The Value of Self Understanding in Your Career Thinking

Here’s a post by James Stott, who is one of our MSc International Management students and and also the owner of Top Down Video:

“If the Graduate Recruitment cycle, often known as the ‘Milkround’, hasn’t been kind to you, and you’re not one of the lucky few with a shiny blue chip grad scheme offer, you might be worried for the future. It’s not unusual to find graduation, and the next stage of your life looming in the distance concerning, especially if you’ve not got a job lined up and you’re faced with the prospect of returning home indefinitely. Don’t panic. The majority of graduates are in the same position as you, whether they admit it or not. When I was in the final throes of my undergrad degree, I found myself in exactly this position, panicking and applying for every grad scheme I could find. I achieved nothing by doing this, other than finding out which company had the best assessment centre lunch. The impending feeling of post-university doom, and the frantic job search that ensued proved fruitless and left me feeling deflated. When March suddenly appeared I decided to sit down and mull over my pre-graduation and job hunting experiences. I concluded that if anything, my worry and panic had clouded my judgement, leading me to waste time applying for jobs that, although seemed perfect in the glossy brochure and job description, just weren’t a good fit for me. What should I have done?selfHaving realised my mistake, I spent the last three months of my undergrad degree pinning down exactly what drives me, which employers had that driving force, and what I should do to make us meet. In the end, I decided to act on my entrepreneurial feelings and figured that the best way for me to find a satisfying, rewarding job that fits my ambition to lead in business was to undertake postgraduate study at Henley Business School. A year down the line, I feel refreshed, reinvigorated and much more confident about where I should be focusing my job search. I now have an in-depth understanding of what motivates me, what my strengths are and which employers and sectors can nurture them for mutual benefit. But if the thought of further study turns your stomach, what can you do to help refine and focus your job-hunting efforts?

  1. Use your careers service and take advice from as many different people as possible. The Henley Careers team has a wealth of experience between them, and an array of tools to help you better understand the job market and ultimately, yourself. Tools such as StrengthScope™ assessments helped me to get an idea of what my strengths are. Conversations with the careers team helped tease out an idea of what type of employment might suit me.
  2. To find what motivates you, think hard about past experiences that you’ve enjoyed, and think even harder about exactly why you enjoyed them.
  3. To find a match between your motivations and an industry or employer, talk to professionals in those sectors or businesses. Don’t be afraid to ask them difficult questions. My experience has shown that the harder the questions you ask, the better the answer you get, and the more you learn about that profession or industry. Many of these people were once in a position such as yours, and I would challenge you to find someone who isn’t interested in giving you friendly advice to help reassure you and guide you in your job search. People like talking about themselves, so make the most of your conversations. You might even find yourself being asked difficult questions back, which only serve to help you better understand yourself!

Ultimately, my experience has shown that it’s better to spend a little bit of time understanding yourself and where you truly should go, rather than spending a lot of time going down the wrong paths or accepting the first offer that comes your way. Don’t end up slogging it out for two years in a job that seemed perfect to you at the graduate fair, but just doesn’t give you energy or nurture your passion now you’re in the thick of it. If you understand yourself, you can better articulate yourself to employers and will find your job-hunting success increasing. Don’t panic, take time to think about yourself, and reap the rewards. Your future is bright, but can be even brighter with the simple act of thought.

James Stott, MSc International Management, Henley Business School