Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.
We asked Lynsey Gargan from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:
With regard to education I say don't worry if you think you have the wrong subjects in school. I certainly didn't have the subjects you would typically expect.
There are a number of courses that cater to different backgrounds. The most important thing is to do your research. Go to open days, talk to the colleges and generally just find out what exactly you would be getting in to.
Don't just take for granted you know what a certain course or career is all about. Think about what you like to do, and not just necessarily in school, if you find yourself being curious about how things work or how thing are made, it's a good indication that you could like something like engineering.
One of the best things about engineering is that it really can be your passport to the world. There are great travel opportunities within the industry and chances to be involved in the next big thing.
Practically every man-made product around you came from a manufacturing plant, it's a huge industry with a lot of different avenues to take. Innovation is a really big part of what engineers do. The desire to be creative and improve production and processes is an important attribute for a manufacturing engineer.
What are your interests?
Enterprising people like situations that involve using resources for personal or corporate economic gain. Such people may have an opportunistic frame of mind, and are drawn to commerce, trade and making deals. Some pursue sales and marketing occupations. Many will eventually end up owning their own business, or in management roles in larger organisations. They tend to be very goal-oriented and work best when focused on a target. Some have an entrepreneurial inclination.
You might be surprised to know that you already have many of the skills which are essential for employment in the modern workplace.
These are not the specific knowledge based skills you would learn during an apprenticeship, in college or at work, but the ‘transferable skills’ which we all need to use when we work with other people, on projects or even by ourselves. You develop these skills simply from being involved in everyday activities. They are not formally ‘taught’ in school, but they may develop there, at home, or through your hobbies, activities, and friendships.
Introduction to Career Skills by Brian Mooney
The skills we are talking about are quite ordinary, that’s why we don’t usually notice them. These ‘ordinary’ skills are so taken for granted that we seldom make any effort to improve or develop them. Terms such as ‘communication skills’, ‘people skills’ and ‘organisation skills’ are just some of the many skills which most people develop without even knowing about it.
Why are they important?
Lets put it this way. Two equally qualified people have applied for a job as a scientist. At the job interview, each is asked if they think that they would be good at the job. The first person answers with a simple “yes”, the second one also answers “yes”, and continues to discuss why they think they would be good. Both are well qualified for the job, but the second candidate has better ‘communication skills’, i.e. is simply better able to communicate when asked for information. Both may have honours degrees; but the better developed ‘ordinary’ skill of communication gives the edge to the second candidate.
Chances are, the first candidate thought that having the right qualification was all that was needed to get the job. Big mistake! It’s safe to assume that for every job you apply for, there will also be several others who will have the same or better qualifications. So it is not necessarily the qualifications that win the job contract! More often, it is the ‘ordinary’ skills, and the evidence that you have developed them that counts.
Where do I start?
You can use the exercise on this downloadable worksheet to discover the most sought after skills needed to get jobs in the modern workplace. By rating yourself on these skills, you can see where your strengths and weaknesses may lie. Then, you can look for opportunities to develop and practice your underdeveloped skills.