In 2017 I waved goodbye to the security of having a full-time corporate job, after 8 years working in HR and Graduate Recruitment to set up on my own as a career coach. I can draw lots of comparisons from my own career change journey to that of a student navigating the job market; with many highs and lows, setbacks and uncertainty.
One of the challenges I found early on when I was completing my coaching qualification alongside my busy day job was sustained motivation. I knew I wanted to become a career coach, but I sometimes struggled to put in the hours towards my coursework after a day in the office and found it easy to get distracted by Netflix and Social Media.
It reminded me of the challenges that students face in balancing intense studying with trying to find a graduate job. From talking to many students throughout my career, I understand it’s challenging maintaining the motivation and enthusiasm required for online tests and application forms. This is particularly true with headlines highlighting how difficult it can be these days to land a graduate job, and after receiving rejections from companies you would love to start your career with.
Motivation is often talked about as being a pre-requisite to taking action towards your career goals and is seen a very valid reason to explain to ourselves why we haven’t done something. I have recently come across a view that argues that we shouldn’t expect to feel motivated before we take action towards our career change or job search. In fact, if we push ourselves to spend a small amount of time on our goals (even 10 or 20 minutes) we’re more likely to either continue working on it for longer than we planned, or we’re more likely to keep the momentum going with another 10 or 20 minutes the next night.
I found I would often lack motivation for the parts of setting up a business that I found the least interesting. I would always be happy to coach or read an interesting professional development book after work, but I found working on the technical side of my website a little boring, and would not feel like putting the hours in during my evenings and weekends. At first, I let my feeling of tiredness direct when I did and didn’t put the work in. When I first started work on my website I would work sporadically, and once I got out of the routine I could let weeks pass by without looking at it again. As time ticked by, my lack of progress would frustrate me and make me feel even less like working on it.
Once I started experimenting with working on my website in tiny bite-size chunks, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it, I broke the habit loop and negative thinking surrounding it. My commitment to my bigger goal of becoming a coach and wanting to get my website completed could override my feelings of not feeling like doing it.
I learnt that rather than expecting motivation to lead to action, I could decide what I was committed to and take action first. As a result of starting the action, I felt more motivated, more committed to my goals, and started to form a new habit. One of the great things about this trick is you can break things down into really tiny steps if you need to. One evening I just switched on my computer, looked at my homepage, and switched it off again. I didn’t beat myself up for being lazy and managed to make a lot more progress the following evening.
I hope students feeling the very real challenges of today’s job market can learn something from my experiences. I think this shift in mind-set is equally applicable to helping progress towards finding a graduate job as it is to a professional trying to make a career change.
There are many small steps you could take today to help your internship or graduate job search:
Look at your CV and highlight the top 3 areas you’d like to work on improving over the next few weeks
Make a list of the employers of choice in your preferred sector and what opportunities they currently have
Subscribe to an employer of choice’s social media or blog to get to start getting to know them better
Create candidate login details for a job you’ve been meaning to apply for
Hannah Salton worked in corporate HR & recruitment for 8 years, most recently looking after graduate recruitment for global law firm Allen & Overy. In 2017 she transitioned to become a career coach and consultant, delivering bespoke career coaching programmes for graduates looking to develop the skills and awareness needed to secure their dream job.