Leaving education is a significant milestone for every adult. Until now, your life has been on a clear path, following a set trajectory and pursuing pre-defined goals. Preparing for what’s next and embracing the unknown is a stark contrast. 

In effect, you’ve reached a crossroads. For the first time, you’re the master of your fate.

There’s associated excitement, pressure, and trepidation – as well as a good helping of fear about making the wrong choice for your future.

The reality is, there are very few ‘wrong’ choices. Many of us have multiple, ever-evolving visions of what we’d like our lives to be. They don’t always look like how we first imagined.

Many students feel trapped by their degree course title. Still, it doesn’t necessarily define the industry in which you end up. Take the Law student who realised they didn’t want to practise. Or the Mathematics graduate who went on to pursue their passion for customer service.

Then there are people like Steve Jobs. He didn’t graduate at all but co-founded Apple and later applied calligraphic design principles he learned at university to Apple tech.

So, Where to Begin?

As a student leaving education, everyone around you will have an opinion about what to do next – course professionals, careers advisors, parents, friends, and family. It’s a long list.

Working it out for yourself is often a lot more tricky. A great place to begin in your thinking is to start with what you know.

What are your interests and passions?

People liken loving your work to not working a day in your life. Whether or not that’s true is another story, but working in a field in which you’re already naturally interested is a great place to begin your working days.

Consider your hobbies, interests, and causes you care about. What do you love doing? Could you turn a pre-existing passion into a career?

What are you good at?

Chances are you’ll already have an idea of what your strengths are and what you’re not so good at. Ask your family, friends, lecturers, and mentors for additional insights.

Weigh your skills and strengths, and consider ways to apply them in the working world.

Does this information ignite any ideas about potential roles you could explore?

Take a personality profiling test, a career aptitude assessment, or talk to a Careers Advisor for ideas about what kinds of roles might suit your personality and skills.

Are there areas where your interests and strengths combine?

Look for patterns and areas of overlap between your passions and skills. The perfect place for career fulfilment and success is finding somewhere where they intersect.

Don’t be put off if the pieces don’t naturally fall together. It doesn’t happen for many of us.

For most people, finding a career we want and love is a combination of exploring new opportunities and embracing the unknown.

Where Will I End Up?

Your career will span most of your adult life, so it’s completely understandable to want to make the right choice about what you want from a career.

However, a job for life is no longer the norm. Careers today are less like ladders to climb than squiggles to navigate.

Nowadays success is defined by different metrics than money, influence, and power. Students entering the workforce and the Gen-Zs that have already arrived use their values as a career compass. They actively pursue increased diversity, inclusion, and equity in the working world, embracing making the world a better place as a critical metric of success.

A Squiggly Career Trajectory

Considering a squiggly career trajectory means embracing the idea that your career need not be a predetermined, linear path.

It’s about giving yourself the space to try new things and explore different professional working relationships. Allow yourself to try volunteering, internships, freelancing, short term employment, as well as the corporate career ladder model before making any long term commitments.

A squiggly career pattern is about defining learning and development opportunities as possibilities as well as plans.

Not making a decision straight out of university can sometimes be the best decision you make.

Think Possibilities As Well As Plans

Visualisation is a powerful tool to envisage your future career direction. But don’t limit your potential by having only one possible future set in stone.

Consider the ‘Obvious Choice’

What would be your logical career choice based on your experience, studies, and others’ expectations? It could be the right thing to do if financial security has come out top in assessing your priorities.

For an Engineering student, it might be becoming a mechanical engineer. For an Art student, a role in graphic design. Perhaps it’s none of the above, and you intend to take over the family business.

The more you think about it, does it seem the obvious choice for you, providing financial security and a sense of happiness and fulfilment in your work? Or is it something that others have chosen for you and you’re pursuing on autopilot?

Contemplate the ‘Ambitious Choice’

Where do you see your most successful self? Is it heading up a company, running an agency, becoming a successful architect? What challenges stand in your way?

Can you, and do you want to, overcome them?

What’s the ‘Dream’?

If you could be anything in the world, what would it be? If you could pivot your life in a completely different direction, what would it look like?

Assess Each In Turn

Are there similarities? Are they realistic based on what you know of yourself? What defines each choice?

Are there steps you can take to move the needle closer to becoming the obvious choice?

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

When it comes to making life decisions and considering your future, it’s logical to want to get things right. But no one has everything figured out.

Take things a step at a time, and don’t put yourself under too much pressure, always remember ‘there are no wrong decisions, only different ones.’

For support to figure out what happens next and advice about realising your goals for your brightest future, get in touch.

The job market today is tough. There are thousands of talented applicants just like you applying for the same roles. Standing out for the right reasons from the outset of the application process is crucial to get to the interview and beyond.

A solid personal brand may be exactly what you need to set yourself up for success. Below we explore the concept of personal branding to assist you in your search.

What is a Personal Brand?

Talk about branding, and everyone thinks of logos, large corporations, and household names.

But at its most basic, branding is about making yourself memorable. It’s about the steps you take to influence people’s perceptions of a product, service, or individual.

A personal brand is all about how you promote yourself to potential employers and ensure that they see you in your best possible light.

Get to Know Yourself: What Are You Trying to Achieve?

The first step to achieving a personal brand you’re proud of is working out what you’re trying to do.

Understanding the motivations, unique experiences and contributions you bring to the table is key to differentiating yourself from other candidates.

What are Your Values?

Your values are the things that matter to you in the way you live and work. They guide your key decisions and determine your priorities. Living by your values increases self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and overall happiness with your life.

Therefore, before beginning to create your personal brand, you must consider what matters to you and how you can embody and live by your values in your working life.

Take a moment to define your career success. What motivates you? Is it money or power? Is it a balance between home and work? Is it a feeling of contributing to a broader purpose?

Many people use fulfilment and happiness as metrics for employment success. Insights about your motivations are crucial to establishing that for yourself.

Your Skills and Life Experiences

Many applicants fall into the trap of only identifying and sharing skills and expertise gained from employment. Don’t discount education and life experiences as sources of inspiration for your personal branding.

Review your career history and identify critical skills you acquired during your employment. List ways you can demonstrate said skills (we’ll look at these later).

Do the same for your life experiences. Consider expertise you developed through things like caring responsibilities, travelling, hobbies, passions, and interests.

As important as your strengths are your weaknesses. Consider aspects of your working or personal life where you’ve struggled. Are there recurring themes and can you show what actions you’ve taken to address them? Are there situations or environments where you know you don’t belong or don’t succeed?

One last and beneficial exercise for many applicants is to ask your networks how they see you, your essential qualities, strengths and weaknesses. Friends, family, former colleagues are a wealth of insight for you to tap. You may be surprised by their responses.

They say knowledge is power. You can use this fact-finding exercise to prepare yourself for what comes next. Building a personal brand that casts you in your best possible light and overcomes whatever challenges an application or interview panel throws at you.

How to Build a Personal Brand by Design

Everyone has a digital footprint. A quick Google search will reveal details of your life, including the content you share online, your networks, and any media attention you receive.

A personal brand gives a recruiter a sense of an applicant beyond an application form. A strong personal brand developed by design, highlighting your values, strengths, and expertise, is a more appealing prospect than one left to chance.

Above we gathered information about our values, work and life experiences, which we can now use to shape and influence potential employers’ perceptions of us.

Google Yourself and Review the Results

Does what’s revealed cast you in a favourable light? It’s easy to forget that social media is largely public and viewable by the masses. Would you want a prospective employer to see what you post? If the answer is no, it’s better not to press ‘publish.’ Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.

Always Be Yourself (In Person And Online)

Keeping in mind your prospective audience doesn’t mean you should recreate yourself. There’s always a balance between casting yourself in the best possible light and appearing insincere.

A perceived mismatch between your digital personality and actions can cause you to lose credibility, so don’t ever try to be someone you’re not.

Things like a caring personality and a good sense of humour can go a long way to establishing a know, like, and trust factor with recruiters, employers, and your wider network.

Use your online content to demonstrate the positive traits, experiences, and skills you collected earlier on while retaining your humanity. Consistent personal branding is vital and means being recognisable as yourself wherever you are, whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or in real life.

Create a Content Plan

Getting clear on your needs, wants, and aspirations for your future is a real confidence-builder when creating content to support your vision.

Use your social media channels and blog (if you have one) to demonstrate and communicate that your personal brand instantly sets you apart from other candidates.

Consistently demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and experience in a relatable and valuable way. Speak directly to recruiters and employers in industry conversations while you do so.

Create a plan detailing when and where you intend to post, the kinds of content you’re going to share, the value you intend to impart, and the employers you’re going to target.

Demonstrate and embody your brand online and in real life, and you’ll instantly feel more confident, self-assured, and focused in your job search.

Don’t forget to use your existing network to your advantage. Employees often know of upcoming roles before they’re publicly advertised. Consistently sharing value and regularly appearing in the right people’s newsfeeds may mean you’re head-hunted or invited to apply for upcoming vacancies.

The Value of a Personal Brand

The value of taking the time to create a strong, cohesive personal brand can’t be overstated. It makes you memorable and empowers you to forge a career that aligns with your values, skills, and expertise, maximising your future prosperity and fulfilment.

Considering your wants, needs, and motivations for your next role and wider career helps you set the baseline for your future success. You’re able to make better, more informed decisions about the roles you choose to apply for and the companies you decide to approach.

Perhaps you need some support putting your plans into action?

Get in touch. We’re here to help.