First things first – Congratulations! You’ve worked hard, partied hard, and learned a lot about yourself, your ability to work to the wire (how many of your assignments were done within hours of the submission deadline?!) and juggling your priorities around to get everything done in the nick of time.
You now have a piece of paper that proves to the world that you can learn. I don’t mean to downplay your efforts, the prestige, nor the accomplishment we have just celebrated. However, reality is that your degree has become (almost) nothing more than your ticket into the next ride of your life – your career. It proves you can learn. It proves you can follow instructions. It proves you can perform when it’s needed. And the fact that it is a business degree gives it the status of a passport that you will use over and over again as your versatility chip.
Your Career Is About You
Gone are the days when you started out in a company and worked there for the next 40 years. Maybe the stories your grandparents tell of their working life shows that this mentality was real for them. Maybe it also is for your parents. But the world we live in today doesn’t lend itself to life-long careers within the same organisation, or even within the same field of work.
Nowadays, smart and successful people understand that their career is not within one particular area/sector/industry/company. They take a slightly different view. For them, their career is about them and how they make a living out of capitalising on their knowledge, strengths, talents, gifts, and interests. It’s about looking firstly at themselves and what they want, and then finding something that plays to that.
Recognise Your Strengths, Gifts, Talents, and Interests
The secret to happiness in your professional life is to do something you love. If you crack that, you will be more successful that you could ever imagine. Why? Because happy people move onward and upward much quicker than others. So how do you find something you will love? You need to understand much more about yourself, including your strengths, gifts, talents, and interests. So get yourself a pen and a sheet of paper and write down whatever comes to mind in answer to the following questions:
- What am I really good at and I enjoy doing?
- What is it that I do and have no sense of how much time has passed because I’m totally absorbed?
- What did I enjoy doing as a kid or teenager, but kept being told to go and do my homework instead?
- What fascinates me?
- What am I curious about?
The first time you ask yourself these questions, you might not get much. But keep asking yourself, keep remembering, and keep capturing – your career depends on it!
Gather Some Experience
You might not find a stable, enjoyable 9-5 job straight out of uni. That’s OK. In fact, it might be the best thing ever! Because now it allows you to experiment. Get a bar job, a temping contract, a part-time job. Anything that supports something from your answers to the questions above. Don’t limit yourself and don’t judge yourself either. Find out what you are made of. Start at the bottom and see what it’s really like. It will make you a better manager one day!
Get involved in clubs and organisations. Take up new hobbies. Rediscover old ones. Why? Because these are perfect opportunities for networking, gaining experience, taking on leadership roles, showing reliability. Engaging in your passions will bring out a totally different side of you that will have others sit up and take notice. Perfecting what you are already good at will give you more than enough stories to tell at interviews and make it clear to employers that you know what you are good at and how to use it.
Throw Your 5-Year Plan Out the Window
A common interview question is “where do you think you’ll be in 5 years time?” And it’s a question I hate with a passion. Here’s the answer I generally give:
“If you had asked me 5 years ago where I would be now, I couldn’t even make up the things that have happened that have changed my life and career significantly. My path has taken lots of twists and turns and I’ve faced many crossroads and Y-junctions. If I had had a 5-year plan and wanted to stick to it, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the opportunities that came my way, simply because I just wouldn’t have seen them for the blinkers. So while I believe it’s important to think about the future, I find the concept of a 5-year plan for me a little too restricting.”
And then I go on to highlight what I’ve learned from the twists and turns my career has taken. By this point, the interviewer has no reason to believe that a 5-year plan would have helped my career in any way! Don’t limit yourself and close yourself off to potential opportunities that might cross your path that don’t look like you expect them to. By having a 5-year plan, you are more likely to not even notice the money trails being left for you just outside of your periphery vision.
Business is Business
So what can you do with your business degree? Well, pretty much anything you want that doesn’t require a specialist degree (medical, architecture, engineering etc.). I work with people every day who did a business degree and now do something totally unrelated. My degree was in Economics, with basics in finance, accounting and marketing. I now work in Learning & Development and have my coaching business on the side. None of this I learned about in the classroom – but I did learn how to learn and apply my skills and through involvement with other activities, discovered and developed my passion for people.
Share Your Insights
Share with us what you have done with your degree, or not. Or tell us how you discovered your passion and career!
Your First Stepping Stone
And if you’d like more help to discover what you should be looking at for your career, take a look at my “From Job Adversity to Career Prosperity” programme that will help you uncover and understand your natural gifts, talents and strengths and figure out how to put them to good use in a professional environment. Contact me to arrange your first free coaching session.