Many people look at their careers as a logical outcome of their education and available opportunities. Although both are critical factors in what jobs you will be able to get and do well, you still must be sure that your career suits your personality and your aspirations. If it doesn’t, change it as soon as you can after graduation.
In many countries, your choice of what to study in university may be influenced by factors like grades or financial abilities, so it’s not uncommon that you end up getting a degree in a field or a specialization that you don’t care about too much. You may make your situation just worse by taking your career afterward as inevitable. With that, you may be setting yourself up for a lifetime of professional disappointment.
What you can do instead is to try to make sure that you pursue a career that meets your basic needs for professional and personal satisfaction. This may take some creative thinking, additional study and years of training on the job, but the result can be that you create for yourself a positive professional environment that helps you feel fulfilled and accomplished. Here are a few tips that can help you get to a career of your choice.
Do you have a degree in commerce, business administration or engineering? If yes and if your passion is somewhere else – say information technology — you may be able to pursue your interest still without totally undermining your status as a college graduate. Many entry-level jobs require only a university degree and offer training. Starting early may be the best strategy because you’ll meet many of the criteria that employers look for like age, enthusiasm and flexibility. In addition, when you take an entry-level job in your desired field, you make an immediate statement about your career plans.
After years of education, you may be eager to move into the workforce and quit studying. But learning is an ongoing journey, especially if you’re pursuing a career that is significantly different from what you studied in college. Look for courses, diplomas or certification that can help you gain an academic standing in this new field. You will need to combine your studies with practical experience to make sure that you get as close as possible to those who’ve acquired a degree in the field. These efforts may keep you busy for a few years at the beginning of your career but certainly will pay off handsomely.
Consistency is key in showing your employers that you’re serious about your choice of pursuing a particular career. So don’t be tempted to switch back and forth based on the availability of jobs or when things get tough. Try as much as reasonable to find jobs that build your knowledge and help you advance professionally at a steady pace. Taking a job that doesn’t contribute to your chosen career can lead to knowledge gaps that are hard to bridge.
Despite your efforts, you may find it hard to land a job in a desired career. In this case, you need to ask hiring managers clear and straight questions as to what you can do to meet their requirements. Getting some insight on what obstacles are in your way will give you a roadmap for future actions. This can be an advice for additional studies, training or certification. Alternatively, it can be a shocking dose of reality that your current knowledge and credentials can’t make up for your lack of higher education in the field. Whatever the feedback, try to collect as much as you can and plan your next step from there.
Although getting an entry-level job in a new field may be challenging, it doesn’t compare to the challenge of professional advancement. If you decide to pursue a career that is different from your studies, make sure that you always keep tabs on your progress along a natural advancement path. Of course, there are many criteria that determine who gets ahead. But if you put the required efforts and time, you need to make sure that you’re not falling behind because of your special start. In addition, whenever a lag is detected, try to find ways to catch up. A continued awareness of your career milestones should help you keep your pace until you’re well-established.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News’ Business Features Editor, is currently a Seattle-based editor.