04 Oct Level UP: 4 Essential Tips on How To Prepare for Your Dream Career
Many students and job seekers have an excellent idea of what career they want, but many don’t know how to make that aspiration happen.
Job search is becoming difficult, and thanks to technology, employers raise the bar on their expectations from recent hires.
But, how do you beat the odds to nail a job that puts springs in your step each morning as you go to work?
We invited an Executive Trainer and an HR Director to the September edition of #SFANLiveChat to weigh in on how job seekers can prepare for and find careers they love — or let it find them. Take a peek at a recap of the previous edition.
Marricke Gane Kofi is a Donor Consultant/Executive Trainer at Marricke Gane Consulting Ltd. Simultaneously, Lexy Boahene is the founder of LX HR Solutions, an HR company helps Ghanaians in Diaspora find work back home. Below are exclusive insights from the chat — on how to decide your career path, stay visible to recruiters, and get hired.
1. Understand what a career is and be clear about what you want.
There’s a difference between having a job and having a career. A job is something you get to do to make a living — to earn money — while a career is like a calling. “In my view, a career is something you are wired for, love doing, and that adds value to you and others both financially and otherwise,” Marricke explains.
In a job, you do whatever the boss says and try as much as possible to be in his good books, but you go above and beyond your job description in a career. Your primary focus is not on doing the barest least to earn a paycheck. You take the initiative and do the job as though the company belongs to you.
“I’d describe it as an occupation that you embark on throughout your working years,” Lexy underscores. “They expect you to develop and progress through this journey!”
This involves an understanding of what you want and setting specific goals on how to actualize it.
“I don’t think you always know from the beginning,” Lexy says, “but it’s important to consider these three things when choosing a career path:
a.) Make sure you are doing what you love or enjoy.
b.) Do what you are talented at and what comes easy.
c.) Try to stick to broad subjects/tasks in the beginning. Learn a range of fresh things and transferable skills.”
Marricke observes: One of the core things to do is to know yourself — how your brain works, your personality, your natural interests. The moment you know your makeup, the next thing is to figure out what industry and roles need your strength most. Your strengths must find your career, not the other way round.
When you’ve figured out where to start your career journey, then you need to set logical goals for your progression:
- Where do you want to be in the next year, five years, or ten years and how do you get there?
- What do you need to do daily or weekly to move further, faster?
Note, things might not always play out the way you planned; review your strategy, and adapt to changes.
Last, leverage community events, attend workshops, find a mentor, and build relationships. These will help you find direction.
2. Don’t be trapped by the lack of experience “Catch 22”.
“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” — Whitney M. Young
Recruiters won’t hire you if you don’t have work experience, but you need the job to get work experience. That’s the catch-22 entry-level job seekers often face.
To avoid this, don’t wait until you graduate from college before getting prepared for work; get involved in an internship or apprenticeship scheme — work for free if you have to or find a solution to a problem and create a startup, Lexy emphasizes.
Your internship job might not be in your passion, but it gives you an invaluable understanding of the world of work and helps you create vital connections. An internship is a way of testing the waters of your career journey.
Many students often moan that they don’t get to do actual work during an internship other than ‘fetching coffee or making copies.’ The truth is, if you’re diligent in those humble assignments, you could build great traction that might land you better roles.
No matter how insignificant your work might seem, be sure to use it as an opportunity to distinguish yourself and learn how things work in a bigger context. Ask questions, show genuine interest in what your colleagues are doing, and someday someone might need a hand with something, and you’d be ready.
3. Make it hard for recruiters to ignore your resume.
“When you do a resume, think of a recruiter as looking at thousands of resumes, she or he will pick ones that make her or his work easier to select.” — Marricke Gane
Contrary to popular opinion, many hiring managers are still using resumes in making recruitment decisions.
But that’s not the complete truth.
Let’s say you saw a job advert and sent in your resume. The system stacks it in, and the HR exec gets ready to review the pile (if she doesn’t review them just-in-time).
She is looking for two exceptional candidates for a marketing position, but she faces over 2,000 resumes (well, to be fair, let’s say 100 resumes, assuming it’s not a large company). As if that’s not enough, she has to peek at the shortlists’ cover letters.
How much time do you think she has to consider each of the resumes before clicking the “next” button or throwing it into the waste bin?
15 seconds, tops!
So how do you make your resume stand out from the pack?
“Make it look the way most people’s resume will NOT look like; simple, easy to digest, and powerful. I like to use infographics. I recommend infographics because most won’t use them. It depicts info on you in attractive and digestible ways,” Marricke says.
Many job applicants often think the more content and “activities” they have on their resume, the better. And so they list everything you can imagine in there. That’s the quickest way to get your copy into the trash bin.
A better approach is to find out what experiences the job needs and highlight that.
“Keep it simple and please make sure the layout is not overwhelming,” Lexy cautions.
The difference between a CV and a Resume
It is generally accepted that a CV (Curriculum Vitae) is a long in-depth document that can be laid out over two or more pages. And, it contains a high level of detail about your achievements, a great deal more than just a career biography. A resume is a concise document typically not longer than one page as the intended reader will not dwell on your document for very long. The goal of a resume is to make an individual stand out from the competition.
Pro tip: Remember to spellcheck your stuff, use uniform fonts and sizes, and highlight your accomplishments in every role you mention.
4. Brand yourself on social media.
Social media is a very useful resource when you’re looking for a job but it can equally be a liability.
“If you haven’t kept a good social presence until now, it’s late because recruiters go way back to look. Most recruiters want to see if you are positive or negative in the social space. So be on social media to make an impact. You can’t be nasty on social media and tell interviewers you are sweet — they’ll see you as a reputational time bomb,” Marricke explains.
To create a good social media image, Lexy says, first, have a social media presence, even if it’s just LinkedIn, and be active! Discuss social issues and highlight your strengths on your social media pages.
In today’s super competitive labor market, personal branding trumps “job experience.” Leverage social media to create your equity and become a thought leader in your passion. Many companies are looking for subject-matter-experts and social media influencers because a majority of business transactions now happen via social media.
Here’s a simple outline on how to create a personal brand on social media:
- Find two to three subjects that interest you — you have to represent something.
- Create a decent and consistent profile across various platforms — Guy Kawasaki, the chief evangelist of Canva, says the rule of thumb is always to have a professional business attire photo of just your face for profile pictures.
- Start blogging or posting on subjects of your choice. Don’t just focus on sharing your stuff. Make time to connect with others by reading, sharing, commenting on, or liking their posts/tweets.
- Be authentic. You have to be yourself because if you are putting on a show, the day the facade tumbles, you’ll lose your audience.
Deal breakers in a prospective employee.
We asked Marricke what his deal-breaker in a prospective recent hire is.
Marricke: I always recruit someone who can show creativity and adaptability. Things change fast at work, and so should you.
You deserve a career you love. But if you don’t plan for it and apply yourself to make it happen, your dream career will only be a dream. So, figure out what you want, use every opportunity you have to move closer to actualizing it, create a resume that sets you apart from the competition, and leverage social media to build your brand.
Finally, “it’s not what you do but the impact you make on a day-to-day basis. Make each day count,” Lexy buttressed.
“Your career is what you are designed for, refined, and lived. It must never be what you do for money or mummy or daddy,” Marricke concludes.
Need help designing your career? Let’s talk about it. Schedule a strategy session here.
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN (Stars From All Nations). When he’s not building SFAN and helping entrepreneurs and rising professionals create fulfilling careers, he’s telling African innovation stories or advocating for people-centered policy. Tom-Chris is a former consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and the author of the forthcoming book: Breaking the Limits. He is a thought leader on youth development, social entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and the future of work.