Is it crass to talk about Careers when all you really need is a Job?
This is a post by Tahira Majothi, a Careers consultant at the University of Salford.
As a Careers Adviser I’d say that I am pretty well versed in helping students, graduates and postgraduates explore their career ideas and action plan their next steps. However what to do when all you hear on the news is the rising numbers of young people unemployed, changes to the post study work visas adversely affecting International students and organisations (including universities) reorganising or restructuring like a massive game of Tetris.
There’s no denying the continuing wide ranging impact the current economic climate and various Government policies have had on most people in one way or another. So is it right for us to want to talk about having a career when other aspects of life must take precedence, be it needing an income to live and support you and/or your family, pay that rent/mortgage or student loan.
You may already be feeling anxious about possible challenges in getting a job, let alone a career, especially if you’re from a particularly vulnerable or underrepresented group e.g. a care leaver, a disabled person, from a Black or Minority Ethnic background or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. So does that mean we should come to see the word ‘Career’ to be much like the proverbial white elephant in the room, i.e. we know it’s there, we just don’t talk about it?
Mulling over this, led me to revisit Amy Wrzesniewski’s collaborative research study ‘Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People’s Relations to Their Work’. This paper centred on how people’s attitudes to work, split into these three categories:
- A Job: In the main seen as a means to an end, a financial necessity, working to live if you like.
- A Career: A lot more personal investment, a chance for not only career and salary advancement, but also affecting your happiness and social mobility status in a positive way, more often than not.
- A Calling: A focus on ‘fulfilling, socially useful work’.
So which of the above best describes your perspective? Or would you say that a job, career or calling were fluid terms, depending on the time and place you are in your life right now?
Well this seems the most logical place to start in terms of answering the question I posed in the title of this post.
What matters to you?
What are your priorities right now against Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Careers consultant Naeema Pasha covers our concept of Career Happiness in this post. Naeema talks with great honesty about her experiences of turning careers adviser to job seeker and how that led to a shift in how she viewed the process. She looked at understanding her motivations be it seeking fulfilment, or just considering the essentials such as the commute, the people, the salary and the career progression. Ultimately Naeema concluded that “in this economic climate; happiness and security can be at odds with each other”.
Is self doubt or resistance to change, really a bad thing?
Are you facing a career change, redundancy, have to reapply for your current role or face a possible demotion? If so, it can be hard to then pick yourself up and carry on ‘business as usual’ when your morale is at such a low ebb. But rather than rush into action because of the fear of inaction, perhaps this is the best time to reflect, review and refocus your ideas? I’ve been recently listening to BBC Radio 3’s The Essay series on The Case for Doubt. Former Labour Party Spokesman Alistair Campbell argues that Self Doubt can be a good thing. He feels that although it can be “unnerving, scary even… it need not panic us into thinking it’s an inevitable sign of weakness and failure. It need not paralyse. It offers the chance to slow down, think, work through, test, face alternatives, be realistic about what can be achieved – and then to act”.
Perhaps having doubt or considering consequences of any major change from all angles can be our inner defence mechanism for survival. This allows us to realistically weigh up the pros and cons of any major decision before committing.
Is the grass really greener or an optical illusion?
Perhaps it’s the fault of reality TV shows or the advances in technology (smart phones, tablets and such) or our need for instant gratification that has led us to expect information and opportunities to come our way in an heartbeat. Have we lost the patience as a skill? The reality is, the role models we may look up to, have in most cases been working hard for a number of years, experiencing job and career highs and lows, we just happen to hear them when they reach their optimum levels of ‘success’.
Although you’ll be familiar with the joke “No man ever said on his deathbed, I wish I had spent more time at the office”, the truth is the majority of your life will be spent at work. An interesting piece in the Guardian (The Secret to long-term career planning) quoted Tom Butler-Bowdon, author of Never Too Late to be Great. “With life expectancy continually on the rise, you may well enjoy a productive life span of 60 years, say from age 20 to 80,” he says. “At 30 you still have 83% of your productive life ahead of you. At 40 you have 67%, and at 50, you still have 50% left to achieve your goals”.
So if it’s an inevitable truth that we are going to live and work longer then it stands to reason that we need an action plan, not just to see us through in the immediate term but for our future self. This may mean getting a job for now in order to have that career tomorrow, a step back to take a step forward? This may mean that you focus on as the Guardian article states, your ‘Career Capital’, to adapt to the changing needs of the economy and the employer.
John Lees in his post ‘To get the Job of your Dreams, Stop Dreaming’ in the Harvard Business Review points out that making the first step is the toughest part of career planning. John advocates two strategies, the first; think long and hard about opportunities, don’t “snatch at early opportunities to dismiss new ideas and opportunities before any proper investigation”.
His second suggestion is to try to reframe your mindset, look at career planning and exploration as if you were doing this on behalf of someone else.
Sometimes it is easier to advise others than to take one’s own advice! If you were to consider your individual circumstances as a case study in front of you, wouldn’t you start by thinking about what you have to offer in terms of your accumulated “skills, knowledge and experience” but also invest time in your network and outside(of work) interests. Once you have considered what you have to offer, you move onto considering where the opportunities lie. Now whilst traditional recruitment methods still exist, in this busy market think about where opportunities will tend to exist in the future or outside of the usual channels. It seems likely that you will secure a job or career, by way of your networks i.e. the ‘hidden’ jobs market or indeed portfolio working.
In pursuit of happiness
Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown, also wrote an interesting post in the Harvard Business Review, Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love they argued that for anyone thinking of making a change or facing the ‘unknown’, desire is all important. Desire will “make you more creative and more resourceful, and will help you get further faster”. The article acknowledges that you should attend to your basic ‘Maslow’ needs but the key thing is to make time for things you are passionate about, even if that’s only 15 minutes a day! The key point being that of course the future is unknown, rather than thinking about every eventuality, act, and do so by taking small steps. Who knows this may not only bring you future happiness but also aid your career?
Career planning is a marathon, not a sprint, take it step-by-step
So whether you are in need of a job for now, or actively pursuing your career, the key points are to consider your immediate needs, what will make you happy and what next steps do you need to take to achieve this? Having short and longer term action plans in place can really help you navigate the uncertain road ahead. So if you are mulling over making a change, be it a job or taking your first steps on the yellow brick road towards your career, remember these wise words from Comedian Chris Rock “…There ain’t enough time when you have a career, when you got a job, there’s too much time!”
Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling:
Personality Questionnaires – help to clarify your ideas
Research career options open to you.
Download our guides on Job Seeking whether for part-time work, graduate level opportunities, International students or Postgraduates
Register on our jobs pages, we have part-time, placements and graduate work opportunities
Update your CV and remember to tailor it to the opportunity and employer!
Attend the Graduate Summer Careers Fairs taking place in Manchester and for our Postgraduates we have PG Futures 2012. This will take place on Tuesday 26th June and will focus on postgraduates and employability. For more details, see our events pages
Looking to stand out from the crowd? Come along to one of our Enterprise and Skills Enrichment workshops
Work on your network! Take a look at the Vitae website on networking for tips.