Career tips

Clueless and confused?

You are confused or just plainly at a loss about what career to choose. You know you have certain strengths, but you can’t make sense of your likes and dislikes, and the pressure is piling on to choose something


  • Deadline – breakdown your plan of action into thinking time, research and applying for jobs
  • Space – find some private space, take a deep breath and jot down ideas as they come to mind: what you’re good at and what other people think you’re good at; then separately, what really interests you, what experiences make you feel fulfilled and effective; then write a check-list of skills and interests, leaving a third column free for industry sectors and companies
  • Check-list – tease out the opinions of people you trust, and begin to research likely sectors and companies that might fit. Be ready to adapt and change, but use the check-list as a basis for action


You will find the first steps of a journey are often the most difficult, yet the most rewarding. Keep the internal conversation going in your head, but stick to a disciplined yet realistically paced plan of action.


How to handle a difficult boss

The boss is central to every business and many young employees are reportedly leaving jobs more because of a bad relationship with their manager than anything else. What are the best coping strategies?


  • Try to understand the pressures your boss is under, where he or she is in the rat race, and why their difficult behaviour might have nothing to do with you. You can then work out what help they most need: don’t be too literal in dealing with their needs. Sometimes the boss might say one thing and actually mean another. Read the signs and try to be as objective as possible about the business demands. Everybody – including the boss – has to sign up to what makes business sense
  • If it is personal, first get out of the way. Bullies tend to pick on obvious targets. Make yourself useful, but not a sitting duck. Without being scheming or showy, build up support and respect from colleagues. This gives you the option to rise above any personal conflict and if successful play the young yet mature card
  • Are you sure it’s not you who is difficult? Perhaps you have habits that you are used to, but grate on other people. An unsympathetic boss might be doing you a long-term favour by knocking you into shape


Choosing a sector

There are at least 15 principal sectors in the economy, including banking and finance, telecoms, media and e-business (all separately covered on’s content pages). So how do you choose the one best suited to your skills and interests?


  • Identify your proven or potential passion. Think about what activity you are rated for or particularly enjoy and, with training, could make a living out of. Is it organising people, working with figures, pushing a service or product, or creating something new and developing it? Don’t worry if several skills or interests keep coming up – just group and rank them in some order
  • Start asking around and reading about companies and sectors to find out what kind of person thrives in those areas. Try to spot any pattern in individuals and companies you admire. Also what are the qualities these businesses seem to be crying out for? Is there a skills set that cuts across more than one sector: finance, marketing, sales, human resources for instance?
  • Find a large sheet of paper, and literally map out favourite sectors, companies and individuals, adding a key phrase to describe the reason for their appeal. Then in a different colour add your potential personal contribution: list skills, interests, qualities you possess that would add value to that sector. You will find a picture emerging to guide your choice


Sense of humour required

Many jobs say that a sense of humour is required. How much humour should one show at interview to get the point across?


  • When cited in advertisements or job descriptions, this tends to mean that unless you can see the light side, you will find the environment and people very tough. Companies and departments going through change, or with ambitious targets, can generate lots of pressure: employers want to make sure that people can absorb the stress, and be fun to work with
  • Show some humour where appropriate at the interview. But the main point of the interview is to assess your skills, experience and potential to do the job, rather than to recruit the office comedian
  • Dry humour is a safe bet: it allows everybody to see the funny side without being ostentatious, vulgar or cruel. Don’t forget how easily humour can back-fire if you don’t know the person, or the circumstances

Green pastures

Once in a job that you’re enjoying and is stretching you, you can let it carry you. However, if you’ve set yourself targets, see your peers doing better than you, or you’re not giving the job as much as you’d like, and not getting recognised or rewarded enough, you might want to explore other options. How best to play this?


  • Establish that you really are making the most of your current role. Instead of sulking, feeling frustrated or becoming angry and disenchanted, test the waters where you are, and begin to do what you want to do – but prepare people for your need for greater scope, or you’ll get into needless scrapes
  • Make sure that your cv and list of contacts are refreshed. Research other possibilities without looking desperate or promiscuous. It shows you are career-minded, and serious about your own personal development
  • Learn other skills that will help you mid and longterm, and find out more about other companies by visiting this site and their website. Sometimes employers will positively support you. Often you will need to create opportunities for yourself. Attending a conference or seminar is a good investment, both to improve your knowledge and your contacts base










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