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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are you switched on?


Our intern Ross Brown is back with quite a introspective blog and he is asking the question:  Are you switched on?

Do we need to wait for experience to provide us with answers, or could we avoid part of the struggle by forcing ourselves to be more switched on?

When I’m told not to slouch because I’ll get back problems when I’m older, my sense of invincibility robs the advice of its urgency. In my graduate job travails, I wonder how prominent this bulletproof mentality was, or whether a large proportion of my struggles were attributable to not having been switched on.

With hindsight, I reflect in bewilderment at times when I didn’t make effort to progress. I was quite a keen tennis player when I was younger. Unfortunately, my game was blighted by unforced errors — yet I rarely made any effort to remedy this by employing tactics. As a result, I was endlessly hindered by my own mistakes and more matches were lost than won. I can now see that I firmly believed that my imaginary innate skills would ultimately triumph despite my refusal to practise. I struggled with my own expectations and my sense of perspective. Was this youthful naivety or arrogance, or was I just not that switched on?

Now, having worked at TARGETjobs for two and a half months, I can say that I’ve had a good degree of exposure to approaches to obtaining graduate jobs. The following pieces of advice seem most pertinent:

·         Land on what you think you want to do

·         Pursue work experience

·         Make well-considered, tailored applications; don’t scattergun companies with generic, Ctrl C, Ctrl V disasters

·         Don’t sell yourself short – there may often be evidence of competency in your experiences where you felt there was none.  Don’t, on the other hand, use tedious superlative clich├ęs culled from The Apprentice.

These simple suggestions are meaningful and helpful with hindsight, but did I really need to do an internship with a graduate careers advisor to achieve this level of clarity?

Previously, I may have felt that I had other things to do when I could have been approaching my career with more thoughtfulness. I may not have reached a position of accumulated knowledge and experience where these insights would have resonated with me. However, there are many for whom the thoughtful approach appears to be a priori. Here is a blog written by a switched on young lad named Chris Rowlands, who is already doing the right things to facilitate his future success. Have Chris and other impressive career hunters been fed more assistance than I have, or are they simply more switched on and prepared to seek the advice themselves? I can’t be sure, though I’m willing to bet that the second option is not entirely irrelevant.

So how do you become more switched on? To begin with, waiting around for life to happen for you isn’t often the wisest approach. During these times of economic hardship, it’s also not a viable approach. Properly engaging with what you’re doing, no matter what the task, is a good way to inspire thoughtfulness, consideration and motivation. Unreflectively complaining about how impossible it is to get a job is not the best way of finding one. Hunting out advice and making use of others’ experience is a useful way of trying to learn lessons before you find out the hard way by yourself. It’s possible that being switched on may be natural, but it is also something that anyone can do for his or herself.

It’s hard to be immersed in something, view things from above and have foresight all at once. Fully appreciating the significance of something in advance is impossible; I will no doubt find this out once again aged 45 — crippled by lumbago.

Thanks Ross.

Why not plan ahead a see how you can avoid a graduate career crisis.