How to think outside the box and explore other career paths

AbbyFinal Year, First Year, Graduates, On Placement, Postgraduate, Second Year

In some ways, there are more career choices than ever right now. Advances in technology, the rise in small businesses and more work-from-home roles mean we have greater freedom to choose something that matches what we’re looking for. But on the other hand, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the working world – it’s not the same world we knew two years ago. Some roles have sadly become redundant, others have evolved, and new ones have emerged as we’ve adapted to life in 2020/21. We’ve also had a lot of opportunity to reflect on our careers and the way we want to live our lives.

Suddenly, we’ve found ourselves in a position where the path we were on is no longer the path we want to follow. In some cases, the path isn’t available anymore, or perhaps it’s harder to access. When this happens, we have to think creatively. Outside the box, if you will.

Perhaps the traditional volunteering opportunities or part-time roles aren’t available at the moment. Maybe you can’t travel overseas for your international placement. Perhaps you’re struggling to secure a graduate job because the competition is fierce.

We need to consider alternatives. Today, we’re going to be sharing a few tips to help you think outside the box.

Look more broadly at the sector you’d like to work in
Perhaps you’ve got your heart set on working as a Management Consultant at a large, well-known company, but those roles aren’t available at the moment. Is there something else you could do within that sector that would enable you to gain experience, build up your network, and get a foot in the door? You can always move around once you’re in the sector or the company you’ve got your eye on, when an opportunity arises.

Don’t be fooled by a name
Quite often, a lot of the same roles will have different job titles. In marketing, for example, the following roles could all be quite similar: Marketing Coordinator, Marketing Assistant, Assistant Marketing Manager, Digital Marketing Coordinator, PR Assistant, Social Media Coordinator, Digital Content Creator, Content Writer. Do some research into the industry you’re interested in and see what different types of roles there are. Pay more attention to the job description than the name to see if it’s right for you.

Consider SMEs (small-to-medium-sized enterprises)
We all know the big companies with the household names. And while they might sound appealing and look impressive on your CV, don’t discount SMEs. There’s actually a lot to be gained from working in a smaller company, including greater responsibility, opportunities to get stuck into a greater range of tasks, and the potential to move up the career ladder quicker. Next time you’re searching for opportunities on Aston Futures, don’t shy away from a company just because you’ve not heard of them before! Aston graduate, Katie, did her placement year with a Birmingham-based SME. Read about her experience here.

Work for yourself
These days, more and more people like the idea of working for themselves. Think about whether you have anything you could sell – it could be a product or a service. Could you work as a Social Media Consultant and support companies with their marketing? Maybe you’re a talented writer and you’d like to go freelance, submitting articles to magazines. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about an app you could develop, or you’ve been designing a range of prints you could sell on Etsy.

Send out speculative applications
Create your own opportunities by sending out speculative applications. If there are certain companies you’d like to work for, have a look on their website – some of them will state if they accept speculative applications. Others, typically SMEs, are more open to them. Address your letter to a named person to show you’ve done your research, make it clear what you’re looking for, show that you know what the company does and why you’d like to work there, summarise your skills and strengths, and end on a positive note. For support with speculative applications, don’t forget you can chat to a Placement Coordinator or Careers Consultant.

Look at temporary roles
If you’re a graduate looking for your first proper job, don’t feel like you have to immediately rush into doing whatever it is you see yourself doing for the rest of your life. You can do something else for a while if you’re struggling to secure something. At some point, the economy will settle back down. Until then, consider doing something temporary. Remember, in the eyes of an employer, all experience is good experience.  

And finally, don’t forget we have a team of Placement Coordinators and Careers Consultants who are here to help you. You can book appointments with them on Aston Futures.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Written by Abby Sweeting, Student Engagement Officer