Extract from a New Book by Staff of ACS Distance Education
The decisions you make today will affect the opportunities you create for yourself tomorrow.
There are an infinite number of choices which a person can make about their career path; and an infinite number of paths you can set yourself on.
- Some paths may take you to a desirable place; while others might not.
- Some paths are easier to get onto than others.
- The thing that many people do not appreciate is that most paths have many different entry points. It is often easier to jump from an undesirable path to a more desirable path than to get onto a desirable path when you are on no pathway at all.
The first and most important step in finding a satisfying career path is to get started in the workplace. Get a job, any job, as soon as you can. It doesn’t matter too much what your first job is. It might be delivering pizzas or newspapers, mowing lawns, washing cars or working in a fast food restaurant. It doesn’t even need to be paid. It can be a volunteer job.
If you are studying at secondary school or university, still try to do some part time work at the same time. An education is always important, but the majority of people who study something will end up working in something different to what they studied. Even doing volunteer work or starting a small business while you are a student can have a major effect upon your prospects after you complete your studies.
Experience and learning acquired through part time employment are often just as impressive to a future employer as the qualification you are studying. Either one without the other may put you in a less advantageous position in the future.
Once you have a job keep looking for opportunities to improve your situation, whether in the existing job, or by moving on to something different. You will learn skills in every job you do, even if they are not skills you recognise at the time. As you progress through your career you will build on your skillset and develop new skills. Even if you change career you will often still be able to draw on skills you have developed in a different career, just in a different context. For example, if you start working in hospitality you will develop skills in customer service which can be applied to a job as a medical receptionist; if you start working as a journalist you may develop critical thinking skills that can be applied to a career in nursing; if you work as a teacher you may develop an understanding of children that can be applied to work as an occupational therapist.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
Do you know yourself?
Consider your personality, persistence, changeability, skills and talents, passion, susceptibility to stress; take stock and assess your own potential, realistically.
Do you know the industry?
Get to know what it takes to work in the sort of industry you are targeting. Make sure you understand the down side of that industry, and whether you are realistically suited to dealing with the down side. Do not fool yourself into thinking there is no down side. No job is perfect; and every industry has a down side.
Are your expectations and goals realistic?
Goals are things we set so that we attain a certain outcome – it is a checking system; we set a goal and when the time frame for that goal has elapsed, we check back to see what we have actually achieved - compared to what we wanted to achieve. Setting goals too high can result in disappointment for some – on the other hand some people thrive on achieving what may appear to be unrealistic goals.
A simple goal may be to ‘get a certain job’ – realistically you would need to ask yourself:
- Am I suited to this job i.e. do my skills suit the position and will I fit into the company culture?
- Am I suitably motivated to get and keep this job?
- Am I open minded and keen to learning new skills?
- Am I dependable?
It's not difficult to get work; it's just sometimes difficult to get the type of work you want.
Some people have very set ideas about the job they want, others are really undecided. The first step in getting a job is the same for both types. In fact anyone of any age, sex or level of skill needs to take the same first step:
The first step in getting a job is to develop a REALISTIC ATTITUDE! Realistic goals are based on a sound understanding of what constitutes a successful career for that individual, of one’s strengths and weakness and current marketplace trends, and of likely changes to which one must adapt. Because very few people begin in the same job they want to finish in, a career must be realistically seen as something that evolves or develops. You will probably not begin in an ideal position, but with careful planning, you can probably improve your position in your career as time goes by.
To develop REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS:
- Don't expect to start at the top.
- Don't expect to like everything about your job at first.
- Be prepared to make the best of your situation and maintain a positive attitude.
- Be prepared to accept any job in your field at first if you cannot get your ideal job or any job at all if you cannot get a job in your chosen field. If you are in employment, even though not in your chosen field, you are developing your career further than you would be if unemployed (or not studying).
Are you physically and mentally capable?
Not everyone is suited to being a rocket scientist or an Olympic athlete!
Some jobs will require the candidate to have certain physical attributes to be suitable for the job - for example a fire fighter, builder, paramedic, pilot, nurse, miner, warehouse staff and so on. Where appropriate, before appointment to a position, a medical doctor should examine the applicant and inform the personnel officer/department of any conditions which might affect the performance of the job (examples follow).
Physical activities and characteristics to be considered in determining a person’s suitability for a job include:
- Muscular strain
- Constant walking
- Constant standing
- Constant sitting
- Constant stooping
- Right handedness
- Left handedness
- Hot working conditions
- Cold working conditions
- Damp working conditions
- Exposed working conditions
- Acute hearing
- Acute vision
- Discrimination between colours
- Dry (non-sweaty) hands
- Food handling safety (sinus, sniffles, coughing)
- Dusty work conditions
- Indoor work
- Nervous strain
- Risk of falling
Some jobs will require specific mental capabilities to be able to complete the required tasks. For example an engineer will need to have a sound understanding of physics, mathematics, spatial awareness, and so on, that some people just might not be capable of. Other jobs will require someone who has attention to fine details, such as an accountant; or the capacity to be patient, such as a nurse or teacher. Other jobs require particular personal attributes, such as leadership skills, good decision maker, problem solving abilities, an ability to think logically, negotiating and mediation skills, etc.
Money, Security or Passion?
Few people find it all. The reality is that almost everyone has to make compromises in their careers.
Consider your values and what is important to you in a job.
Why do you work? Is it primarily to earn money so you can survive? Perhaps work gives you a sense of purpose? Maybe you have altruistic reasons such as helping others and making a contribution. Some people look for other things from a job; perhaps social reasons (interacting with other people), maybe they are pursuing a passion, or something else. For some, job security or flexibility of hours may be more important than anything else.
Thinking short, medium and long term
Always think ahead. Industries do not tend to disappear, but jobs within an industry do disappear, and new jobs emerge. You need to stay in tune with your industry, alert to changes, and plan how you can adapt to changes as they come along. Keep your options open, and prospects broad.
Self employed or working for someone else?
Certain industries are dominated by self-employed people, while others are dominated by large enterprises.
If you are attracted to an industry where most successful professionals are self- employed you may have difficulty advancing your prospects unless you are inclined to operate your own business. Similarly, if you want to work in an industry where very few people are the owners, and almost everyone is an employee, you will need to be comfortable working within a large organisation; and perhaps dealing with politics and bureaucratic processes that may not be so prevalent in self-employment.