Preparing yourself for a career starts in your student years.
The best way to advance your career is to start as early as you can! The lessons learned in that time involve key skills that are critical to success in achieving your work goals:
- Ability to ‘sell’ yourself
It is almost an art form in the workplace today. The best and most effective at this skill, start their networking early – as students at university, TAFE or other learning institution.
Similarly, gaining the confidence and ability to sell your skills and qualifications to a potential employer doesn’t begin with your first employment. It starts with your higher education course. During presentations of your assignments and various projects to your fellow students – and most importantly – to your teachers is the perfect place to practice.
2. Selling Yourself
The game-plan during your study years is ‘selling your case’. Whether it’s for getting a pass mark, or better, for your hard work as a diligent student. To an employer, you ‘sell’ yourself as the best fit for the company and the particular role they are seeking to fill.
Is undoubtedly an important characteristic that you need to carry beyond your student years and into the workforce when setting out to establish yourself in your chosen career. There is almost nobody more desirable to work with than someone who is extremely flexible. This allows a smooth-flowing workplace and affords the employees some scope to make adjustments as required without ruffling too many feathers.
When you have all 3?
Of course, there are no guarantees. Even with the strongest commitment in the world, there’s no single, accepted, formula to achieving a successful career. Indeed, networking, selling your skills and endless flexibility are all positive skills to develop and present. But the truth is, nothing and nobody can assure you will be successful in your career.
Expertise from a Career Coach
Career coach, Sally-Anne Blanshard is someone who knows about these things better than most. I spoke to her recently about the challenge of transforming from a successful student to a successful professional.
Blanshard left her career in recruitment and coaching with recruiter Ambition to start up her own Career Coaching service – NourishCoaching. Since, she spends her time teaching clients right across the board; from young professionals, fresh out of higher education and in their first or second job, to more mature career changers, all with one goal in mind – how to advance their career.
Blanshard is big on networking, selling yourself to first get a job and then turn it into a successful career, and to being flexible about the job or career you may have to choose, even if it is not what you studied for.
“I think we (professionals) just need to know we can have flexibility. It’s not the be-all to end all if you have studied for something and don’t necessarily forge a career in that space,” Blanshard emphasises.
“You need to know there is some flexibility and the ability to transfer your skills into other professions. To feel like you’re committing to something, but at the same time you are open to exploring other options.”
“It’s important not to write things off after just four or six months in the job, but you may find after that time that you feel you are not in the right organisation. So you have to have a loose type of what I call a ‘conscious career plan’. It’s great to have an idea of what you might want to do in your career and to have mentors and others to talk to and help you create this.”
On networking with peers, Blanshard says it’s a valuable skill for young professionals (or students) to have at an early age. And, talking with mentors – or even a Career Coach like Blanshard – is all part of what she sees as networking.
Blanshard advises young professionals to look to their more experienced colleagues for advice and mentoring about their career. Commenting on a recent study by the professional network LinkedIn, Blanshard says a trusted mentor can provide guidance to younger professionals in their decision-making, including advice about asking for a promotion.
On the areas of business and industry most attracting young professionals, Blanshard says there is a “definite interest” in professional services.
“I think they (graduates) are aware that it (professional services) is good grounding coming out of a business style degree, and I also I think there is a drawcard in those areas around PR, marketing & media because that’s always an area that’s evolving, particularly in the digital space over the last 5 to 10 years.
“Technology has changed the working environment. It is a far more collaborative environment at work now, and not as hierarchical. This is partly driven by technology.”
But, while Blanshard sees the benefits of technology, she also sees a potential downside. “One thing that digital technology has done is allowed us to become a ‘smaller’ world. Everyone is within greater reach through communications. But, we’re behind an avatar, whether that’s LinkedIn or any of the other social media platforms, we’re behind a computer screen.
“So what I’m encouraging people to do is to use these (social media) as career databases and career networking tools, but you also have to physically step out from behind your computer and actually ‘show up’ and speak up sometimes.”
“I meet many students. Of course, there are nerves when presenting a piece of work in the final year at university, but this is a skill they really have to home in on. They need to have the ability to ‘show up’, not necessarily in a physical sense, but also ‘communications-wise’.”
As a young professional out and about networking, Blanshard says you should remember that it is, in effect, a ‘work transaction’ and you always need to be in that sort of “professional/interview-ready mode”.
“It’s like an informal live interview because people say it’s the untapped job market. It’s networking, so for me I just make sure they (clients) are clear on who they are, where their network can be found, what events they are going to, how often they should be going to them, how they would introduce themselves. I go into that level of detail to really support them, so they release those nerves with that first impression and they can actually make a great impression.”
That seems like sound advice from Blanshard for young professionals and for students homing their presentation and networking skills as they transition from the study years into the workforce.