Musings on making career choices

The keys of successI recently read two interesting articles which looked at different problems with the graduate job market. From the Telegraph: ‘Why do 1 in 4 graduates quit within a  year of starting work?’ From the THE: ‘Underemployed graduates stay in stepping-stone jobs too long’.

Both are from employers point of view with recommendations of how they could recruit graduates more effectively. But when you read further an important message emerges for graduates as well; many graduates do not take the right job for them first time because they don’t know really what that ‘right’ job is.

The Telegraph article reports on a study which says a third of graduate hires spent less than five hours researching the company they went to work for.  I am not surprised by this, I speak to hundreds of final year students and recent graduates every year and many only start researching a company when they have been invited to an interview, and by that stage they are understandably more worried about getting through the interview than whether the job is right for them.

On the other side the THE article alleges graduates remain stuck in interim jobs and don’t apply for graduate roles as they assume that jobs don’t exist. This is a viewpoint I also come across frequently.  This quote from the article rings true: ‘ We have been surprised by how often graduates will make bold assertions about the lack of opportunities, but when questioned, admit that they personally have done relatively little to test out the labour market’.

Obviously the answer is – do your research. Find out as much as you can about the career area and employer you are considering as you can. The other half of the equation is to be as self-aware as you can, to help you work out what is right for you.

But beware of becoming so mired in research that you are afraid to make a decision! No matter how much research you do you won’t find a definitive ‘Answer’. Eventually you need to take some sort of job, even if you are not 100% sure. If you feel scared of making the ‘wrong’ choice, remember a job is not a life sentence! It is inevitable that you will not love every job in your life, that doesn’t mean that each experience will not teach you something useful. Many people try out different areas before happening on one that is right for them. That is not necessarily a bad thing for a graduate, however inconvenient it might be for employers. Your goal should be to make the best informed choice you can at that moment in time, and if that means leaving a graduate job after a year – actually that’s OK.

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