Alumni careers advice: Career chances and choices

29 March 2018

We are taught from an early age that successful careers are the result of planning. At school and University we are urged to analyse our key strengths and motivations and research the job market to make informed choices about our career direction. 

How far this plan-and-implement model is still possible or even relevant in the context of today’s fast moving business world and job market? Are the choices you make today still relevant?

With the growth of the gig economy, self-employment and portfolio careers, the days of applying for advertised jobs to fit a predetermined career plan seems too one dimensional; so too is depending on  a career built on promotion in a hierarchical structure. Whilst not encouraging career hopping to move on it is important to be clear that staying with one employer is career driven by the breadth and depth of opportunity to be part of multiple teams and projects for example to enable you to be fleet of foot in your career management. 

Continual restructuring from globalisation, industry consolidation and emerging technologies, as well as flatter organisations, may be making linear promotion paths and traditional career planning obsolete. According to Deloitte’s 5th edition of global trends in human capital moving up in this future global workforce will be less of a hierarchical step up, rather advancement will be through assignments, diverse experiences and multifunctional leadership assignments. Becoming a leader through promotion will be replaced by people creating followers to grow and influence in authority

Being in the right place at the right time may count for more in today’s job market than any strategic planning. In fact the careers community even have a theory for this - Careers Happenstance.

So should you just wait for fate to take its course and for luck to strike? If you never know when you are going to get that tap on the shoulder and if you cannot yet spot your next job role it can be hard to maintain motivation and to feel in charge of your own career.

Fortunately there is a lot you can do to proactively prepare for and help create your next career opportunity in an uncertain world.

Some traditional career planning steps are still absolutely crucial:

  • Be clear about what type of activities, environment and business challenges most interest you. This will enable you to spot a great opportunity when it comes along (and avoid career dead ends).
  • Reflect on your strengths, achievements and expertise, as a clear message will help you pitch for the best opportunities. There are self-assessment activities in our Careers Management Module that will guide you through this process.
  • Identify potential career routes and interesting sectors so you can focus your networking efforts and develop the right skills and experience– whilst keeping an eye out for unexpected opportunities.

You have a finite amount of time to research careers, network and job-hunt. Focusing on areas of interest will enable you to use your time and energies wisely. The careers lesson on Mapping Your Career Landscape will help here.

You should also:

  • Ensure you are in the right pond when employers and clients come to fish. Join the networks, opt in to the projects and work with the organisations and people who are most likely to open doors - even if you do not know what those precise opportunities look like yet.
  • Look for opportunities to build your own internal organisational network, find out what other functional areas are doing – looking across organisational boundaries, learning develops your organisational value and can leverage moves for your further development.
  • Reach out to contacts in interesting job roles or companies to build your external network proactively and explore career options at your own pace.

The 2 Hour Job search technique outlined in our Careers Management Course is a very practical and structured way of doing this. You can find fellow WBS alumni in jobs and organisations of interest on the WBS Directory and through Warwick Networks.

  • Have a clear story to tell about your career so far, your key achievements and interests which you can deliver informally and adapt to your audience.
  • Keep your LinkedIn Profile and CV up to date in case of unexpected opportunities. If you meet a contact at work or at a networking event, chances are they will look you up on LinkedIn straight away. An out-of-date or poor quality profile reflects badly on you.

Above all, don’t wait until you need a job or have stayed too long in one role in one organisation  before you start thinking about potential career moves or updating your marketing materials. Be proactive about how you explore new opportunities. So, don't leave your career to pure chance in 2018, create your own career choices and be the master of your own destiny.