What comes to mind when you’re starting to think about your career? Linear? Uncertainty? Time-bound? A ladder? It’s important to understand that you have to be flexible and adaptable whilst planning for your career.
Just like life itself, your career journey is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Great things take time to come to fruition! Instead, when it comes to career planning: start early, prepare, have a strategy, and persevere. There are usually three stages of job hunting:
- Pre-searching/preparation i.e., career planning
- Active searching.
- Preparing to apply.
In this two-part blog series, we cover the first stage by helping you to: (1) understand yourself and list out your options before finally bringing it all together to (2) create a strategy in order for you to transition into the next stages as seamlessly as possible.
Reflecting on yourself and career path
Underlying any career decision and building a good strategy requires an understanding of yourself. Consider the following:
Values – What is important to me?
“I value being respected and working alongside others.”
In a career, what motives and drives you to align with an organisation? How visible do you want to be? How quickly do you want to make an impact? There will be no definitive or stable list of what you value in a career, but it’s always good to think about it!
Interests – What do I like to do?
“I enjoy meeting new people and travelling.”
In your career, can you bring your interests into the career plan? For instance, if you have a masters, how can you combine this with other experiences in your career plan? *link*
Skills and abilities – What am I good at?
“I know how to read and write fluently in two languages.”
For a career, what qualities or skills do you have that make you stand out? Ask yourself what you can bring to the organisation.
Strengths – What comes easily to me?
“I’m good at linguistics and learning languages.”
In your portfolio of skills, hobbies, and talents, which ones do you enjoy and what comes easily to you?
Motivators – What am I passionate about?
“I care about sustainability and people.”
For a career, what values and passions do you have that align with an organisation?
Assets – What experiences do I have?
“I was the president of my club and worked in customer service.”
List out your experiences and what you can offer, or perhaps a unique selling point that helps differentiate you from other candidates.
Reflecting on your motivations, hobbies, skill set, the factors that drive you to pursue this path, and seeing whether you align with an organisation’s values are important in order to develop a healthy and positive mindset!
Re-imagining your career options
Think of the unthinkable, expect the unexpected
In times of uncertainty, our vision can narrow and we might lose sight of our of opportunities and chances that are available to us. Therefore. . .
Diversify and invest in your many future selves.
The breadth of possibilities and outcomes — positive or negative — are endless in a challenging context. Some of your existing career plans and labour markets you were looking into could have spiralled out of control.
Don’t put your eggs in one basket, and don’t presume there’s only one basket available. In this context, the fewer jobs and opportunities you apply for that you are capable of results in greater risks or scarcity.
That being said, none of us know what the future holds, thus envisioning a career ladder or a single road isn’t always the most helpful or accurate thing to do. Instead, think of your career journey as a series of twists and turns — crossroads.
The crossroads model
It may seem that going up a single career ladder is the norm. In reality, there’s a lot of lateral movement (across sectors and industries), changing locations, or even shifting career paths. In this kind of environment, being flexible and adaptable — constantly redeveloping or reinventing yourself — is the healthiest way to plan your career.
- The road that beckons: what have you always wanted to try?
- The road that I imagine in my wildest dreams: what do you dream of?
- The road that seems most sensible to me: the one that people whose opinion I value would suggest to me.
- The road not travelled: one you have never considered before.
- The road I have already been down.
- The road back: going back to a place you felt safe.
In other words, when we head to a particular destination, we don’t always take the main road. Oftentimes, we find ourselves taking the road less travelled, taking shortcuts by meandering through smaller streets. In other words, don’t be afraid to walk the off-beaten path, after all it may bring you to your goals faster.
If you find yourself needing additional support thinking about your options or navigating your career, you can always speak to a careers consultant here at LSE Careers. Book a confidential one-to-one appointment on CareerHub.
Note: This blog is the first blog of a two-part blog series from our Career planning in a challenging context event.