Puzzling times

Ah,  summertime! Fun and sun and the end of the academic year!  Not that the Careers Service takes a big vacation, we’re still here in the office as ever, ready to help our beloved students and graduates.  Graduation marks the start of a different kind of season for us, which I’ll call “the season of discontent”.  It’s an emotional time: after the rollercoaster of exams then celebrations, student life comes to an abrupt end and Uni friends scatter to the four winds…or at least towards London.  And now’s the time reality hits hard.  What are you going to do next?

One of my lovely colleagues asked quite a lot of graduands if they knew what they’d be doing next and most people said they did.  She thought this was excellent news, boding well for our survey in a few months’ time.  However, as she continued the conversations, it became apparent that some people’s “plans” only went as far as moving back to their parents and signing on.  That wasn’t quite what she had in mind!

Maybe you’re one of those people, or maybe you’ve got a temporary job lined up.  Perhaps you’re extending your part-time role with more hours, or heading back to an old job – it could even be with your placement provider.  That’s all good as far as it goes, but some of you will be asking yourselves “what next?”

It seems like EVERYONE else has got a proper, graduate job and EVERYONE else is sorted and has their life all neatly mapped out, right?  Wrong!  I can guarantee that lots of you are in the same boat and you are definitively not alone.  However far you’ve got with your career planning (even if you never heard the phrase before), there’s loads you can do to move forward, it just takes a bit of doing and a bit of thinking.  Okay, maybe a lot of thinking.  Some reading will help, too.  And talking to a few people wouldn’t hurt.

The best starting point is to think about what you like and what you’re good at.   If you canidentify your interests, values, needs, likes, strengths and skills and figure out what’s important to you right now, you can start to put some order on the unknown, obscure, mysterious and seemingly infinite options.  Be as specific as you can.  Pinpoint the details that you know for sure will make a difference to your job satisfaction.  This might include practical things, like pay and location or bigger issues like how you want to contribute to society.  Are you more productive working solo, or sharing ideas and responsibility with others?  Will a small or a large company suit you more – and why do you think this?  As well as helping you make a decision, this will really help when it comes to answering tricky questions on forms and in interviews.

You’re putting the corners and the edges of your personal jigsaw puzzle in place, so you can keep adding more when you find the right pieces.  It doesn’t matter so much if you can’t see the whole picture yet.  The more pieces you place, the easier it will become to start making it out.  When an opportunity come along, you’ll be able to see how well it matches your picture.  If it’s pretty close, it’s worth exploring and pursuing in earnest and then you can put forward a truly convincing application and make the right impression.  I wonder how long it will take to finish the puzzle completely?  As time goes by, most of us make a few changes to the details, moving things from the foreground to the background.  Me? I’ve added a whole extra picture and started a killer sudoku, too!

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