Plan Your Journey
Success in your career will depend on planning and opportunity, but if you get the planning right, the opportunities will follow.
Your job and your career are not the same thing, although the two are, of course, closely related. Your job is what you do right now, but your career is the path you take through your working life. It is made up of a series of jobs, and the achievements within each job, that carry you from the time you leave school to the time you retire. It is a journey, and like any journey, you need to map your path before you set out, although you may find interesting new roads to explore along the way.
If you are reading this magazine, you will be at the beginning of your journey, trying to choose a destination to aim for and to decide which road you need to follow to get there. Unless you are one of the lucky few who have a passion for a particular profession and the ability to pursue that dream, the options can seem impossible to untangle. Fortunately, there are certain steps that will help you make the best decision.
The key to planning a career is to understand yourself and understand the options available to you, and then match the two together to define the path you want to take. Your ultimate goal is not the next job you apply for, but rather the jobs that will flow from that in the future. Achieving long-term ambitions will depend on education and experience, so think ahead, imagine your destination, and plan how you might get there from where you are now.
Your first step is to get to know yourself: your strengths, values, interests, and ambitions. Then research your chosen job. Make sure you know as much as you can about what the job is really like and if it really is the right one for you. Finally, get some advice from a professional, and the Qatar Career Development Center (QCDC) can help with this. There might be other options or training schemes available that you do not know about or have not considered. It also helps to have someone impartial as a sounding board to check if you are doing the right thing.
To get you started, we have developed a series of ‘action points’ designed to help you assess yourself and the job market. By following these points, you will maximize your chances of getting where you want to go.
- Strengths and Weaknesses:
Think of all the things you believe you are good at and write them down as quickly as you can. Then repeat this exercise for anything you think you are not good at.
Your list should include subjects at school, such as mathematics or particular fields of science, that are a strong basis for careers such as engineering, while good grades in a field such as biology may indicate that a career in the health professions might suit you. Mathematics without science may lead to a successful career in the finance industry. On the other hand, if your mathematics and sciences are not as strong as your humanities-based subjects, you may want to aim for careers where an ability to think about issues, react to information, and explain important points are key features. This is the case with many careers, offering a path to senior management levels, in both the public and private sectors. You should also think about your strengths outside the classroom. For example, if you are good with children, teaching is an option, while if you are sociable and enjoy talking to people, a job with a high level of personal interaction may be satisfying. On the other hand, if you are shy, you may excel in a job where you can concentrate on your work without spending a great deal of time talking to others.
- Things You Enjoy:
This is similar to the `Strengths and Weaknesses´ exercise, but this time it is a list of things you like doing.
In part, your list will consider school subjects. You might be good at mathematics, but not enjoy it. In this case, a job that involves your academic talent may be suitable, but not if the work is too heavily dependent on mathematics. If you concentrate your efforts on careers that include not only things you are good at, but also things that you enjoy, you are more likely to find a career you enjoy and are enthusiastic about. Enthusiasm is an important factor in professional success. Things we do outside school are a particularly important part of this exercise. While most people cannot turn their hobbies into careers, it is always worth looking at options where these can intersect. For example, if you enjoy marine sports, you might consider applying to join the navy or maritime police.
- Possible Professions:
List all the jobs, careers, professions, and companies you can think of that you believe you would enjoy.
The first part of this is a brainstorming exercise, listing all the options you might already have in your mind. The second part is actively to seek out new ideas by researching the internet. Look at the lists of things you are good at and enjoy and combine these with the words: ‘job’ and ‘career’ in an internet search engine. Looking through the results, you will find employment websites from around the world that advertise jobs relevant to the criteria you have listed. Look through these websites to identify jobs you think you would enjoy and find satisfying and save the results on your computer so you can refer to them later. As well as your own list, you can consult professional guidance counselors about possible options. The QCDC can help with this, also.
- Is It in Qatar?
List all the employers you can find in the local market that might need the professions you have identified.
We will assume you want to pursue a career in Qatar, so it is important to make sure your career options are realistic in the local market. For this, you will need to do your own research. Look at which organizations, either in the government or private sector, offer the careers you have identified. While Qatar is developing rapidly, there are still some industries, such as oil and gas, that are significant employers in the country. If you are interested in engineering, specializing in a field that is related to these industries will offer great potential and well-defined paths for entry. If you are a Qatari national, certain areas, particularly in the government sector and large corporations in key industries, will offer opportunities and benefits that cannot be offered by much of the private sector. For foreign residents in Qatar, there are many opportunities afforded by Qatar’s growth, that will offer skills and experience which can help you start a career in Qatar, and perhaps transfer your experience to other countries if you wish in the future.
You will probably know the names of some potential employers already, so write them down. Also note down the names of others you see mentioned on signs, in advertising, or in the media, and ask friends, parents and acquaintances about their employers.
Once again, the internet is a crucial tool in this. Combine the professions or industries that interest you with the name ‘Qatar’ on internet search engines. This will bring you a range of results, including employment websites, articles from the media, and the websites of companies themselves. Save any relevant search results and follow this up by searching for the names of any specific companies or organizations you identify. Read any information you find and note down contact details. Finally, you can contact relevant organizations to discuss the career opportunities they provide. Most human resources departments will have a good knowledge of their current and future needs and will offer useful advice if asked. They will also be able to tell you of any specific entry requirements, such as minimum education levels, and you should also ask about this and take note.
- Your Shortlist:
Reduce your initial list of professions to a more selective list of careers that fulfill all your criteria.
For this you will need to look at the results of all your previous exercises. Take into account all the information you have gathered, including the subjects you receive good grades in at school, things you enjoy doing, and the need for certain professions or industries in Qatar. Choose those that are most likely to offer you satisfaction in your work, as well as opportunities for a successful career. Make a list.
Exactly how long your list should be is up to you. If this process has given you a very clear idea of your ambitions, you may have a list of only two or three professions. Perhaps only one career has jumped out at you as ideal. If this profession is particularly ambitious, however, it is wise to keep yourself open to other options in case you do not get the required grades. Alternatively, you might still be uncertain about your goals, and need to keep a larger number of active options. You will, however, have a clearer understanding of the direction you need to take, even if you do not yet have a specific goal.
- Meet the Requirements:
Identify the entry requirements for the professions you have listed and what you need to do to meet those requirements.
All careers, and the individual jobs that will make up your career, will have specific entry requirements. Sometimes these will include a minimum level of job experience, in which case you need to identify more junior jobs that will provide a path to your ultimate goal. In most cases, however, there will also be education and training requirements, and you need to make these your immediate goal after you finish school. There are many options, including diplomas and special vocational training, but the most valuable will be a university degree.
Return to the job advertisements you saved from your earlier search, and study those that match professions on your final shortlist. These should list any relevant qualifications and experience required for the role, including criteria that are defined as ‘essential’ and those that are ‘desirable’. Pay particular attention to educational requirements, and to the requirements of entry-level positions, as these will be the elements you will need on your CV to get your first role. In some advertisements, there will be a particular university degree listed as a qualification, in which case this will guide you toward specific courses you should apply for. Others may simply say the job requires a university graduate, in which case the employer is using a degree as a more general benchmark of intelligence and capability, rather than for the specific professional skills it provides. This will give you more flexibility in degree choice, but it is always worth keeping employability in mind, as well as how much you will enjoy university. Employers will be looking for particular qualities, such as the ability to analyze information and express ideas, so you should take this into account when choosing a major.
- Apply for Jobs:
Once you have defined your chosen path and ensured you meet the entry criteria, it is time to start applying for jobs.
Job applications take time and thought. You need to write a compelling CV and cover letter, identify vacant positions and put yourself forward for them, master the art of the job interview, and know how to stay in the interviewer’s mind while they make a decision about who to hire. This is such an important process that we have included a separate Job Seekers’ Guide with this magazine, offering detailed advice on how to land your next job, and take the next step on your career journey.