goals, experienced industry mentors who are willing to answer your questions and put your worries at ease are worth their weight in gold.
Mentors provide timely advice you’d likely otherwise never find elsewhere and a brilliant range of contacts to help you boost your career (after all, nothing is more important than who you know). However, you still need to earn it.
Mentors typically aren’t just waiting for people to come along and snatch up their free time and inbox space. You need to prove your worth and your commitment to the job. After all, mentoring is just a step away from putting your reputation on the line for someone, so you should never take advantage of that trust.
When a mentor kindly offers their time, some of the best ways to use it include:
- Running ideas and concepts past them
- Asking for potential contacts and work experience opportunities
- Advising you on resumes, applications and interviews
- Providing you with examples of stand out industry work to learn from
- Balance work experience with networking
While there’s (rightfully) a growing backlash to free internships and work experience going on right now, there are certain benefits to be found in taking a few weeks off to experience the realities of a workplace.
However, the smart way to look at work experience is less as a way of getting your teeth into genuine tasks (more than likely, you’ll be stuck making the coffee and doing admin), but more as a way to network with industry contacts and build a reputation for being hardworking and ambitious.
To do this, you need to expand your wings and find spaces where people are willing to give you the time of day.
Try your hand at roles and tasks from across the industry, signing up for as much work experience as you possibly (and financially) can. Take roles with small, emerging businesses full of creative people. Integrate yourself into blogger networks and chat with thought leaders by giving industry journalism a try. Work for enterprises on the fringes of the industry, full of people who might be able to offer unique insight at another step in the fulfilment chain (for example, working for an online store to get into fashion).
Absorb the culture/creativity around the industry
Perhaps most importantly, all your work experience, networking and a good portion of your free time should be spent absorbing as much of the culture of your dream industry as possible.
That doesn’t mean working 24/7, but you should keep up to date with industry trends and developments through newsletters, listening to podcasts and analysing what’s getting coverage in (otherwise uninterested) mainstream press. Yes, if you want to work in something, you need to absorb the culture around it!
We live in a world where amateur bloggers and enthusiastic new media creatives control the zeitgeist. There’s only so much leading companies can teach you. As someone starting at the bottom, Tik Tok and mummy bloggers might be a better source of inspiration or a home for your ideas.
Things to think about when you find your path
So you’ve made a choice about your career path. Congratulations! This, of course, doesn’t have to be your final goal, but it’s much easier to decipher what you want to do while working than when you’re sitting around snacking between frustrating job searches.
Now that you’re on the path to success, we’ll close with some key considerations to make that will help you through the primary steps of your journey.
Potential interview questions
There are potentially thousands of guides out there regarding the dos and don’ts of a job interview, so we won’t try to be as thorough as those (although we do recommend this Wall Street Journal entry to the canon).
Instead, we’ll note how important it is to run through potential questions with your partner, parents, roommates or yourself in your own head prior to meeting an employer for the first time (in person or virtually). You might not predict the test word for word, but, if you’re thorough enough, you’ll ensure you’re not caught off guard when a tricky question arises.
Example: Prepping for this is all about common sense. Say you’re going for an in-house marketing role with an ecommerce company (for this example, let’s use online furniture store Furniturebox). Rather than getting out your old textbooks and cramming your head full of customer theory, take the time to research that companies’ social profile and most prominent form of online advertising.
What can you learn from their website? FurnitureBox has social media profiles in the footer for Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, that’s a good starting point. How could they be improved? Are competing stores outranking them on paid Google ads and in the SEO department? Perhaps suggest some tweaks to their copy, or look at current interior design trends and suggest specific products to highlight on the homepage or in blogs to improve their value to the customer.
This kind of quick analysis shows a passion for your work, standing you in good stead for difficult questions and giving you the chance to stand out.
Your online profile
In an increasingly online world, what you post on social media no longer exists in it’s own little bubble.
Yes, your social profiles will most likely be checked by employers and held against you should they not reach standards. We all know what’s right and wrong to post online, but we might be forgetting about ill-judged and unprofessional posts and pictures from our past, so it makes sense to analyse your pages before approaching employers and recruiters with your resume.
Example: When you work for a company, even if you’re not in a particularly high-ranking position, you represent that company and should uphold their standards and values across your personal and professional life.
Say you’re applying for a HR role with a specific non-profit, such as Homes for our Troops. If your Facebook profile was full of abrasive comments that showed a lack of respect towards people’s wellbeing, it would reflect very badly on the company and make employees anxious of coming to you with HR issues. Of course, we should all strive to be kinder online, but in some roles the image you put forward into cyberspace is more important.
These days, too many people suffer in roles they’re either not suited to or don’t enjoy. If you’re one of them, it’s important to know it’s not too late, and there are ways you can get yourself back on a career path that suits you and makes you happy.
Yes, money, circumstances and contacts are important, but they should be seen as bumps in the road rather than diverging points you can’t ignore. Follow these tips as early as possible and you’ll soon find yourself on a much rosier, fulfilling path.
It’s time to build your career.
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