The Careers Service Q&A series – edition 3

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Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant at the Careers Service

The Careers Service is back to answer more of your career concerns. This week’s edition is our last, but you can find previous editions here. Read on for our answers to this week’s questions.

I graduated last summer and have been working since then, but I hate my job! How can I change jobs when the only experience I have is in something I don’t enjoy?

I’m sorry to hear that you’re not enjoying your current job. Remember that your first graduate job is very unlikely to be your job for life. It’s often only by trying out different roles and responsibilities that we discover what we enjoy, what we’re good at, and what we want to do next. The concept of a ‘career ladder’ is out of date. Instead, view your career as scaffolding. Each role will teach you something about yourself, and will act as a springboard onto your next role.

Think about what makes you dislike your job. Is it the work itself? Or is it something else, like the commute, the workplace environment, lack of training or wanting more responsibility? When you have identified what you don’t like, think about whether there is anything you could do to make it better. Talk to your line manager, mentor, or buddy about the possibility of taking on a ‘stretch project’ or working more collaboratively across different teams on a variety of tasks. Ask if there are in-house training courses that you can attend. Explore the possibility of shadowing colleagues in different departments. Discuss the potential of adopting a hybrid-working pattern to lessen the commute with your manager.  

If you’ve done this and you’re sure it’s the job itself you’re struggling with, then it’s time to think about your next steps. There will always be tasks in our roles that are less enjoyable than others, and that is to be expected in every role. However, the elements you don’t like will have provided you with skills, knowledge, and experience that complement the tasks you do enjoy, and that can be applied to other roles. Take some time to consider your transferable skills and how you have demonstrated these in your current role. Even if the examples are not directly applicable to the roles you want, the skills you have developed will be. Use the graduate skills and values audit to help you think about your current skillset, the skills you need to further develop, and what you want out of your next step.

If you want to change sectors entirely, try to do some online training, virtual work experience, work shadowing, or volunteering in the sector you want to move into. That way you will develop skills that are more specific to the sector, gain valuable insights into the industry, and demonstrate your genuine interest in that field. It’s also important to build your connections in your sector of interest. Use LinkedIn to connect with UoM alumni working in the industries you’re interested in, and attend relevant employer events, careers fairs and Meet the Professionals panels, which can be found on CareerConnect. Professional industry bodies often have useful careers resources and sometimes event free online events, advertised on their websites.

Finally, register for vacancy alerts on relevant websites, such as industry specific websites, graduate job search websites and CareerConnect. Don’t limit your job search to advertised opportunities – explore the hidden job market as well, make a list of employers you’re interested in, and adopt a speculative approach. If you’re feeling stuck, remember you can book a guidance appointment with a Careers Consultant to explore your options.

I’m working in a restaurant at the minute, but I really want to find work in films and TV. What can I do to get into the career I want?

TV and film is a competitive area to break into, and you’ve not mentioned if you have any relevant experience. It’s important to build up as much experience and skills as you can while at the same time searching for opportunities. For example, many people start as a production runner, to get known and make contacts. Make use of LinkedIn to connect with UoM alumni working in the sector, explore their career trajectories, and reach out. Consider arranging some work shadowing to get an insight into the different careers available within TV and film.

As a graduate, you can continue to use the Careers Service for up to two years after you complete your course. Make the most of this extended access: Sign up for the Media Club and attend monthly events to learn about different media careers from industry professionals, and to grow your network by connecting with the speakers and attendees. Look out for relevant employer events and Meet the Professionals panels, to connect with those working in the media and creative industries. There is also a section about TV, radio and film careers on our website, with job profiles and useful links.

Screenskills is the skills body for the screen industries. They provide insight, career development and opportunities to help people get into film and TV. They are a good place to start looking for training or opportunities. The BBC also has a careers page, where you can look at the opportunities they are currently offering. Look at the skills they want for different roles, and identify any you need to develop. Then, go about developing these skills, many of which will be transferable.

Finally, keep an open mind. There are roles both on screen and behind the camera. The key is to build experience, contacts, and your portfolio of experience.

I start my first graduate job at the end of January, but I have no idea what it will be like! Can you give me an idea of what to expect?

Whether you’re in the workplace (office, lab, etc.), on site, at home, or a hybrid, starting your first graduate job can be daunting. Your first week is likely going to be filled with meeting new people, training, and being introduced to different departments, systems, and projects.

Have a look at our Preparing for the Workplace pages for more advice and guidance, and watch our session on how to survive and thrive in your first graduate job. Learning from other graduates in similar roles can be a helpful preparation technique, so check out our graduate careers stories, alumni blog articles, and Day in the Life series for useful insights.

In terms of our top practical tips:

  1. Plan your route (and practice it, if you have time) before your first day. If you will be logging in remotely, run audio/video/connection tests in advance. Make sure you’re up early so you don’t have to rush before starting, and ensure you’re dressed appropriately (ask about the dress code before you start).
  2. Be polite and formal in your communications; if you’re not sure about the email or meeting etiquette, just ask. Find out about break policies (how long you get for lunch, if you have to take it at a certain time, etc), what to do if you’re ill, and any other company policies, too.
  3. Try to make friends with your colleagues in the first few days – that way you will have a sympathetic ear to ask questions, or a friendly face to sit with at lunch. You may have an assigned buddy or mentor, but if you don’t, it can be good to have a couple of people on hand willing to answer a quick query. If you can remember some names, this will also help you make a good impression too.
  4. Some employers will have structured training programmes or work shadowing, while others will expect you to jump right in. Either way, remember that your manager and colleagues can support you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask for regular meetings with your line manager in the first few weeks, so you can get feedback on your progress and find out if there is anything else you should be doing. Don’t worry about accepting help either; you are not expected to know everything straight away.
  5. Lastly, there will probably be a lot of new information. Make notes and go over them later to check your understanding. Again, ask if there is something that you missed or didn’t quite understand. Ensure you make note of important dates and deadlines too – you will probably have a work calendar that you can use to keep track.

Remember that even if you feel nervous to start with, you will quickly get the hang of your new role.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Q&A series. If you have a careers-related question that hasn’t been covered, there are a few ways to get in touch. Connect with us via our live web-chat (staffed 10am-4pm, every weekday), use the queries button on CareerConnect, or book a careers guidance appointment to chat to a Careers Consultant. You can also reach out via our social media channels. We’d love to hear from you!

All questions have been edited for length and clarity.

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