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Finding a graduate job – what really works?

This week I attended a presentation on the graduate labour market by Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Graduate Prospects and well known for his expertise on employment destinations of graduates and postgraduates.

It was a really interesting overview of 2015 graduate destinations, the current and future graduate labour market, with a few myths challenged. Much of the information can be found on the latest Prospects and the HE careers services professional body, AGCAS What do graduates do? 2016 report, which presents findings from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey (DLHE), examining first degree graduate destinations six months after they graduated.

One particular subject that Charlie touched upon and that really intrigued me was how 2015 graduates found their first jobs. There were some expected, but also surprising results. The top three sources were:

  • Employer websites (18.5%)
  • Personal contacts e.g. family and friends (17.3%)
  • Previous work experience/internships and placements (15.9%)

And which methods were not commonly used by these graduates? Interestingly, social media/professional networking sites featured at the lower end of the scale (only 2.8% of these graduates found their first job this way).

So we can conclude work experience and personal/professional networks are key, but is it always that easy? Is social media irrelevant and of little value? And what other job-search tips and advice can we offer to students and graduates in light of this?

We all know that having work experience and undertaking internships does make it infinitely easier to progress into a graduate job – there is evidence of this, one being the recent Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) annual survey, which showed how recruiters are using internships when hiring for their graduate positions; the survey showed ‘an average of 45% of 2015 interns went on to secure graduate jobs in the same company this year. One in ten employers convert more than 83% of their interns into graduate hires.’

But depending on a range of circumstances, finding the right kind of work experience and getting an internship isn’t always that simple, particularly where competition is high. Recruiters are certainly taking steps to make their vacancies more accessible and engaging with a wider pool of talent, but we do need to continue to look at how we best support students in obtaining relevant and quality experience.

I found it interesting how many graduates found their jobs through personal contacts e.g. family and friends. Networking and the right connections are vital, but if you come from a background where your family, friends or local community have limited links with certain professions and career areas, what happens then? It’s for this reason that career mentoring programmes can be crucial and enable these students and graduates to access networks and opportunities they wouldn’t normally be able to. And even when contacts are available, having the confidence to approach professionals and develop relationships can be hard. I know even something like making speculative calls and applications is really nerve wracking, so we need to do more to help students develop this skill.

The fact that very few graduates used social and professional media doesn’t make it irrelevant in my view, and again there is much out there to highlight its value and benefits. But how it helps can vary – in some cases, jobs may be directly advertised on Twitter or LinkedIn, in other cases, it might lead to a conversation with a recruiter, or the chance to attend a careers event. The relevance also depends on the sector and industry; I’ve done a lot of work with media and journalism students where social media is vital not just for personal branding and showcasing your portfolio, but hearing about jobs. In addition, I had an interesting conversation just this week with careers coach and expert David Shindler who shared with me a great example of one his business management students who got approached for a graduate job simply via his LinkedIn profile! So it can and does help.

From my own experience of job-searching, and from that of the students and graduates I’ve worked with over the many years, I would offer the following tips and advice to those job hunting:

  1. Spend time planning your job search and start to think about it early on so you can seek the right support, and ensure you’re not missing out on crucial deadlines.
  2. If you are looking to work in a particular sector or industry, do your research into how those types of employers promote their opportunities, the methods they use to advertise and recruit.
  3. Be creative particularly if you’re exploring a number of options. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket and try a range of different strategies.
  4. It’s not just paid work experience or internships that can lead you to a job – volunteering could open many doors.
  5. Make the most of any work experience opportunity – look at who you can speak to, projects you can get involved in, so that you are creating a path for future jobs.
  6. Expect the unexpected – I was reading about a Fashion graduate who was working in Top Shop and her customer happened to be the editor of a fashion magazine, and so this led to her lucky break into the media industry. You never know what is on the horizon, and I can vouch for this through my own career.
  7. Social media is not dying out – it is still relevant, but you do need to use it smartly and effectively, with a professional online presence. Have a look at my post on 10 tips for using social media for your career.
  8. Develop your confidence and communication skills, especially if you find it difficult to make speculative calls and applications, or panic at the thought of networking.
  9. Get a mentor – take advantage of any opportunity to have 1:1 support. Mentoring can help you make that transition from education to employment.
  10. Get advice from your Careers Service and other career professionals to help you review current and develop future job-search strategies.

What job-search tips and advice do you have? Have you used any different methods and tactics to find a job? What has or hasn’t worked for you or your clients? Please do comment and let me know!

 

 

 

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Disadvantaged and disillusioned – why mentoring is the tool for creating change

Today we celebrate the annual National Mentoring Day to recognise and raise awareness of the enormous power and benefits of mentoring.  Here I will be talking about the importance of ‘early intervention’ to create successful personal and professional lives.  

It never ceases to amaze me how a parent can show such resilience and strength of character when their child’s life is cruelly cut short. Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay, showed just that after his 15 year-old daughter, Trinity, was shot and killed at a restaurant in the States earlier this month. Instead of calling for retribution, Tyson made it clear he didn’t want his daughter’s death to be in vain. His solution? More mentoring to address the problems and challenges young people face. In a touching statement, he said,

“We must come together as a community to protect each other, giving our young people the tools they need to resolve their conflicts and lead successful lives — the kind that Trinity was well on her way to living.”

And this is exactly what mentoring can provide.

Much of my work on mentoring programmes has focused specifically on improving career prospects of students and graduates, creating a more level playing field for those from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. And I’ve seen the difference it can make, which I spoke about in a previous post on inequality and mentoring. This year, I am working on a project connecting BME students with alumni and professionals, so that the networks and opportunities exist for students to learn and be inspired by other success stories.

Career mentoring is no doubt powerful and has its place, and with the support of a professional and business mentor, I’ve witnessed university students turn their lives around and go on to achieve their full potential. But change can take time and early intervention is still desperately needed to empower, raise aspirations and give vulnerable young people in particular, a foundation for creating their own vision of success.

Mentoring provision for young people is well established, and I know there are many fantastic projects happening across the country.

One particular example is LifeLine Projects, a community-based training provider in East London which runs a programme called VIP mentoring – VIP stands for Vision, Identity and Purpose. They’ve worked with 1,300 young people in 50 schools, and their programme evaluation found that the students involved experience improvements in wellbeing, behaviour and school achievement. Group sessions also take place, and here are some of the young people they’ve worked with.

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(Photo credit: LifeLine Projects)
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(Photo credit: LifeLine Projects)

 

With the support of a mentor, a young person on one of their programmes was able to take a big step forward in his performance at school.

Here his mentor shares his thoughts,

“I have been working with the student on his attendance and motivation in school. In the beginning of our mentoring sessions he seemed very disengaged and unwilling and often said very little in our sessions. I started to use tools such as conversation cards to help prompt conversation. Towards the middle of our course of mentoring sessions, he started to open up more and disclose matters that he never confided to anyone. He told me that he is the main carer for his very poorly mother who is battling for her life from kidney failure and also the main carer to his older brother who is disabled and is in a wheelchair. He said this is the cause of his lack of motivation in his education, because he needs to be there for his mum and spend the time he has with her now before she dies. His dad is an alcoholic, and his sisters didn’t keep in touch with the family. After this he started coming to mentoring continuously, week after week, and used mentoring as a forum to talk about his issues.

Now he’s getting the help that he needs and his attendance and motivation have also improved. The school behavioural mentor has noticed a major difference in his motivation; he now makes intervention classes after school a priority and revises consistently for his GCSEs starting in May. His attendance at the beginning of the programme was 77% and now it is 90%.

In our last session he said to me:

Thank you soo much, you have no idea how much mentoring has helped me in my academics and even how to deal with my home life.  Having you to talk to has made me feel soo much better.’” [sic]

It’s exactly this kind of change and progression which I believe is crucial for enabling future career success.

For anyone who has a passion for making a difference and who has the time, please do get involved in any local or wider mentoring projects. Many schools, colleges, universities and community organisations run a range of schemes for different purposes. For the young person or adult struggling to cope, it’s the one thing that can put them back on track and give them a sense of hope for the future. Certainly LifeLine Projects is one opportunity and you can contact Nathan Singleton NathanSingleton@lifelineprojects.co.uk for more information or visit their website http://www.lifelineprojects.co.uk

 

 

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Why we must continue to challenge the ‘success and failure’ mindset

Working in higher education always brings back many memories of my university days, and this is definitely a favourite time of the year for me, as the campuses are alive with the sound of students. Of course we now have the new cohort, and so I wanted to reflect on the experiences they are going through right now.

Making the transition from school/college to university life is one of the most dramatic and daunting experiences anyone can go through. Feeling like a fish out of water, and homesickness are inevitable. But for many it’s more than the initial case of missing parents and family; other factors come into play and this new chapter becomes characterised by fear, anxiety and depression with serious consequences on mental and physical health.

I’m no stranger to this, but one of the causes of extreme stress amongst students, is the deep rooted mindset when it comes to success and failure, well highlighted in a Guardian article ‘How to help a perfectionist student.’  It was quite an alarming read, especially the reflections of one student who admitted that, “Errors mean failure, and failure means disappointment.” This is not an isolated view, for some it’s been drummed into them from families and culture. You cannot be seen to be making a mistake or not ‘performing at the top.’ And the pressure to live up to such expectations has damaging and long term effects. With 1 in 10 students having a ‘diagnosable mental illness’, universities are facing increased demand for mental health services, adding strain on existing resources.

As a nation we’ve taken a huge step forward when it comes to raising awareness of and addressing mental health issues. It’s not perfect, but we can see more people willing to speak up about it, even in cultures and communities where it has been considered a taboo subject, and something to be ashamed of. Awareness-raising campaigns, such as this week’s annual World Mental Health Day, and the work of many specialist charities and organisations, have definitely put this matter high on the agenda. University careers services often work in close partnership with disability and mental health support teams, and this is an area I am going to be focusing on this year.

But we really must continue to challenge some of the underlying causes, especially when it comes to what success and failure really mean. It’s no point just addressing these issues at university level, more needs to be done with young people. And quite rightly, this week, there are calls by Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham and mental health campaigner, for the well-being of children to be taken more seriously by schools.  However, as much as schools may do, it’s not an easy battle when you are dealing with family pressures and cultural norms. I’m an advocate of greater dialogue between families, communities, schools, educational institutes and professionals to discuss some of these issues and through, for example, the use of mentors, role models and influential people to show that success comes in all shapes and forms, and failure is not a weakness.

Challenging and changing unhealthy mindsets and habits can be tough, but not impossible. For those starting the university journey, here are three particular thoughts that I wanted to share:

  • Potential can be developed – there is the expectation that graduates need to “have it all” when they are hired, but the reality is different. Yes, certain skills and attributes are needed for the world of work, but many firms don’t expect graduates to be the finished product, and hence will work with them to develop their potential and skills such as commercial awareness. ‘Growth mindset’ appears to be the new buzz word used by giants such as Microsoft and Google in their recruitment. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, sums this up with this fantastic quote,

“It starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop; that potential is nurtured, not predetermined; and that anyone can change their mindset. Leadership is about bringing out the best in people, where everyone is bringing their A game and finding deep meaning in their work. We need to be always learning and insatiably curious. We need to be willing to lean in to uncertainty, take risks and move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing failure happens along the way to mastery. And we need to be open to the ideas of others, where the success of others does not diminish our own.”

  • Rejection can redirect you – I came across this inspirational video by motivational philosopher Jay Shetty, where he tells the story of some influential individuals who faced their share of setbacks on their journey to success. The key lesson was no matter how much we struggle and the difficulties we face, we will always keep our value. Through failure, we can often achieve far greater things than imagined. When one door closes, you can be sure another one is waiting to open!
  • Look at the positives and bigger picture – last month I attended the annual AGCAS conference for HE careers professionals, and it was a really thought provoking event. The highlight for me was the keynote speech by motivational presenter and coach, Steve Head. One tip that really stood out for me was reviewing how we perceive situations and experiences. So instead of focusing on the one thing that’s gone wrong or hasn’t worked out (in this case he gave an example of a mathematical quiz), look at the positives and what is actually right! It seems obvious, but a great strategy to try and incorporate into our daily personal and professional lives.

These tips are some food for thought, but not a replacement for professional help. If you’re really struggling to cope, please don’t suffer in silence. There are people and services out there to help you. Visit your University student support team or there are a number of dedicated organisations such as Mind and Mental Health Foundation who can provide support.

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I’m a confused soon to be graduate.. get me out of here!

Just for the record, I’ve never watched the reality show, ‘I’m a Celebrity…. Get Me Out Of Here!’ in case anyone wondered about my taste in TV programmes. But it did strike me as an appropriate phrase to maybe sum up how many of you may be feeling right now as you approach the end of your university years, but haven’t quite figured out what to do career wise. You may well feel like you are trapped in a jungle – feelings of fear, anxiety and panic with many questions racing in your head.

Am I a failure because I haven’t got a ‘graduate job?’ 

What can I do with my degree? 

Is it too late to find anything? 

How can I move forward? 

Without sounding patronising, I know exactly how you feel. When I came to the end of my degree 17 years ago, I had no real clue as to where I was heading. But I had an interesting career journey to get to where I am now, which you can read about.

It’s completely understandable to feel lost and confused; after all the world of work is changing so rapidly and there are many options for learning and careers.

So here are 5 tips and advice which I want to share:

  • Seek clarity on options – getting professional careers advice and support would be a good starting point. Being able to discuss your ideas, plans and concerns with someone else can help you to focus your thoughts and look at practical solutions. You may want to consider making use of various self – awareness and careers tools to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, interests, abilities. Perhaps you’re wondering, what do graduates with my degree actually do? There are a number of ways to find out – your Careers Service can give you an insight on destinations of graduates from your course, and there is the national picture in terms of the ‘What Do Graduates Do? 2015 Report. If you use LinkedIn (and I certainly hope you are using professional networking), then the Alumni pages for your university give you the chance to look at what graduates from your course are doing, and where they work in the world. You can even look at profiles to see how people have progressed in their careers.
  • Get inspired the WISER way – I came up with a formula, which was my first ever blog post, to help you find your career inspiration through various avenues. WISER stands for Work Experience, Industry Experts, Social Media, Education, Resources. My career inspiration happened at university whilst attending a talk by a guest speaker from the BBC World Service, but it can happen through many and often unexpected means. So keep an open mind, and think outside the box.
  • Weigh up pros and cons of postgraduate study –  I pursued postgraduate study for various (but not necessarily academic) reasons. Although I got my career inspiration during this time, it’s a route I would say needs careful consideration. It is huge investment in time and money, and being more qualified may not necessarily make you more employable, unless your chosen career path requires it or there is a strong benefit. Definitely do your research and speak to someone about your options. The TARGETPostgrad link provides some useful questions to consider.
  • Home and away – making the most of going global – at this stage you may be tempted to leave the UK and venture abroad to see if there are better prospects. Or perhaps you want to spend a short period of time in another country and develop new skills and experiences. Again, it’s very important to do your research, consider finances and other practicalities. You can read my post on 5 Common Questions for Going Global  (some of the programmes I mentioned at the time might not be available right now), but there are still plenty of resources to check out. Recently Guardian Careers hosted a live chat on making the most of a gap year, and you can check out the discussion, packed full of some useful advice and tips from various experts.
  • No linear path to career success – the final thing I would say is that you may be facing this pressure and expectation to have a well paid ‘graduate job’ secured after university and your entire career path to be planned out following a particular route. There is no such thing as a job for life, and everyone has a different and unique career journey. Some of you may have to go through a period of exploration to discover what you want to do. This is perfectly okay, and certainly what I had to do. The most important thing is to learn from your various experiences and look at the transferable skills you gain along the way. So don’t worry what others think – do what is right for you!
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From newbie blogger to award winner – my first year of ‘Everything Careers’

It’s exactly a year since I started this blog. And my first blogging anniversary has been marked by a truly amazing achievement this week – yes I am of course referring to winning the Careers Champion Award, which was announced on Wednesday, after what was an extremely close contest. It’s been wonderful to have this recognition of my work and also for the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) Careers, where I am based. But I also firmly believe that the work of careers professionals across the country has received the awareness and attention that it very much deserves.

When I first launched ‘Everything Careers’ I had no idea what to expect really. There was natural excitement, as it was a goal I had been wanting to achieve for a while, but I was fairly nervous too. Would people want to read my writing? And would they relate to what I had to say? What if they became bored? How could I maintain that edge with all the blogs out there? But I knew I just had to jump in and get started.

There have been some tough moments along the way, but that goes for any new project. I’ve had such a fascinating journey so far, and I’ve been really encouraged by the positive response to my blog.

To anyone looking to venture into the world of blogging, I have a few pieces of advice that I would like to share from my experience, but also mistakes I made along the way.

  1. Don’t put off starting your blog because you are striving for ‘perfection’ I felt I had to know everything there was to know about blogs and writing before I launched my own. And some people probably feel they have to undergo loads of blogging and writing training. Yes of course, you need to be a good writer and your site has to look professional from day one, but remember you will learn and improve as time goes on. My advice is to just get it going and get your work out there.
  2. Be consistent in how often you post I admit I’ve broken this rule a few times due to the pressures of work and study. But I have realised that in order to maintain followers and keep people engaged, you do need to have a regular schedule and stick to it.
  3. Get advice and tips from other writers and bloggers – it’s really important to have channels and networks where you can improve your knowledge and hear from accomplished writers. I have certainly benefited from the advice of a few people, including freelance writer and expert Kirsty Stuart, renowned careers coach and blogger David Shindler, and top international editor, writing coach and lecturer Shani Raja. I’ve learnt so much from these individuals, so my thanks to them.
  4. Keep a note of blog post ideas – inspiration for topics and posts can come from anywhere, so keep a journal (or online system if you prefer) to capture key ideas and thoughts.
  5. Be creative with your content – use of images, quotes and different types of media can really enhance your posts, making it more visually attractive and appealing to readers. A particularly useful tool which I’ve been using is Share As Image, which turns images or text into eye-catching content.

Finally, a huge thanks to all my followers and those who have supported and shared my blog and writing over the last 12 months, I’m looking forward to another great year and hope that I can continue to inform and inspire many more people.

Here are all my posts from the last year, happy reading 🙂

WISER Way To Get Careers Inspiration 

5 Questions for International Students Looking to Work in the UK

4 Lessons from World’s Most Unique CVs 

Inequality, Diversity and Why Mentoring Matters 

5 Common Questions For Going Global 

10 Tips on Using Social Media For Your Career 

Paving The Way for International Students To Gain UK Experience 

Faith, Family and A Recruiter’s Approach to Diversity 

New Projects, Learning and Life Since The Last Blog Post 

Art of Self – Reflection and Finding Your ‘Dream Career’ 

What Great British Bake Off Taught Us About Success 

My 5 Top Lessons from 2015 

Rethinking Language Learning and Careers 

Exciting News – Finalist for Careers Champion Awards 

 

 

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Exciting news – finalist for Careers Champion Awards

Well 2016 hasn’t got off to a bad start for me, and I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated and shortlisted as a finalist for the Careers Champion Award!

For those not familiar with this award, Careers Champion is an initiative to recognise and reward individuals doing great careers work. It is in association with Working Adviser, the UK’s fastest growing Careers Professionals network, covering all areas of the Careers sector.

To be part of such an amazing and dedicated group of finalists is a real privilege for me. Back in 2002, my life as a careers professional began with what I had thought would be an 8-month project, but 13 years on, I’ve had a wonderful journey not just empowering and supporting others, but also learning and being inspired by the stories and sheer determination of others to succeed in their career.

So who will decide who the winner is? The answer is YOU! Voting is open to the public, it only takes a few seconds and doesn’t require registration. Please get involved and encourage your friends and contacts to take part too. Visit Careers Champion and deadline to vote is Wednesday 17th February.

 

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My 5 top lessons from 2015

Everyone loves a good quote, a few words, pearls of wisdom to inspire, motivate and bring a smile to your face.

And I’ve been collecting a fair few over the last year or so on Pinterest.

2015 has been a real rollercoaster of a year for me, with many personal and professional challenges, but opportunities and blessings too.

So I thought I would end the year with my 5 favourite quotes, and what lessons we can learn from them:

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Like most people I’ve had those moments when I’ve just thought quitting was the only option. But we do need those challenges and setbacks to learn from and grow. With determination and perseverance, we can continue on the path to success.

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I’ve always firmly believed that to achieve your goals and ambitions, you need to have the right people in your life. Negativity breeds negativity and the last thing you want is someone to hold you back.

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This year has been a real turning point in my career and I decided it was high time I focused on some of my life long passions and interests. Alongside being a careers professional, I went back to my love of writing which led me to creating this blog and other countless writing opportunities. So don’t be afraid to just get out there and do what YOU want to do.

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A shift in mindset and outlook can make all the difference. So next time you are faced with anything that makes you unhappy, don’t dwell on the issue. Look at the positive aspects, or what you can do to change the situation and move forward.

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Ah, who could forget the lovely Nadiya Hussain, the winner of the Great British Bake Off. It was such a proud moment, and what an acceptance speech! The words speak for themselves, but you can read more about my reflections on her win on my post What Great British Bake Off Taught Us About Success.

Which of these are your favourite quotes? Do you have any of your own reflections from the year? Please do comment below. In the meantime, I wish everyone a very happy, successful and prosperous New Year and look forward to sharing more posts and articles with you in 2016!

 

 

 

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What Great British Bake Off taught us about success

I don’t think there were many dry eyes in living rooms across the UK on Wednesday night, and that included my own!

More than 13 million people were fixed to their screens for the most- watched TV show this year – the BBC’s Great British Bake Off Final. And what an ending as the brilliant Nadiya Hussain, who captured the nation’s hearts, was crowned the winner in a tense and nail biting moment.

Aside from her ability to create a perfect mille feuille and a stunning wedding cake, there was something magical about Nadiya. People from all backgrounds, walks of life, positions in society, felt this connection with her. Somehow we could relate to her.

And who couldn’t feel total inspiration, when through her tears and emotions, she uttered what will become the ultimate motivational speech for years to come:

‘I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say “I can’t do it.” I’m never going to say “maybe.” I’m never going to say “I don’t think I can.” I CAN AND I WILL.’

For me, Nadiya was more than just a culinary genius. Her victory and response showed us what it takes to achieve your dreams and three key ingredients for personal and professional success:

Moral and practical support: Nadiya admitted it took 2 years for her to enter the competition, lacking the confidence to do so. But her husband convinced her she had what it takes. We all need that someone to believe in us, and give us the initial encouragement to pursue our ambitions. Having a supportive family definitely makes a difference, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have this. So that’s when we need to look elsewhere; friends, an adviser, mentor or fellow colleague. Someone who will invest their time in us.

Self – belief: It’s all very well having support from others, but it becomes meaningless if we constantly put ourselves down, doubt our efforts and have a negative outlook. Although Nadiya may not have had that self – belief to begin with, she has certainly got to a position where nothing can stop her now. Set backs and failures will happen in our journey to success, but we need to constantly tell ourselves we can overcome any obstacles.

Hard work: we can have all the faith and help in the world, but ultimately, we need to put in the time and effort ourselves. Nothing comes easy as we can see from the examples of some of the world’s most successful people, and of course Nadiya’s journey. People often say we can take short cuts to success, there are easy routes. Maybe, but the sweetest victory will come from struggles, sacrifice and knowing you absolutely put in 100%.

Let’s hope Nadiya’s story continues to inspire others for years to come. I have no doubt we will see many like her in the future.

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Art of self – reflection and finding your “dream career”

The last few months seem to have flown by, and it’s hard to believe we are now in October.

I have to say this is one of my favourite times of the year. Not sure if it’s because it’s great to see the university campus alive after the summer lull, or because it brings back fond memories of my own student days or because it’s my birthday around this time, but I am definitely an ‘Autumn Term’ person.

Nevertheless, these are challenging times for the higher eduction sector, and the pressures and expectations facing both students and professionals remain real. A key concern will be finding “the dream career.”

So I thought I would share this very useful post on How To Be A Career Dream Catcher by David Shindler. David is the founder of The Employability Hub online learning centre, Director of Learning to Leap and widely respected in the industry as an employability expert. I had an interesting discussion with David this week about it, and even shared my own “dream” at the age of 16 of becoming a hot shot journalist and travelling across exotic locations. Ok, so I didn’t make it, but being a blogger will do for now.

On a serious note though, David raises some really valid points on how to increase your chances of obtaining the dream career, and for me, the most significant was the first one – question who you are, reflect on what makes you tick and what are your priorities. 

I happened to attend a training session this week on self – reflection as part of my professional studies, but I think it’s interesting how many people still don’t take the time to look at who they are and what they want out of a career or life even! A multitude of factors, such as time constraints, lack of willingness and understanding, and even family and cultural barriers can prevent people from doing so.

My advice for anyone starting university and at the beginning of their career journey: now is the time to develop the habit of self – reflection. Even if it just means keeping a journal and reviewing experiences, skills and knowledge gained, how you responded to difficult situations and list of accomplishments, then at least this is a starting point. Gathering evidence of skills and achievements will also be very handy when it comes to developing your CV and answering competency based questions in applications and interviews, as I know many people struggle to find good solid examples they can showcase to employers.

There’s plenty out there if you want to learn more about developing your self – reflection skills, your university careers service can help, but you might want to check out The Reflected Best Self exercise on the MindTools website. Using feedback from others, it helps you create a strength profile, and identify things you’re really good at. You can even learn new things about yourself too!

Do you have any useful tools on self – reflection you want to share?

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New projects, learning and life since the last blog post

I admit it has been a ridiculously long time since I last blogged, but I can assure you I’ve not been on an exotic island chilling or anything!

It has been a fairly busy time for me what with taking up a new qualification alongside my work, other writing projects, and at the same time trying to maintain energy levels given it is Ramadan, and like millions of Muslims, have been fasting in the sweltering heat that’s hit the UK.

I’ve always loved reading and learning, but studying after nearly 15 years is proving to be a challenge! But as ever I am sure I will adapt very quickly. Maintaining our skills, knowledge and expertise is vital if we want to be able to compete in this fast changing world of work. Interesting to note, that the Guardian recently wrote about the top 5 skills that every graduate should have, and one is to never stop learning. I would definitely agree with that.

On the subject of learning and development, we all know that mentoring is a key tool for gaining new skills and insights, and this week I wrote a piece about it as part of an exciting collaboration with the Islamic finance recruitment & knowledge consultancy, Simply Sharia. You can read my article here on Mentoring For Nurturing Islamic Finance Talent.

So assignments, guest blogging, being lead careers blogger at work, and a writing project for AGCAS, the graduate careers service professional body, is certainly keeping me busy, but I’ll be back with more exciting articles, news and topics. Watch this space!