Do you recall your first job that you may have accepted initially just to get your foot in the door filled with big dreams and the strong desire to achieve more? The steep learning curve while experiencing life lessons, developing your soft skills and over a period of time, carefully understanding your personal strengths, weaknesses and over time, establishing a great career?
As part of our undertaking to explore the reasons behind the pervasive mismatch between existing skills, expertise and the current work environment, we examined the difference between pursuing a career versus pursuing a job. Arguably, simply aspiring to ‘having a job’ keeps young people trapped in a cycle whereby their work lacks purpose – and is therefore unfulfilling and unsuccessful. On the other hand, young people who aspire to build a career (which is matched to both their skills and their values) are far more likely to find meaning and also to be highly successful. However, building a career takes both careful planning and solid mentorship from an early stage.
What can be done to turn a job into a fulfilling career?
The answer may be in understanding your own goals, capabilities, knowing what makes you happy and exploring the opportunities available. The in-depth research conducted specifically for our Youth foresightreport involving new entrants to the employment market suggested that students select degrees or areas of study with poorly formed or vague ideas of where their studies will lead them and which roles they ultimately see themselves fulfilling. Added to this, they have a very limited understanding of what certain roles really require. This deeply undermines the quest to build a career, and to find positions that are both personally and professionally suitable.
Take, for example, a degree in Supply Chain Management and/or Logistics. Students often step into this field without understanding that there are many different activities performed within these industry sectors. Indeed, Supply Chain “Management” and Logistics “Management” differ significantly from performing or providing logistical services that require very specific tactical and operational expertise.
It is also worth noting that ambitions to be involved in the managerial and strategic aspects of this industry can only be achieved over time and with experience, whereas the many sectors of business activity in logistical services are vast and more easily accessible. Students are broadly unaware of the hugely diverse business activities they can or should pursue, and also appear to have little knowledge of the companies with whom they intend to seek employment.
Critically, if there was a better understanding of the many logistical activities performed in any supply chain, students would elect for more targeted areas of study and obtain some practical experience and then set-out to obtain a relevant and more focussed qualification, thus boosting their employability.
For young aspirational graduates, internships and job shadowing offer the opportunity to understand what a role really entails. For more experienced employees with a couple of years of work experience, networking amongst peers and volunteering for projects outside of their standard 8 to 5 job, can offer valuable insights into the realities of different roles and requirements.
A career is not the end goal, it is the sum of the experiences, contributions and learnings along the way. Enjoy the journey.
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Meister, J., 2006. Forbes. [Online]