9 questions to help you plan your career path to make a difference
If you want to ‘make a difference’ through your work but aren’t yet clear what shape this might take, answering the following questions may help you move from a gut feeling of wanting to do something worthwhile to a clearer goal and a plan.
‘Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.’ (Minor Myers Jr)
At a recent ‘Start your Journey’ careers event in the SU, the Student Careers and Skills Service asked students to capture their career dreams and fears on a display wall. Many identified ‘making a difference’ as a career dream but some struggled to pin down what that might look like.
Few students start out knowing what their ‘making a difference’ might be. You probably have one or two friends or relatives who might have known from an early age what they wanted to do. However you may need to get some experience before your ideas start to take shape.
1. Who do you want to help?
Consider whose lives you want to improve. The young, the sick, the elderly, displaced citizens? Or do you want to focus on animal welfare, the environment or the universe?
2. Why do you want to make a difference?
Those things that make you really angry or upset may give you an indication of where you’re willing to invest your time and effort. Think about what presses your buttons and ask yourself: ‘why does that upset me/make me angry?’
3. What will you be doing?
Educating, organising, promoting, performing, persuading, counselling, advocating, mentoring, advising, caring, or researching?
4. What’s your personality type?
Do you prefer to:
- Apply your skills and energy directly to the people you want to make a difference to… hands-on front line delivery of aid in war-torn countries, campaigning or fundraising, advocating for prisoners, politics, teaching.
- Use your practical skills to build sustainable housing or perhaps dig wells to provide water.
- Undertake research into the causes of poverty, conflict, unemployment; develop life-saving drugs, apply your professional skills to make a difference- an accountant working for a charity, a consultant working in the Education sector.
- Develop strategies by working for a policy unit or think tank, or analyse and interpret Big Data to shape the policy decisions of governments or NGOs.
5. What skills and strengths do you have?
If you can identify what you’re good at and enjoy, it will be easier to identify where you may be able to apply your skills and strengths. You might want to build wells to provide water but if you’re not the least bit practical, your skills may better suited to project management. You might be better overseeing the process that leads to the digging of the wells. You’ll still have made a difference.
6. Where do you want to work?
Try to visualise your work environment; do you see yourself working at home, outdoors, in an office, overseas, in a University, a hospital, the Civil Service, for a Non-Government Organisation (NGO), Local Government, from home?
Fact: 16% of graduates can be found in the education and social care sectors six months after graduation.
7. How do you want to work?
As part of a team, in a professional setting, in the public eye, with a high degree of autonomy, regular or irregular hours, under pressure, project-based, in one place, travelling, behind the scenes?
8. What do you do in your spare time?
Your leisure activities may provide you with possible career directions. Volunteering or societies where you may already be making a difference, or activities you are involved in during vacation can help to point the way.
9. What do you read?
Take a look at your bookshelves. What kinds of books do you tend to read most? Your books may hold the key to your interests and passions
You may not instantly find your perfect job on graduation. However placing your foot on the first rung of the ladder may be the start of an exciting journey.