Too many grads worry about their lack of direction when they are starting out on their careers. They work with us in hospitality roles during their studies, but when the moment comes to make that “big” decision, many adopt the look of a rabbit in the headlights.
After an academic career of certainty and achievement, the vast choice that life can offer them seems confusing and utterly uncertain. That’s okay.
We spend a lot of time with people looking at their personal preferences and thinking about which careers (and industries) might be best suited for them. The majority won’t be short of offers, but for most it somehow seems to be such a monumental decision. They think that their first job will dictate their first few roles, but this is far from always the case.
In an ideal world a grad will make the right decision, first time, but as long as you stick with your first job for a few years and make enough of an impact, it is entirely acceptable to consider a career change if you don’t feel that you have got things right. A second or a third employer will understand this, and with so many vital skills being transferrable these days, changing industries or functional specialities is nearly always possible for someone with the right attitude and personal qualities.
If, therefore, we assume that your first job isn’t necessarily for life in terms of industry and function, what should a grad look for in their first role?
Well, for me, the culture of a company plays an incredibly important role. If the grad doesn’t not feel quite at home in terms of their activity, a good cultural fit is vital to smooth over those few difficult days. If a grad gets on with their colleagues and feels at home, then they will be far more likely to want to make their difference.
It is also important that there aren’t too many initial compromises. Putting yourself under pressure with a lengthy commute isn’t advisable, and living beyond your means in the assumption that you will get a swift promotion is also a recipe for disaster. If you take the “sensible” offer that seems closest to your situation and your aspirations, you won’t go far wrong.
Also, many companies are incredibly flexible when it becomes clear that you aren’t quite flourishing in your chosen area. They may well see the potential to move you to a new function, but they can’t do this unless you let them know. Suffering in silence is the worst thing that you can do – you won’t be productive and they won’t understand why. Honesty is the best policy and they would much rather have you doing something that you are passionate about. Many people move from sales to marketing for example – when it is early on in your career, it isn’t such a big step.
Your career path may not be clear in those first few years and many people will change multiple times over the first couple of decades. That’s okay, it’s perfectly acceptable – just be honest with yourself and with those around you – you’ll find the optimal solution.