Career Coach Q&A: Your career and your support network (part 1)

When it comes to your career, the power of a support network can’t be overstated. From thinking about your career background and goals to creating plans and working to achieve them, having people in your corner makes a clear difference.

How is having a support network important for your career goals, planning, and growth? And how can you start (or continue!) thinking about your career, no matter where you are in your education journey? We asked Mandy R., a Career Coach at Guild, these very same questions — and more!

 

How is having a support network important for your career goals, planning, and growth?

You can use and rely on your support system throughout your career planning process and job hunt — people who you trust to be really honest with you. While there are many (many!) benefits, Mandy shared that your support network can:

  • Assist you in determining what you’re interested in and where you want to go in your career. Many of the same questions you’re asking yourself — What am I good at? What do I like/dislike? — you can also ask people who know you well or have worked with you. They might share a perspective you wouldn’t have considered or remind you of something you’ve forgotten.
  • Help you map out a career path. Talking to people who are currently working a job you’re interested in (or one that’s similar) will give you a sense of what that position looks like on a day-to-day basis, whether it aligns with your interests, and the steps you’ll need to take to get there.
  • Connect you with job opportunities. Depending on your comfort level and personality, reach out to colleagues, supervisors, friends, family members, and others to ask about job opportunities. Hiring teams love to fill jobs with candidates referred by current employees, so don’t be shy about letting people know you’re job hunting.
  • Provide great recommendations and guidance when preparing for job interviews. Other people can pick up on things you may be unaware of or probably wouldn’t notice on your own. Are you shrugging your shoulders? Are you ending statements in inflections?
  • Serve as excellent rehearsal interviewers. Are you comfortable with a remote interview? Practice with your friends first — not when you have one shot with a job interview! 

 

How can you start (or continue!) thinking about your career, no matter where you are in your education?

And what reflection questions can you use to guide your planning?

Mandy encourages students to ensure that everything — your goals and your plans, along with your education program — makes sense and is in alignment. Look online at personality assessments. Talk to friends, family members, managers, former managers, and other people in your support network. Plus, do some reflection on your own!

Some questions to ask yourself (and trusted members of your support network) to help you get started include:

  • What am I really good at? What parts of my job feel like second nature?
  • What do I struggle with? What parts of my job are draining? 
  • How do I handle conflict? This is an important question if you’re thinking about pursuing management.
  • Do I take opportunities to support people? It’s another important question for those interested in management.
  • What actually appeals to me? For example: If you want to be a cybersecurity expert, but you don’t like computers, maybe you should reevaluate your plan.
  • What do I truly want? Pay attention to the things that matter to you, and think about the things you hope to get out of a job beyond a paycheck. Maybe flexibility is more important than a job title — so look for jobs that offer lots of flexibility, and go from there.

Turn your interest in your program, field, and career into a plan. Find out what it takes to get from point A to point B, and also know what the expectations are at point B to avoid surprises when you get there.

Once you have a target job title (and hopefully geography) in mind, do your homework up front. Is this job in high demand? Are there openings in your area? Is this something where a bachelor’s degree is required, rather than just a certificate? Look at current job postings for that position to see what employers are searching for. Be really honest with yourself about what it’ll take to become a strong candidate and stand out from the competition.

If you’re just starting to consider using your education benefits, but haven’t applied to a program yet, Mandy recommends taking stock of where you are in your career currently. Ask yourself:

  • What do I like? What don’t I like?
  • Where would I like my career to go? 
  • How much time am I willing to put into achieving my education and/or career goals? 
  • Am I looking to transition to a new role within my current company? If so, have I talked to my manager about my goals? 
  • Am I networking? Who’s part of my network? How can I expand my network? How can I interact with my network?

Many students who are currently enrolled in a program plan on transitioning to a new career field once they graduate. It’s important to remember that by completing your program, you’ll have a new degree, but no experience in the new field.

Even for entry-level roles, you’ll probably be competing with people who have the same level of education, or have both education and experience. So what can you do between now and graduation to fill those gaps in experience and make yourself a competitive candidate? Mandy suggests that you:

  • Network and talk to people — like your professors or other students in your classes — about your interests, especially related to your new career field. You never know what chatting with people in your network and sharing your interests might lead to!
  • Look for opportunities to practice the skills you’ll need for your new career and gain experience in those areas. For example: Talk to your manager about projects or opportunities in your current role where you could put your education to use. If there are no opportunities within your current role, volunteer somewhere you can gain experience relevant to your future career.
  • Leverage your alumni network and any career coaching resources at your school. Your school’s career services are still an option for you, even as an online student! In fact, there are frequently virtual options, which often occur in the evening to account for the busy schedules of working students.

 


 

The advice doesn’t end here — read part two of our interview with Mandy for more excellent career guidance!

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