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Career planning advice for alumni

Career planning advice for alumni By Annette Baxter, former careers advisor 

In the words of the career planning 'guru' Peter Hawkins (1997) 'To be employed is to be at risk, to be employable is to be secure. 'This is never as true an adage as now. I am sure most people know someone whose job, industry or organisation has been affected by the downturn in the economy and has at some point had to think about the vulnerability of their own circumstances. Even if you have been left unscathed by the changing job market, never has it been a more important time to think about one's own employability and ability to adapt to changing circumstances rather than get rooted in one niche role or sector. So what follows are some hints and tips that may be food for thought. 

Take stock 

Doing an audit of your achievements and experiences is a valuable exercise for helping you to reflect upon your current skill base. Get feedback from others – asking friends, family or colleagues about the skills or qualities that they recognise in you can help reveal your true skills picture and can overcome any tendency for modesty, or even low self-esteem. Appreciating all the different skills you have and gathering evidence for these skills is not only a good confidence builder but can also help you see how transferrable your experience can be to different roles or environments. 

Expand your boundaries 

Having audited your skills, look out for any gaps in your skill base and then identify activities you can get involved in that will help you fill these gaps. Volunteering to take part in a project, initiating something new or completing a project successfully that takes you out of your comfort zone whether within your working life or social time will provide a great sense of achievement and will add significantly to your portfolio of skills and experience. 

Staying one step ahead 

As you would to a business, apply theories of business analysis to yourself and your prospects. A 'PEST' analysis of political, economic, social, technological factors that may affect you or your role, and doing a SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, may help you identify the strategic direction – Me Plc – could take in the future so you can remain the manager or director of your career. 

Be enterprising 

This does not imply that you have to set up your own business or leave your role to suddenly change company or direction. Using entrepreneurial qualities within your current situation could be the key to a more satisfying career. Richard Hanage from the National Council for Graduates Entrepreneurship has promoted the values of using initiative and innovation within the workplace to become an 'intrapreneur'. For example, anticipating a change of company direction which impacts on your current role could provide an opportunity to position yourself at the forefront of developmental change. Any additional responsibilities and workload could create short-term increased pressure but may lead to long-term stability, satisfaction and credibility. 

Check your career sat nav

Identifying the destination or direction of your career journey can help you to identify the route you need to take and the necessary rest stops that you need to break your journey en route. A series of small career moves or manageable actions that take you in the right direction can all be valuable. The old story of the tortoise and the hare can be useful here – both characters get to their final destination but remember life is also about the journey so enjoy whichever direction you head.

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