The idea that you can go to university or take an apprenticeship and then find a job that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life is a bit out-dated. Sure, it can happen as there is always an exception to prove the rule, but the working life for most people is one that sees different jobs, a variety of different employers, and even the occasional total change of career! Traditional notions of the ‘job for life’ are increasingly obsolete as contract work and a variety of different employment models become more common. But what does this all mean for you as someone who is looking at entering the world of work? It means that you need to enter employment with a slightly different focus to that your grandparents did – who would have sought a job that they could stay at for a long time as they filled a pension pot and built up benefits over time.
These days there are few guarantees when it comes to career advancement, but you can get ahead if you seek skills rather than a ‘job for life.’ Your skills are proof that you are employable, plus skills can build and grow to make you a greater asset to an employer, and you can take your skills and experience with you wherever you go.
This new way of thinking about a career has been shown via a LinkedIn survey of over 10,000 workers who were changing jobs. Over 53% of them said that they were looking for better career opportunities and the chance to improve their skills was a primary factor in that. Unless you can grow you run the risk of stagnating and letting others push ahead of you.
This doesn’t mean that you should constantly look to change your job – especially if you manage to find one that you enjoy – but rather that you need to see yourself as a little business in your own right. You need to make yourself an asset to your employer and you can constantly improve your worth by developing new skills.
An apprenticeship, for example, is a great way to enter into a chosen career. Not only do you get real on-the-job training and a qualification to prove you know what you are doing, but the majority of apprentices go straight into (relevant) employment once they qualify. However, this is really just the start of your journey as you look to progress your career.
As well as skills you may need to work hard to market yourself. Just getting on with your job and hoping someone will notice may not be enough for you to get promoted, make sure your work is noticed and appreciated (without coming across as a big-head!), but also be sure to help others too. Your working life is a mesh of different relationships that you need to foster – from those of your colleagues, to clients, and of course your boss. Alienate or anger one group and you could find your career starting to stall.
The key is to stay employable, which means making sure you grow your skills and usefulness across your career. Overthinking your career can leave you stuck, you need to act and start building on your career in order to see it progress, and picking up extra skills while in work is an easy way to do this. If you are not working right now, or not working in an area that you want to stay in you may need to put in some extra effort – but perhaps volunteering could be the answer – basically swapping your time for skills and experience rather than money. This may not be an option for everyone – but either way you will need to have a plan.
Just drifting along and hoping everything will turn out well may leave you behind the pack, so be proactive - seek to improve your brand, your skills and your employability, and you should see your career progress!