How to design your Career Pathway: 7 Tips to help you get started
Designing a career pathway means planning a path for your career. Regardless of the career, you have chosen, you will need to think about how you’re going to get there. This applies to all careers from Law to IT and from Sciences to the Arts.
QUOTE: If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else. – Yogi Berra.
This means doing your research, thinking ahead, and planning a course of action for how you will arrive at your desired career. It involves determining the education and training that you will need to enter your chosen career and also thinking about the additional things that you can do to set yourself up for success within that career.
When you design your career pathway, you will most likely need to think about the skills required to enter the career, the subjects that you’ll need to take at GCSE and the A-level or Post-16 courses, as well as the best university that you can attend or apprenticeship that you join that will support you within this career.
In this section, we’ll go into more detail with the things you should put into consideration when designing your career pathway.
1. Find out the skills & qualities needed
It’s important that you do your research and have a good understanding of your chosen career before embarking on this and designing your career pathway. Choosing a career, especially as a teenager, can feel quite daunting but it doesn’t have to be so hard. To get started with designing your career pathway, you’ll need to do some further research on the skills and qualities required to succeed in this career. You can find out the key skills and qualities by doing desk research online, looking at job descriptions, and asking people that work within this field. Knowing the top 5-10 skills needed in this career, will help you stay focused and it will help you to continue developing those skills in your day to day life. Once you know these skills, you can start thinking about how you’ll develop these skills – this might be through extra-curricular activities, through your hobbies, through starting an online blog or even starting a small business. You will find that there are lots of creative ways to build these skills, no matter what these skills are.
2. Learn about the field, industry & employers
Now that you know the skills required, you’ll need to find out more about the industry or sector that you’ll be working in. This will give you an awareness of any opportunities or challenges within the industry, including an idea of the employment prospects for the future. You’ll also get an idea of the possible employers that you can work with and expected salary. Researching the industry, will help you widen your knowledge of this career and you may even stumble upon opportunities that you hadn’t realised existed. The more research you do, the more you’ll discover a wide range of employers and employment opportunities that will become useful when you’re ready to apply for jobs and look for work experience.
3. Search for work experience or work shadowing opportunities
Work shadowing is a great way for you to get a taste for a particular role you’ve been considering. It allows you to find out the day-to-day business of a specific job by ‘shadowing’ a person who is actively doing the job. Having work experience on your CV, shows that you’ve taken the initiative to learn more about the career. To find relevant work experience, you can ask your network, you can ask /search on social media or you can contact companies directly for openings for relevant opportunities.
4. Think about how you can continually build your network
Opportunities including work experience and skill building opportunities, can often be found through building your network with different people. At all levels of networking, some of these people are or will become genuine friends and this is one of the great advantages of networking. The aim of networking is to build connections with people around you. There are three key levels of networks that you need to think about.
a. Personal networks: These are the people that you normally connect within your day to day life but are outside of your school/work. This includes your family and friends but can also be extended to people in the same after-school activities as you, people from your fitness class, religious service or the charity you volunteer for. It may be a tennis club, air cadets, dance group job, or a camp you attend during the summer holidays.
b. Professional network: These are the people in your immediate environment that you work or study with. At school, this would be your classmates and teachers. At work, this will be your colleagues and bosses. They may not be your friends and you may not have much in common with them but you can make a genuine connection and they may be able to support you in your career – right now or in the future.
c. Strategic network: These are people that are outside of your immediate environment and you have purposefully connected with them through a specific type of member’s club, institution, or an association for people that have the same career interests as you. They may be ahead of you in your career or they may be on the same level or they may be at an earlier stage. If they are at a more advanced stage, they may be able to provide you with mentorship and support for your career, they can also recommend you for jobs or new opportunities within your field. Over time, you will also be in a position where you can support others within this group. This is strategic networking.
The most important thing with networking is recognising that you are not an island. Don’t be afraid to speak to people about your passions, interests, and your planned career path.
5. Learn about the qualifications, courses and subjects needed for this career
Designing a career pathway will mean looking into which courses and subjects you need for this career. Most careers have a standard minimum expectation when it comes to qualifications. So there will be many questions to ask such as: Do you require a degree for this career? If you don’t require a degree, what are the steps that are usually needed to enter this career? Are there apprenticeships or fast-track programmes for this career? Are there any specific learning schools or courses e.g. in London for Performing arts (Brit School), Fashion (London College of Fashion)? Are there special exams you must take and professional courses or certificates needed to work in this career? Where are the best places to study if you choose this career? Are you required to complete special training or courses? Are there any particular scholarships that you can apply for or international work opportunities for this career?
6. Join some associations or membership groups for this career
As part of your strategic networking, it’s important that you network beyond your immediate group and this is where memberships and associations come in useful. Most careers will usually have at least one membership group or organisations connected to it. You can sign up to their newsletter, join their mailing list, follow their social media handles, join their Facebook or LinkedIn group, receive monthly publications, and attend networking events. Many membership groups will provide cheap or free membership to students as they are keen to see young people enter and succeed in their industry. By signing up to be a member, you’ll stay aware of the opportunities in this industry including work opportunities, scholarships, sponsorships, and awards that you can apply for. This is another thing that you can add to your CV especially if you choose to take an active role within the association.
7. Keep a record of your progress
It is worth documenting your hobbies and activities so that you can remember what you have learned or achieved over the years. This can be via an online blog or offline journal that can evidence as a portfolio of your talents and interests. In some careers such as Art or Architecture, it is expected that you keep a portfolio of your achievements so far. Even if you are not in these fields, you can keep a record of your certificates and recommendations. This will help you with writing your CV, personal statement or cover letter. It will also help you stay positive and remind you of all that you have achieved so far. Remember that there is more to life than your career – this is just one part of your life. However, it will be a big part of your life and it is important that you are able to feel proud of yourself and proud of what you’ve achieved so far, no matter what stage you are.
The career pathway that you design for yourself will keep changing over time – and it won’t be set in stone. This is because over time, as you grow more confident in your abilities and you learn more about this career, you’ll be able to refine your ideas and you’ll discover new things about your industry or field. You may even start to specialise and find a ‘niche’ that you enjoy and can be successful in.
Most people will change careers at least once in their life, so it’s important that you find something that you can enjoy but also design a pathway that gives you some flexibility to explore other careers if you choose to make a change in the future.