Tips for developing your career in the new term

By Ruth Meredith, Placement and Employability Officer, Birmingham Business School

With the steady welcome back to campus and the new term starting (how is it that time again already?) your career and your career development might start to take more of a priority as we allow ourselves to settle back into a new version of campus life.

But where to begin? You might know exactly where you want to be next, or you might feel like it’s all a bit of a minefield - we all view our careers differently. Today we wanted to share some ideas to get you thinking about the future and reflecting on the past year and beyond as there’s a lot more to career development than applying and interviewing for roles.

Every single one of us here at the university has a different skill set and something unique to offer a team – but there’s always room to grow this and learn from each other. Upskilling may sound like a buzzword, but it is a practical strategy to ensure you are ready for your next step. Some of these skills and training, we may even do without really thinking of it. We have all achieved so much over the past few months and will continue to. With adapting to new ways of working (Zoom, Teams and everything in-between!) we all have inevitably upskilled ourselves adjusting to remote working. Others may require you to step right outside your day job and maybe even outside of your comfort zone. Volunteering outside your role or helping other teams on a project is a chance to increase your skills, understand other roles within the school and boost your confidence. It may also allow you to understand what you enjoy in a role and help to make that decision of what’s next.

This brings me to my next idea for career development – networking! Ah, networking. For some, this word may bring thoughts of dread and memories of awkwardly making small talk at an event you probably wish you hadn’t signed up for. It’s not a surprise that many of us immediately switch off as the topic is bought up, but in reality, it is absolutely key in every career. But it doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be a coffee in Costa with someone to find out more about their role. It could be grabbing five minutes in the office with someone you admire within the University to find out more about their career. You could join a staff network of interest to meet people with mutual interests. It could even be a message on LinkedIn, a Zoom call or a Skype to chat to someone new. Understanding more about different roles, responsibilities and areas within the University will allow you to understand what you are interested in, how you can get there and also to boost your profile within your school, college and wider University. It’s so easy to think we know what other people’s roles involve, but a quick conversation can quickly open up a whole new viewpoint. People networks are important for career development, but also really worthwhile for personal development too. 

Another key strategy is to ensure that you are keeping yourself up to date with industry and University news. There’s always so much going on, so it’s good to know how any changes or updates may effect or influence your career progression. Commercial awareness is usually tested in interviews and will help you when networking, but it is also a tangible way to make sure you are one step ahead. I think we’ve probably all been guilty of thinking we know the University and other’s in the area because, well, we are here every day, but understanding the challenges and successes that the sector continues to face will help you to see how your own career could develop too.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a 2020 blog post without mentioning remote working and the way our work has changed. As I previously mentioned, we have shown ourselves to be adaptable, flexible and truly resilient. This may mean that the future of work looks very different and certainly recruitment processes will be changed. Virtual interview processes seem all but guaranteed and luckily, there’s many ways to get ahead and ensure you impress during this time with some simple tips:

  • Make sure there are limited distractions or interruptions. Of course, you can’t predict everything (doorbell in the middle of a meeting anyone?) but do your best to ensure you can concentrate on the task ahead. Warning (or bribing?) house members to stay away always is a good approach!

  • Dress professionally, just like you would for an interview in person. It’s tempting to opt for comfort if you’re not in the office, but dressing professionally will give the best first impression but also help you to feel more prepared and confident too. 

  • Check you have strong internet connection and your laptop is fully charged – that flashing battery on your toolbar will definitely distract you from paying attention!

  • Practice! Now, no one likes watching or listening to themselves. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything worse! But, recording yourself answering questions will allow you to judge your tone and how your enthusiasm is coming across. This is often hard to convey over video, so practice will make perfect.

  • Ask questions – always think of three or more questions you want to ask the interviewer. Again, it’s easy to assume you know what the role will involve as you already work here, but questions show your interest and enthusiasm. 

We hope you find the above advice and guidance useful and there’s some food for thought within this post. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – everyone has a different career path and there’s no set way to develop your career. But challenge yourself and see if small changes can help you to make big progress in the future.


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