With the current pandemic, the economy and our career prospects have never looked bleaker. It is a daunting time for many who are seeking employment at the moment, especially as interviews and job events have been put on hold. Many employers have actually had to make some of their staff redundant, as they can no longer afford to pay their wages.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there are ways that you can take hold of the situation. Whether you’re a recent graduate or you’re looking for ways to advance your current career despite graduating years ago and you’re ready to take the next step, we’ve prepared three different ways that you can consider following if you are looking to boost your career prospects to secure your next promotion or new job. Equally, if you’ve been employed in a job that you once enjoyed, but no longer excites you each day anymore, and you’re looking for a new path, these three key tips will help you on your career change journey to discovering how you can prove to your next employer that you’re suitable for their company.
University and College
If you’re looking to boost your credentials on paper and further your knowledge in a familiar or new area, you should consider starting a degree. If you’ve already obtained a degree, you should be eligible to start most masters programs. Don’t let the young student population put you off, as contrary to popular belief, the student body of most universities has a large number of adults over the age of 25.
You might be put off by the financial demands of university, as well as the time constraints of classes and lectures. However, there is a multitude of ways that you can finance your degree or masters, with bursaries available for older students, and loans available for most of the UK population. If you’re already employed and seeking a degree or masters so that you can advance with your career with your current employer, you should discuss with HR whether it is possible to gain any sponsorship and paid leave to complete this educational opportunity. At the end of the day, the education you gain will actually help you in your job for the employer, and it is in their best interest to further and support their employees to expand their knowledge and skills.
If money and time are an issue, and you’re unsure if you can commit to commuting and studying at university in person, you should consider studying online. An online degree or masters is extremely flexible, and you can select the days and time you are available so that you can complete your studies in your own time. Whilst these degrees and masters qualifications will take a little longer than usual, you won’t have to put your life on hold to attend university. For example, if you are a teacher and you’re looking to further your leadership, educational knowledge, and gain a master’s degree, you can opt to study an online masters in education.
You will obtain the same qualification as other masters in education students, but you will be able to work through your university assignments and exams in your own time and around your teaching life. This means that you can also still gain an income whilst studying, which means that you can help contribute towards paying for the master’s degree, in addition to any loans or bursaries if necessary. Even Russell Group universities like the University of Exeter, who are renowned for their award-winning research facilities, offer online masters, where you can still access their facilities and receive a qualification from a top institution without having to commit to full-time studies in person.
If you’re looking to advance in your current career with your current employer, you should make use of the existing connections that you already have in this area. Through these connections, you can ask whether there are any opportunities to work shadow or trial working in your desired advanced position within your existing company. This might actually lead to you gaining the job that you are aiming for, or at least displaying to your employer that you have the drive, motivation and potential to work to a higher level than your current job allows. Even if your current employer does not hold the position that you desire, but it is still within a similar sector, you should continue to make use of any connections that you have made in your current job. It is more than likely that these connections will have external connections with other businesses and companies that have positions available for the job that you are seeking to obtain.
It may not be possible for you to tap into any current connections that you have in your job, and so you should look elsewhere to make connections where you can find out more about any areas or sectors that are of interest to you in your career development. LinkedIn is one of many social media platforms that are dedicated to networking amongst other professionals to help you advance your career and it is a website where you can display your academic or professional achievements. To find professionals who are currently in the career that you are pursuing, you can try searching different companies on LinkedIn and look for their current employees.
There is definitely a certain etiquette that you should follow when attempting to network with other professionals in your desired sector, especially as lots of these professionals are likely to be very busy and will choose how they want to spend their free time. If you’re going to be taking up someone’s time, make sure that you are polite, grateful, and engaging with them. If you are able to experience a webinar or lecture that they are involved in, this will give you an edge and show that you are actually interested in hearing what they have to say when you message them. Most importantly, ensure that you are well-informed on the subject matter that you are asking questions about and discussing, so that you don’t ask silly questions that you could have found otherwise from a simple Google search. Finally, don’t expect a new job role to be offered to you through these connections that you make. This is both unrealistic, ungrateful, and unappreciative, as you are not valuing the hard work that goes into making a career and acquiring a job role.
Volunteering and Work Experience
Gaining unpaid work experience is probably something that you did when you were younger, just so you could have something to include on your CV for your first job. However, gaining work experience, internships, and work shadowing placements can be extremely beneficial for your future employer to show you demonstrate self-drive, understand the workplace, and you are willing to work towards learning new skills. This is particularly important if your degree or previous employment is in a different sector or area to that of your desired career. Even if the work experience or placements are irrelevant or in extremely different workplaces to the area that you are hoping to be employed within, you will have gained transferable skills that are applicable to your future job and you can demonstrate this in a cover letter, CV and job application. Furthermore, if you’ve completed work experience or a placement in a relevant workplace to your desired career, there is a possibility that the employer asks you to stay as a permanent paid employee. If there are no open positions, but you have really impressed an employer, they may recommend you for one of their clients or offer to write you a glowing reference. This can make the difference between a future employer hiring you over someone else who has a long list of relevant qualifications but no experience in your chosen career.
If you’re unable to find work experience or an internship for a company in your desired career, or you’re unsure where to start, look at volunteering for a charity or non-profit organisation. Even if volunteering is not something you’ve done before and you’re worried this could be a waste of time, spending this time each week helping out others will boost your morale, help you to appreciate where you are in life, and make you realise that there is no rush in life to reach your career goals. Besides, who knows where you might end up with this volunteer work, and who you might meet along the way.
Additionally, employers are always looking for individuals to take part in volunteer work with causes beyond the company and to give back to the community. By having experienced volunteering, you will have something to talk about in your interview and show that you will make a positive difference to the company who have their own volunteering opportunities as part of their business policies. Volunteering makes you a better worker and shows you are able to commit to a cause.
There are actually volunteering practices that will contribute towards your work experience history and even employees in your desired career will continue to volunteer in these areas. For example, if you are looking to enter the legal sector and become a solicitor, once you have a qualifying law degree or have completed a law conversion course, you will be able to help provide legal advice in an advisory clinic that helps trouble people seeking a way out of their legal situation, whether that is immigration, domestic violence or financial issues.
Even if you have not yet obtained any qualifications that permit you to advise on legal matters, there is a range of opportunities involving skills that a solicitor will require, such as advisory, communication and research. You could volunteer as a Citizens Advice Advisor and gain UK-recognised qualifications with training, so that you can respond to those in need and seeking direction about where to go to find information on benefits they are entitled to, and where their situation lies with the law.
These examples of how volunteering experience can be beneficial to others and to yourself with your career demonstrate the value of expanding your horizons and starting with small steps towards the career of your dreams. Employers are not expecting you to know everything and to have copious amounts of experience, but they will be looking for ways that you show you are capable of learning new skills, committing to the business values and are able to work with others (this is required in most job roles).
As you’ve now read this advice and you attempt to go forth with some of the top tips that we have shared, keep in mind that you will eventually get to where you deserve to be if you are putting in the hard work, actively pursuing opportunities to advance your knowledge or skills, and keeping motivated. However, you need to be patient in your search for advanced job roles or opportunities in sectors that are new to you. It is unproductive and demoralising to compare yourself with others who are in completely different circumstances to you, whether that is their background, their age or their previous experience. By focusing on yourself, your goals and your actions to work on these goals, you are more likely to be successful and grateful for this success. Otherwise, you will waste yours and other people’s time if you do not appreciate what you have and focus on what other people have in their careers. This should be easier if you remember that there are people on the planet who are trying to compare themselves to you and your job experiences, which you are underappreciating by comparing your own to other professionals! If you appreciate what you have learned through education and job opportunities, you will be more confident in your abilities, more productive and active in your quest to advance your career prospects.
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash