Getting started with planning your career can feel like a daunting task. With so much information out there, where exactly do you begin?
It’s really important to know there’s no rush; if you haven’t got a strong career direction in mind, it doesn’t mean you’re behind or lost. It just means you’ve got lots of opportunities to start uncovering what this could look like for you.
And if you do have a clear idea in mind, it means you’ve got plenty of opportunities to start getting stuck in!
Employers continually tell us the candidates that stand out are the ones who know the sector, have an invested interest in growing in the profession, and can show some sign of commitment and ownership over what they’re doing with their career.
That might sound like a lot, but it only takes a few simple steps to get started!
Connecting Your Studies with Work
By connecting your studies with the world of work in small steps, you’ll build up some great knowledge of your chosen industry, grab some experience and be able to impress employers by talking confidently about what you know when you start attending interviews.
Other benefits include:
- Provides authentic learning experiences: Instead of just theorising or guessing what the world of work is like, you’ll get authentic experiences to help you grow personally and professionally.
- You’ll get ‘big picture’ exposure: Sometimes, we only think about a career path or job title in small ways, but when you get proper exposure, you see how much a particular career could encompass and what you need to start doing to get ready for your journey.
- It can help you find new career pathways: Getting connected with the world of work can help you to understand how a particular industry or sector has grown and all the new roles available you might not otherwise learn about.
5 Ways to Make the Connection
Connecting with the world of work doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re not sure where to begin, start small and build your confidence over time.
Below is a list of activities that set out the building blocks of connecting your studies with work for you.
All of these can prove valuable and are worth continually investing as you grow with both your academic and career journeys:
- Industry Research
Industry research isn’t just about reading stuff online; it can also include:
- Watching documentaries
- Completing relevant short courses or online workshops
- Researching the biggest companies internationally in the field
- Reading professional profiles about successful people in the sector.
- Visiting relevant institutions (such as museums or galleries) to learn about the industry’s history, where they’re available.
The purpose here is to build a comprehensive foundation of knowledge that gives you the confidence to pursue the industry as a career choice.
Top Tip: Check out the case studies on the NGTU site for heaps of inspiration, ideas and tips!
- Careers Fairs and Workshops
Careers fairs are the place to start learning more about getting into specific industries and job roles. You should aim to fill in your knowledge gaps and ask targeted questions along the lines of:
- Subjects you need to study and the grades you should aim to achieve.
- Alternative pathways into specific careers, not just university.
- Who’s offering the courses you want in your local area.
- Expected job growth and salary expectations for an entry-level employee.
Asking these questions will provide you with the information you need to stay on track and keep a strong ‘Plan B’ in action, just if you don’t get the grades you need. It can also be very motivating to know the sector you’re interested in has lots of growth and good salaries for young people just getting started!
- Job Shadowing
Job shadowing is where you spend a day or a few days in the workplace, seeing what people in the profession you’re interested in getting up to on a day to day basis.
It’s a fantastic way to see a role ‘in action’ and low pressure - there’s no expectation on you to get stuck in if you feel nervous; you’re there to observe, learn and decide whether you want to take the following steps into gaining some work experience.
This is also an opportunity to ask some more direct questions about pursuing this career path. Think about questions like:
- What would be your top three pieces of advice for someone like me starting?
- What subjects should I focus on in my studies?
- How did you get started, and what mistakes did you learn from along the way?
- Is there anything else I could learn now that I won’t be taught in school that will set me up well for success in this career?
- Work Experience
Once you’ve got a firm handle on the industry, the next step is to get yourself some work experience!
Work experience is a vital piece of the puzzle; it’s where you take all the knowledge you’ve been developing so far and apply it to the workplace. If you’ve done the steps above, a lot of your learning at this stage will be theoretical - work experience allows you to fully get stuck in and get practical!
When completing work experience, reflect and ask yourself:
- What was I least prepared for?
- What do I need to gain more experience in?
- Where did I excel?
- What career paths in this industry are my strengths linked to?
- What areas can I work on in my own time that doesn’t require me to be in the workplace?
Ask your supervisor and colleagues for input too on these questions. The more you grab this opportunity with both hands to learn as much as you can about the industry and yourself, the better you’ll set yourself up for success!
There might not be much going on right now by way of in-person careers fairs and work experience, but there are lots of virtual and online events you can sign up for (yes, that includes work experience!).
Stay ahead of the pack with these four easy ways to connect your studies with work, and keep up your career momentum until the time you can get back out there!