“If there are no ups and downs in your life, it means that you are dead” – Author unknown.
These days, there is a tremendous amount of pressure (most of it self-inflicted) on young Australians, particularly recent graduates, to have your life and career working in perfect synchronicity.
Most of us set some pretty ambitious work/life resolutions for the year ahead. But as February creeps to a close, and our lives become more frenetic, our capacity to achieve these intentions can quickly shift from hopeful optimism to a stream of subconscious self-reprimand. With multiple priorities demanding your attention, how can you realistically supercharge your career this year without sacrificing your personal life?
Using an entrepreneurial approach for career stress management
Don’t expect too much from yourself too soon in your career.
The seemingly ‘instant’ success stories Elon Musk, and many other young entrepreneurs such as Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey and Jane Lu, founder of ShowPo, feed into an ever-accelerating cycle of millennial career propaganda. This is founded on the notion that if you have not ‘made it’ within the first few years of your career, or your business life, then you are doing something wrong. The reality is that it takes many years of hard work, persistence and determination to establish a solid career.
One effective approach is to ignore everything you think you should be doing and instead adopt an entrepreneurial mindset towards your career and life.
The ‘domino strategy’, described by Ramit Sethi, is an approach used by many successful entrepreneurs around the world. It involves setting one small career goal and knocking it over first. The beauty of this approach is that it removes the immediate psychological pressure you may feel to be an ‘overnight success’ by accounting for timelines that fall outside your direct control.
So, for example:
- Your first step may be to update your resume
- Your second step may be to send your resume to your ideal prospective employers
It could be a simple matter of sending an email to inquire about current or future vacancies. This helps you determine whether your idea for your career has potential. From here you can decide whether your skills and experience match the needs of the organisations or firms you wish to work for.
3. If your skills do not match, you can adjust your strategy and put your next steps into motion. For example, by obtaining an extra qualification or gaining more experience in a related field.
“Put the dominoes in just the right sequence so that each small step makes the next, bigger step possible” – Ramit Sethi
If you try to knock over the final domino before you have tackled the necessary preceding career steps, for example, the domino won’t fall. This means that you won’t be offered the job, and you will fail to achieve your ambitions this year.
A ‘domino sequence’ that works for one individual will not work for another – the challenge is to work out which sequence is right for your career.
Look at the career path of people you admire and replicate it
Well-rounded people have well-rounded careers.
One way to map out your perfect ‘domino sequence’ is to study the career pathways of people whom you admire and wish to emulate. A quick LinkedIn search can reveal the educational and professional histories of key industry players and give you a basic idea about what steps you should be taking. Ask yourself:
- Where did they study?
- What did they study?
- Where have they worked?
- Which job was the critical nexus that naturally flowed into their current role?
You can even go one step further by reaching out to these professionals.
Connecting with like-minded, experienced and accomplished individuals in your industry – whether for professional collegiality or mentorship – can help you to maintain healthy long-term wellness strategies and to cultivate strong industry support networks.
Expanding your professional network can not only provide balance and perspective to your work life but also drastically advance your career prospects. Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the youngest U.S Supreme Court Justices appointed in recent history has credited his rapid career progression to the mentoring and support he received from other high-achieving judicial officers.
Relax and go with the job flow
Your first job out of university will not be your last.
A recent report by the Foundation for Young Australians found that the skills you develop through one role can be transferred to an average of thirteen other positions.
If your current job is still a few steps away from your dream job, then consider a side hustle. This could take the form of a passion project like design work, freelance writing, building websites, teaching fitness classes over the weekend or even chasing your professional interests through a part-time Masters degree. For current and future employers, this highlights your ambition, drive and creative talent.
It is highly likely that your first few jobs out of university will not be a perfect fit, but the flexibility and skills you acquire early in your working life gives you more career mobility.
These initial ‘dominoes’ help you get closer to where you really want to be in your professional life.
Develop your professional skills
Most employers seek applicants who have flexible skills that can be adapted and applied in many different forms. If you want to avoid the wilderness of unemployment or accelerate your career progression in a specific field, a postgraduate qualification can give you an edge over top candidates for competitive positions.
A practice perhaps pioneered by Susan Kiefel, the recently appointed first female Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia who completed her law degree part-time while working as a legal secretary in the 1970s, it is increasingly common for graduates to balance part-time postgraduate study with busy lifestyles.
In a recent study on education and work by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it was found that:
In May 2016, approximately 1 in 5 Australians (20%) aged 15-64 were enrolled in formal study [and] … People with higher levels of educational attainment were more likely to be employed, with 80% of persons with a Bachelor degree or above, 75% of persons with an Advanced diploma or Diploma, and 76% of persons with a Certificate III.”
In an increasingly specialist legal marketplace, employers recognise the value of postgraduate study with Masters qualifications frequently listed as ‘highly desirable.’
Making the decision to study
If you are freshly graduated or revising your career goals after a few years of work experience, or are concerned that your existing skill set has not prepared you for the job you want, further study may be one of the key ‘dominoes’ you need to invest in your future.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether it is the right career move. Are you pursuing postgraduate study to:
- boost salary and career prospects?
- prepare for senior roles in firms and organisations in the public and private sector?
- enhance specialist skills and knowledge?
- progress an existing career or kick start a career change?
- fulfil yourself?
- be seen by potential employers as more qualified than other candidates?
- develop relationships with leading industry professionals?
- develop your practical skills and your ability to express those skills?
If you answered yes one or more of the above questions, it may be worthwhile exploring which universities offer study options that align with your current lifestyle and goals.
A number of fast and flexible online postgraduate qualifications, such as a Masters of Business Law through Southern Cross University, are specifically designed to integrate with full-time work commitments and require only 15 to 20 hours of study per week.
In his book The One Thing, Gary Keller, (founder of one of the largest real estate franchises in the world) says:
When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time.
When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time.
When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time.
When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time.”
This year, follow the lead of successful entrepreneurs. Rather than setting yourself overly ambitious and unrealistic goals, aim to start small and enjoy the ups and downs of your professional journey. Line up your ‘dominoes’ and build momentum steadily, over time, towards your dream career.
Once you knock over those first few ‘dominoes,’ the rest will effortlessly fall into place.
This post is proudly sponsored by Southern Cross University. For more information on how to jump start your legal career in 2017, click here.