Friday, June 21, 2013

Starting Out 01: Deciding on a Career

You remember as if it were yesterday - early May; the sun was out, but the curtains were closed. No distractions allowed. For weeks, it seemed you only left the apartment when food and water ran out. Walks around Times Square – cancelled. Visits to the girl or boyfriend – cancelled. Nightlife – cancelled. Put the world on hold, it was Final Exam time.

As the days and night blurred into one and the first exam approached, you were living off coffee and down to two hours sleep per night. Loaded with caffeine and your brain stoked up to meltdown on theories, diagrams and calculations, it was impossible to switch off – a case of going from home desk to exam desk and back again without opening your eyes. Still, you said, it wasn't forever. And, looking ahead, you were adamant this was the last set of exams you would ever take in your life. They would be a defining moment - the key to a more lucrative life. A little focus now would save years of anguish later on. Eventually… eventually, it was all over.

Then, after graduation came the easy bit. All that remained was to turn up for a few job interviews and wait for the offers.

Unfortunately, on the ground in Hong Kong all was not as it should have been - in the weeks that followed, you accrued so many rejection letters you could paper your parents home with them. Not to worry though – flood the market with enough applications and something should turn up sooner or later. Wouldn't it?

It didn’t even come to mind you may be doing something wrong. In truth, you were doing plenty wrong. In reality, it's easier to say what you were doing right – which was pretty much nothing.

However, let's be a little more precise and consider the fundamentals. Basically, your preparation consisted of one thing - looking up target companies through your university or college career office. If no corporate information existed, well, you’d just improvise and admit that lack of knowledge was not your fault – no data was available.

Effectively though, you had no real career in mind. You had laid no real groundwork. You had no real plan. Not really.

Settling on a Career
One way to address questions about your future career is to implement a career plan. Such a plan will outline the steps necessary to take you to your career goal.

Steps Involved
So, what do you want to do? Better yet, what do you want to be? Tough question. With the myriad of career possibilities available, how can you possibly make that decision? In fact, even if you knew what career path to follow, how are you going to get there?

Develop a career plan to determine your interests and skills. Thinking about your skills and interests can help you find a satisfying career. To determine your interests, think about what you enjoy doing. Think about the experiences you have enjoyed. Assess what you liked, what you found testing, and what you may have learned from those experiences. Build a list of activities you have taken pleasure in during the past several years.

To identify your skills, make a list of competences you have (communication, report-writing, presentation, numeric). Skills may also include training you have gained through part- or full-time jobs. Even if you’ve never been employed before, you do have some skills that will help you find a job. For example, you may have skills you learned through volunteer work or through social activities.

Evaluate the skills and interests you have listed. Are there comparable activities on the two inventories? Are there any experiences that could turn into a vocation? For instance, if you volunteered at a hospital and enjoyed the experience, you may want to consider a medical career.

Find out about the types of careers available to you. If you don't research careers, you may not know about the best occupations to fit your interests and skills.

It's also important to decide if the career you are considering is really what you expect and whether it offers the salary and benefits you want. One way to learn about a career is to intern in the position (internships are also a great way to gain experience in your selected career field). An additional way to find out about a job is to network – seek out and talk to people who are currently in your interested career.

Once you have decided on the career path you want to pursue, weigh up what you need to do to prepare for that occupation. Do you need special training? If so, research the institutions or professional bodies that offer the kind of training you need. What kinds of familiarity will you need to be successful in the profession? Again, consider an internship as a way to get work experience in the career field.

By implementing a career plan, you can now focus on what you want to do and how to get there. And when you are ready to prepare your resume for your career search, you will have a better understanding of your skills and experiences to discuss with potential employers.


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