Our aim is simple: we seek to help make your career goals become a reality.
Momentum Careers Advice is an independent information, advice and guidance consultancy based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and offering services across the UK and beyond.
In most cases, it appears the easy part of career change is knowing that you want one. What is much harder to identify is the career, or type of career, to transition into. And this is where many mistakes are made. Too often I find that clients are jumping the gun and visualising the ‘end result’ – the career in question – without putting sufficient thought into considering the reasons why it may (or may not) be the right solution for them. It is worth emphasising that this part of the process is essential and should not be rushed. Like most success stories, a successful career change requires time in the initial planning phase. A common remark I hear from potential career changers when trying to identify new career paths is “I don’t know where to start.” If this is you, it may be worth asking yourself the following questions to start the ball of inspiration rolling:
What needs to change?
OK, so you know you are not happy, but have you thought long and hard about why this is? What is it about your current career situation that needs to be different in order to give you work satisfaction? Is it an issue or work-life balance, need more professional respect, a more creative work environment, something more intellectually challenging…? It is so natural for us to focus, in the first instance, on the skills we can offer and how we can fit in with the needs of an employers. But this is about what you need too. A more important part of this jigsaw is to think long and hard about your own set of career values – the things you need from a job to allow you to stay happy for the longer term.
When have you been happiest at work to date and why was this?
Flip the first question on its head and spend time recounting the happiest period of work in your career so far. Think about what made it so enjoyable and what elements of the job you wish to replicate in your new career. You need to come at this from all angles – don’t just think about the role and the skills you were using (although this is, of course, important), but consider elements such as your working environment, the company culture, your relationships with people around you, your interest in the industry and the job satisfaction that you got from it. Don’t be surprised, when reflecting on the positives, if you realise that you actually enjoy your role much more than you thought you did. If this is the case it may actually be a more subtle change of role, or a change to the right employer, that you really need. Career change doesn’t have to be a dramatic leap from one role to something diametrically opposed.
If you could go back to being 16 again, what career would you aim for?
And it is fine to think totally outside the box here. This question is not necessarily looking for the definitive answer (it can be unrealistic, after all, for many career changers to commit to the extra training that is needed for this role) but it can give us important clues as to the type of work we may be suited to. Quite simply, at a mid-point or even part way into our career journey we are much more self-aware than we were when we make the initial decisions. And, even more importantly than that, we have a much better and more realistic understanding of the world of work, how it functions and how we can best sit within it. So this question is all about applying this knowledge to stimulate ideas.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Herts, but offers services throughout the UK and beyond via Skype. Our careers consultation service costs just £55.
I’m a huge advocate of volunteering, in its many guises. We’ve all read the surveys telling us how much employers recognise the value of skills developed through voluntary work and it can indeed be a great way of developing the skills you need to break into the job market or push forward your career. But the benefits of volunteering don’t end there. Aside from the skills that you gain, there are a whole host of other reasons why volunteering may be a great activity to consider:
1) It can cover gaps in your CV
If you are on a career break, for whatever reason, involvement in volunteering during this time will help to create the impression that you are a proactive person, which will then be viewed favourably by future employers
2) It can provide you with new challenges
Perhaps you are feeling a little lacklustre and need to get your teeth into some new challenges and opportunities? Volunteering may help you get your mojo back.
3) It can be confidence building
Low confidence can be a real stumbling block for many, particularly those who may be unhappy at work or out of work. Getting involved with new opportunities and seeing the results of your work can really help.
4) It is rewarding
What’s not to love about that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction, at the end of a stint of volunteering, knowing that you have helped – in whatever way – to make a difference?
5) It allows you to experience diversity
Involvement in the wider community is sure to be an eye-opener and bring you into contact with a huge cross-section of people, including groups that you may have had little contact with before. This can be very enriching.
6) Can influence your career choices
Who knows, it may give you a whole new set of career goals. It may help you to decide what you definitely want to do, but also alert you to the types of work that you are not so suited to and this can be equally important.
7) You can make new friends and contacts
Let’s face it. At the end of the day, it’s all about the ‘who you know’. Volunteering may bring you into contact with people who can help your social life or your working life.
Anyone interested in volunteering should go to www.do-it .org.uk to check out local opportunities through the search function.
As an ex-recruiter-turned-careers-adviser, interviewing people has featured heavily in my working life over the last 15+ years. Public and private sectors – I’ve worked within them both and am very aware of the very different recruitment techniques that they favour. And yet it is the same old problems that, time and time again, are holding people back from interview success. Work on the following weaknesses and you’ll be up and away:
Lack of preparation
Whether it is not knowing what to prepare, or assuming you know everything already, any astute interviewer will pick up in seconds how much time you have spent in the lead up to your interview and that WILL affect how likely they are to offer you the job. Interviews shouldn’t hold many surprises. The format is usually predictable. Use this to your favour and put time aside to think about the type of questions they are likely to ask you, and the main skills, abilities and achievements you need to get across, and how to relate these to the specific of the role. Read the job description and person spec – this will give you big clues as to what the interview will focus on. Similarly, re-read your CV or application form – what questions does it raise?
The flip side of failing to prepare can be just as dangerous, if not more so. Over rehearsing your answers can not only lead to stilted responses but, worse still, blind panic if the interview questions don’t go the way you expect them to. Resist the temptation to try and script your interview answers. Think about them, yes, bullet point the main factors you need to get across, but leave it there. You need to be able to think on your feet and over rehearsing kills this. Interviews are often similar from one company to the next but no two interviews will be the same. Therefore you can’t use your answers for one and expect it to apply exactly to another.
Not enough research
Specifically into the organisation and role. Dispelling a common myth, it is not enough to glance over the company info on their website. Anyone can recite that back, parrot fashion. Instead, research the wider industry and the organisations place within it. What makes them different? Who are their main competitors? What company developments are happening that may impact on your role? But don’t stop your research here. Social media has made it incredibly easy for us now to research our interviewers. Finding a little bit more about them and their specific professional interests can help give you the edge.
Answering the ‘wrong’ question
Interviewers are not always good at their jobs. They don’t always ask questions with clarity and this can cause obvious confusion. Interview nerves can mean that we are afraid to use silence. Rushing in and answering a question that you do not quite understand isn’t likely to end well. Asking for clarification, pausing and thinking before you start your response, is. Make sure you listen to exactly what the question is and don’t fall foul of answering the question you want to answer – and have rehearsed – instead. Subtle differences in words and phrasing can change the whole slant of what they are looking for so listen carefully.
Not understanding competencies
It is a format the some with be more comfortable with than others but most people, whatever the role, are advised to be familiar with the idea of competency interviewing. This is about proving future work behaviours through past work examples. Read up on this. Know about the STAR framework and how that can help you to form a comprehensive and easy-to-follow answer. Understand the level of detail you need to go into and how it is important that you bring out the skills you have used. Most companies will be clear about the competencies they are looking for, either through the person descriptions or through their company values, which should be evident on the careers pages of their websites.
Lack of practice
As I hear myself saying often, interviews are a learned skill. Yes, there will always be people who are more or less comfortable with the process, but time and experience benefits everyone. Knowing more about the kind of questions that are asked and what interviewers are looking for from responses will get easier as you become more experienced, particularly if you are good at asking for feedback and/or reflecting on previous interview experiences. And as you get better practiced, your answers will also become more fluid and this will help you to present yourself as a relaxed and competent future employee.
With interviews there will always be things you can’t control – the quality of the other candidates and the rapport you manage to establish (or not) with your interviewer/s are examples of these. But a significant amount of any interview will be within your control and you must start by accepting and aiming to give the best that you can. Work hard to eradicate the problems listed above and you should see your interview fortunes start to change.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Herts, but offers services throughout the UK and beyond via Skype. Our mock interview service costs just £50.
As an experienced careers adviser I often read through sound statements from good students which, in theory at least, hit all the buttons. But upon reaching the end and reflecting, I just feel a huge sense of disappointment – as though it’s been a missed opportunity. I find myself saying to myself “but, I don’t feel I know anything about you. I have no sense of who you really are”. In these cases, the issue is usually that the personal statement has been just too generic. Yes, it may well follow a solid structure and contain all the elements that it should, but it gives me nothing more. The author hasn’t given me that extra detail/enthusiasm/personality/insight that I really want to read. As a result, I remain unconvinced by their application.
There can be nothing more satisfying than meeting a student for the very first time, spending just 5 minutes reading through their personal statement and by the end of it finding that you have been able to form a really clear idea of who that student is and what motivates and drives them – a valuable insight into their personality. Rarely are these the people with interests that include “reading, going to the cinema, and socialising with friends” (and if they are, in fact, genuine interests of theirs then they will certainly be telling me a little more about the genre of books and films that they are interested in or particular works that they have read or seen that have had an impact on them).
Don’t aim to be just like everyone else. Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd. It is called a personal statement for a reason – it needs to be personal to you. How you decide to do this is entirely up to you. It may depend entirely on what you can offer. Maybe it is related to your own personal story. Or perhaps it is more about the particular way that your story is told. The most important thing here is to be true to yourself and to write honestly. I know when I’ve read such a statement because I find that I am smiling by the time I reach the end. So aim to write a personal statement that is going to put a smile on the admissions tutors face.
Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested or read my blog post “What is involved in a UCAS personal statement review?”
If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.
This may seem a strange one, but please bear with me. The danger here exists mainly for those who are applying for courses which are seen as being vocational, but which are in fact, still academic degree courses. Students mistake their UCAS form for a job application. I’ve read, for example, a large amount of statements from prospective accountancy students explaining why they think they’ll make an excellent accountant and what aspects of the job they are most looking forward to. But little or nothing about the course they are in fact applying to.
Admissions tutors are academics. They thrive on the theory and the teaching of their subjects. If they didn’t then they probably would have got a job in industry. First and foremost the decision they will be making will be based upon the question “do I think this student is interested in studying xyz for the next 3 or 4 years, and do I think they will be an interesting and capable student to teach?” They are less bothered about how well you are able to make a career out of the subject (bearing in mind that there is no reason at all why you even should make a career out of the subject in the vast majority of cases). At the end of the day that is someone else’s decision to make, a few years down the line.
Obviously it will depend upon the degree you are applying to as to how much emphasis you should include on your future career choice. If your course is vocationally very directed, such as social work or pharmacy, then of course you will want to show that you have a good understanding of what the career involves, along with detail of work experience you have done which has allowed you to gain this insight. But you will also need to show a similar understanding of what the course entails, and a genuine interest in the learning the theory. If your course is less vocationally focussed then your emphasis on career aims and suitability should reflect this. As I said at the beginning, the danger lies often in courses such as journalism, law, accountancy – in which students wrongly believe that there is only one work option for them at the end, and mistake their UCAS personal statement for a job application form. Rather, they should be focusing on what they are looking forward to studying, and the skills that they think they will develop from the course itself.
In summary, be sure to sell yourself as a great student rather than a great employee.
Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offer a personal statement review service for just £40. Email email@example.com if interested, or read my blog post “What is Involved in a UCAS Personal Statement Review?”
If you want to browse through the other blog posts that I’ve written on the subject of UCAS applications then please click on this link.