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Preparing for the global job market

Most of the successful professionals that I know would agree that correctly choosing the first job after graduation is very important. They'd also agree that knowing yourself better can help with this, and that self-discovery is a journey on which you start the earlier the better! However, this is easier said than done. Self-discovery often involves a lot of effort to get right, but it's well worth it. Here is some advice on how you can get started.

Know yourself

Self-discovery is particularly important when you make some major life changes. Finishing your higher education and transitioning from a student to a professional is definitely one of those major changes.

As you consider your post-university career path, take some time to reflect and work through the following questions. Allow yourself to take one question at a time and delve deep into your thought process so you get a clearer idea of what's under the surface for you.

Your values - What's important to you in life? What areas are you passionate about, both positively and negatively? These are the things that you could talk about all day or perhaps fire you up when someone challenges your views.

Your strength and weaknesses/your likes and dislikes - These two are often quite similar so it's useful to think about them together. What are you good at and maybe not so good at? What comes naturally and what do you find more challenging? A good way to determine this may be to take a personality test!

Your interests and passions - What will keep you fascinated for a long time? What can you do for an extended period without feeling bored or tired? What makes you want to learn more?

Your vision for your future - Where have you always dreamed of your career going? What do you wish to be doing 5 or 10 years from now? What are your short-, medium- and long-term aspirations for work and for your personal life? How successful do you want to be? What type of lifestyle do you want to have?

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Know job opportunities out there

Having a clearer idea of yourself should make it easier to identify which roles, companies and industries may suit you best. But before you start making decisions, it's important to do some research. You want to make sure you fully understand what's available out there in the job market before you assess whether you would fit in a particular area or field.

Spend some time on researching:

  • industries of interest to you; professions that catch your eye and roles available in those professions. I'd encourage you to look at professional bodies within your area of interest for industry and career insights. For example, in the UK this might be the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) or the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
  • companies in the industry you're interested in. Each company has its own values and is looking for their type of people. You may explore the types of people employed in those organisations. You can do this by looking through company websites and business news sources (such as the Harvard Business Review, Financial Times or Forbes). Try talking to professionals and recent graduates, or attend networking events.
  • business functions – once you've chosen the industries and companies, you need to research business roles. You need to know exactly how different business functions work, and how that fits into your own strengths and interests.

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Find your match

Now, put together your self-reflection and the information you gathered about the job market to help you choose some industries, companies and positions that feel like a good fit. Once you've made your decision, test it with some exploratory questions. What is it about each that appeals to you? How do you feel when you imagine yourself working there? Do the employees share similar values to you? Do the industries share the same motivations and passions as you? Can you see yourself fitting in to that industry without compromising who you are?

For some, this could be a straightforward exercise. For others, it might take more exploration. I'd encourage you to be comfortable with that. With each step forward you will garner more information, and so this self-reflection will continually evolve for you. You may find yourself going over these steps more than once. And that's OK.

Lasting advice

It's important to have goals at every stage of life. Keep in mind that your goals will change with time because you change, and that's perfectly acceptable. Searching for the next goal is good as well as necessary. Reflection should always be part of that search.

It's not about finding something perfect. As Salvador Dali said: "Have no fear of perfection – you'll never reach it." I find this quote applies not only to career choices, but to many other things in life. And because we live in an ever-changing world, the right approach is to keep yourself on a never-ending journey of self-discovery so you can make the best and most well-informed decisions.

I hope this helps you on the journey of starting a successful career and inspires you to set yourself on the right path. However, remember that life evolves, businesses evolve, and your career will evolve, too. You'll gain valuable experience whichever path you choose.

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Written by Carrie Waley, founder of Global Elite Coaching for Chinese and CEO of Mandarin Consulting. Mandarin Consulting is a global elite coaching industry leader. Our team of dedicated and experienced Western professionals with multi-industry experience offer the most comprehensive and effective expert career coaching to Chinese and Asian students and graduates in the world.

Note: HSBC is not a supplier of the products and services for the Mandarin Consulting Programme and accepts no liability for the quality of goods and services provided by the Vendor involved in this promotion.


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