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How Graduates Can Strategically Build Their Careers

How Graduates Can Strategically Build Their Careers

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So, tell me, what is your passion? Most graduates don’t have an answer ready, and that’s perfectly fine.

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For now, take on a broader perspective in order to strategically build your career: Focus on gaining self-knowledge.

Why?

First of all, it will increase your chances of getting hired because it will be much easier to brand yourself. If you don’t know what you have to offer, the recruiter won’t either.

If you don’t know what you have to offer, the recruiter won’t either.

Second, if you really know yourself, it’s easier to make the right career choices. About 35% of all graduates leave their first job within a year. And that’s simply because they have made career choices that didn’t suit their personality.

For most people, passion is something that develops over time as they progress in your career. Choosing what you like (‘good enough’) and what suits you, is often a less stressful and more effective strategy.

Exploring these three core questions will help you to expand your self-knowledge and make well-founded career choices:

1. What kind of person are you? Your opinions, norms and values.

If you’d be asked this question, what would you answer? Are you helpful, a perfectionist, relationship focused, oppositional? A test that can help you to answer this question is The Personal Profile Test, which measures six dimensions:

  • Likes company OR Likes to be alone
  • Likes routine OR Is flexible
  • Relaxed OR Tense
  • Shy OR Confident
  • Follower OR Leader
  • Organized OR Disorganized

Thinking about this question helps you to determine what work environment suits you.

2. What are you good at? Your knowledge and skills.

The importance of knowing your strengths is obvious. Knowing your points of improvement is just as important, since recruiters look for self-reflection skills as an indicator of future growth. To gain better insight on your strengths and weaknesses, you can use the core quadrant of Daniel Ofman. This tool helps you to find out what your strengths, challenges, pitfalls, and allergies are.

Second, you can examine your past achievements. Describe at least three achievements you are proud of at your study, work, internship, hobby, club, and so on. For each achievement, write down what makes you proud and what qualities you used to make this achievement happen. The qualities you uncover by doing this exercise together summarize what it is you excel in. You can talk about these achievements at a job interview when proving you possess certain skills.

3. What do you want? Your motives and driving forces.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should go do it. You should find it pleasurable. Examine what exactly you’re looking for in your career. You might come up with an abstract answer when describing your passion. Instead, let’s try to compose a detailed, targeted job description.

First, you can think about your career anchors. These are quite stable over time and represent your true self. Which one characterizes you?

  • GROWTH: Advancing in a hierarchical and/or status sensitive organization.
  • SECURITY: Long and permanent employment, recognition, and appreciation by the employer.
  • FREEDOM: Emphasis is more on acquiring personal autonomy, freedom, and responsibility to achieve results and less on security and fixed rules.
  • BALANCE: Seek an optimal balance between work, private life, and self-development. Work is just one dimension of overall life fulfillment.
  • CHALLENGE: The need for excitement and challenge and a strong commitment to your job. Trying to come close to action, adventure, and creativity and having a hard time leaving work.

Next, write down what you’re looking for in your career as detailed as possible. Think about whether you would like to work at a small or big company, whether you are looking for a strong hierarchical top down structure or a more flat structure, and so on. Also think about the company culture, your colleagues, and anything else you feel is important to you. Make a list of all your preferences and come up with a “Top 7” in order to focus your job hunt. Use these important preferences to come up with a target job description. This exercise will help you to find the right job faster and more effectively.

Job hunting is something they don’t teach you in school, unfortunately. If you’re interested in more practical graduate job hunt advice, visit our Online Training. It provides validated tests to answer the three core questions discussed above. The goal of the program is to speed up and simplify your job search.

Using this strategic approach discussed above doesn’t rule out intuition or passion. It’s about getting closer towards your dream job instead of dreaming about it.

Your turn

Of course there’s much more to say about this topic, so do share your thoughts and perspectives!

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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Jos Nierop Social Psychology graduate and co-founder of Career Kickstart, an online job hunt training designed for graduates, together with 15+ recruiters.