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The Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Career

“I have a dream” famously said Martin Luther King (as did Abba, in fact). And so should you.

Let’s get one thing straightened out right away, shall we? If you have no real passion in life or interest in pursuing a dream career then this article might seem a bit excessive for you. You might still relate to parts but you may not be too bothered just floating along in life. And there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever! However, for those of you who are desperate to fulfil your wildest dreams, it is vital that you cover all bases in advance to put yourself in the best possible position to get that career started after Uni (or School for y’all).

1.       Be Social Media-Savvy

This is an absolute must. Don’t ruin your career before you’ve even got it started by polluting your social media accounts. This includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; the usual culprits. Do not post FB statuses about calling in sick to work to go to Disneyland, Instagram photos of you vomming the night before or tweet any offensive expletives. Speculative employers really will thoroughly check your internet presence, trust me. I’ve even had my Pinterest checked, which coincidentally ended happily with me writing for a vegan shoe blog, partly due to  my ‘Vegan recipes’ pin board.

LinkedIn is also vital; we’re in an age where loads of recruiting is happening directly through LinkedIn. Write a short, succinct description of your future goals and list past job roles (with a few descriptive bullet points) supporting this aim. Don’t be afraid to miss out jobs; my ‘Ice Cream Parlour Assistant’ just did not make the cut. Finally, use the same recognisable profile image across all your social media sites so employers recognise you easily on their (inevitable) Google stalking sessions of you.

2.       Dream Big

As I mentioned, don’t just presume you’ll never achieve your lifelong dream just because it feels so far off. That’s the point of having a dream, dontcha know! Vow to persevere and see it as something to work towards; we all get miserable if we feel we have no purpose and direction and life, so just make that your direction.

There is a need to be thick-skinned and competitive, but act with integrity. Visualise each little step you make – whether it’s an interview or a snippet of work experience – as a step on your own personal ladder towards the place you will eventually end up (and believe that you will!). It’s so rare that we fall into our perfect job right outta Uni, so just think of these (often) mundane, under-appreciated roles as necessary pre-jobs to the real shebang.

3.       Trust your gut

I started doing this at the turn of 2014 and haven’t looked back (yet, eep!). If you get offered a job and you’re already panicking that you’ll be out of your depth, don’t take it. If you get offered a job and the job description says you’ll be doing something 24/7 that will drive you into the ground, don’t take it. If you’re already at a job that makes copying out the dictionary seem slightly appealing because at least you’ll have something to do…guess what? Leave! Your happiness and well-being is never worth sacrificing for a job. Simples.

Sometimes it really is the right time to take the leap of faith and hope for the best. Of course, only do this if you’re taking a calculated risk. If you plan to be unemployed for a while, ensure you have some sort of back up planned to consume your time. Being unemployed, bored and lonely can never be a good thing. Whether you’re freelancing, getting your portfolio up to scratch or simply allocating job hunting as your 9-5, just totally immerse yourself in it.

4.       Swallow your pride

You can’t ever go into a job thinking that you are far too good for it. Even if you think you are, hide it bloomin’ well so no-one knows. In our painfully tight modern climate, most of us will end up in shoddy underpaid or totally unpaid roles for a while, but embrace the opportunity with open arms. As long as you can afford it, take any internship or work experience you can get your hands on and pretend you love literally every single task. Filing? What a joy! Photocopying? Oh, please, could I?

Keep note of the skills you’re picking up that can be applied elsewhere and highlight them all over your CV, cover letter and applications. Racking up internships on your CV will immediately make future employers sit up and take notice. Obviously, you need to get ‘em in your chosen field.

Keep on the good side of everyone you meet and you never know, it might lead to a job then and there or at some point in the future. But when you’re rolling in it, try to remember those dark old days and maybe work towards helping poor little interns actually be paid for their elf-like duties.

5.       Connections, connections, connections

Again, do this with integrity. I know this sounds kinda mean, but you have to be prepared to use people. I don’t mean trampling on others on your way up; just maintain any kind of acquaintance with a clear alterior motive at the back of your mind. So if you have friends or previous work colleagues chasing similar dreams, ask them for advice or useful contact details and absorb like a super absorbent sponge!

Similarly, never be afraid to approach strangers in your desired field of choice. I have messaged a few people on LinkedIn (not in a creepy way) and sent a few emails and they’ve all responded; one of which I met for coffee and questioned for useful advice. It’s just about trying get your name recognisable to any many people as possible…but in a positive way, obvi.

And finally….

6.       Re-jig your mind-set on interviews

Okay, so this is something I swear by and it totally calms me down pre-interview. Don’t think of an interview as something you’re going to mess up; think of it as an opportunity to gain something you really want. There really is nothing to lose – nothing will be taken away from your life by going to this interview. Unless, that is you embarrass yourself horribly. You might lose a chunk or two of pride in that case.

Prepare but be careful not to over-prepare. I can imagine there’s nothing worse (as an interviewer) to hear yet another interviewee reciting how they have “a passion for fashion” and their perfectly practiced speech as to why they are “absolutely beyond perfect” for this role. Be genuine. Be yourself. After all, if you end up in the role you can be nothing but your actual self.

Listen, we’re all bumbling along one way or another. If you’re in late teens to early twenties, the chances are that you are either in a job you don’t particularly like or you are painfully trapped in the darkest depths of unemployment. It’s a struggle, we all know that for sure, but just do not give up! Think smart, plan ahead, make sure you’ve always got that end goal in sight and I promise you that you will be just fine.

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.

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