Over the summer I moved to a different role within the Careers team, which has meant I've needed to learn about some new career areas. This has made me pay extra attention to a question which is often at the forefront of my mind as a careers consultant: how do you find out things about work and careers that you don't know yet?
Now, you might expect that at this point I'll answer my own question with: 'use some of our excellent careers resources'. This is absolutely part of the answer, and I'll come back to it later. But - and I'm letting you into a little secret here - despite having worked as a careers consultant for eleven years, I was feeling a little overwhelmed at everything I needed to learn and my mind was full of thoughts such as 'how can you not know this, you should already know this', and 'there's so much I need to find out, where on earth do I start?' What did I need? Just a little career curiosity.
The Dictionary definition of curiosity is 'an eager desire to learn or know about something'. In a careers context, I've seen curiosity referred to as 'a sustained interest in the world of work' and 'inquisitiveness about self and work'. Career curiosity in action involves some attitudes and behaviours which I'm going to outline below.
Attitude 1# Acceptance that it's fine not to know something. This is one thing I particularly like about career curiosity; it helped me to shift my thinking from 'I don't know much about careers in robotics' to 'I don't know much about careers in robotics ... yet.' Curiosity says it's fine not to know something but good to be open to finding out. Permission not to know something in itself helped shift my mind to a place where it was able to move to attitude 2#:
Openness to learning new things. Being open to learning things you don't know yet is helpful in all areas of your life (as I bought a flat over the summer I'm learning on the go who to call when there's a leak/broken washing machine/draughty window). It's also highly valued by graduate employers - rapid changes in technology mean they need employees who are both keen to learn and able to acquire new skills and knowledge quickly and adapt to new and changing circumstances. This week I've been attending the annual conference of The Institute of Student Employers (ISE), and learning agility - or being willing and able to learn new things - was highlighted as one of the things that employers are looking for the most in their graduate recruits.
Attitude 3# Interest in ...anything and everything. Pursuing the things you're interested in - and also being inquisitive things you don't even think you are interested in - will do a whole range of things for you that are beneficial to your personal and career development, your wellbeing and even help you to make new friends. I don't have a technical background but I can still be genuinely interested in the fascinating technologies the Engineering students I work with are working on. Explore new interests and also further develop the ones you have - in practice this could look like taking extra steps to pursue interests from your subject area outside of your course or pursuing extracurricular interests. This links closely to ...
Attitude 4# Willingness to give something a go. Openness to trying new things and building new experiences - even if quite challenging or scary - will build your confidence and develop strengths you never knew you had. Don't expect yourself to be an expert straight away - but be open to trying and failing, and trying again.
So now we've covered helpful attitudes, on to some helpful behaviours and actions.
Behaviour 1# Reflect on yourself and what makes you tick. The employers at the conference also highlighted the importance of self-awareness, which just means being aware of what you know and what you can do, your strengths and weaknesses, your personality and preferences, and what motivates you in life and work. Often the best ways to develop self-awareness is to reflect on yourself, your experiences and how you feel about them. Pay attention to what you do well and enjoy, what sparks your interest and what motivates you, as well as the skills and knowledge you're building up, often without even realising it.
Behaviour 2# Research. Time for another little secret - being a careers consultant doesn't mean I have a downloadable database in my head of all jobs that exist ever and what they involve. Everything I know about careers I've found out, either by researching or finding someone who does know the answer. Students often tell us they don't know where to start with research and feel overwhelmed by all the information that's out there, which is fair enough. Start by exploring what's available within various sectors, options related to your subject, or what graduates from your course have done, You could also explore or map out options relating to an interest, such as sustainability, healthcare or 'doing good'.
Behaviour 3# Connect. Connecting with people already doing the careers you're interested in is a great way to explore what the career is actually like. Connect with employers, alumni and friends and family doing jobs that interest you. Use LinkedIn to connect with alumni and build your network. Ask them what they do day-to-day and what skills, knowledge and experience are most needed to get in. And remember it's fine not to know yet - curiosity is all about finding out.
So there's a quick intro to career curiosity . We love it because it's linked to some of our other favourite approaches to career and personal development - planned happenstance (the idea that you can explore new opportunities without having a specific plan) and growth mindset .
To help you get started with your career thinking ... pop into the Careers Centre and speak to our friendly Helpdesk staff ... and remember you don't need to know the right answer ... or even the right questions ...