Career advice must be practical, tailored, and based on the real situation on the labour market — in this case in Prague, in the Czech Republic.
If someone asks you at a party, “what do you do?” do you respond with verve and gusto — or does your heart sink?
Our career is central to our social status. It can be the key to our happiness, or the cause of discontent. Talking about it with a professional advisor can help us get it right.
And while career advice can be useful throughout our lives, four points stand out in particular:
Within a one-hour consultation, I have witnessed people transformed: clear in both their objectives and how to achieve them — by presenting their experience correctly.
Jane outlined a number of desires: she wanted not only a new job, but to change her career and increase her confidence.
Jane was head of a team in the accounts department, but she wanted to work in Human Resources.
Her initial aim was to find a junior position in HR, so she needed to rewrite her curriculum vitae to make it fit the job requirements.
We agreed that we would try to find a way to reach her goals. This meant discovering why and how she had come to these decisions, and above all reversing her decline in self-confidence.
We began by working on her CV. She had been seeking a new job for a number of months, and felt her CV was letting her down. But the CV was just the beginning. Later, we worked on raising her confidence and helping her to more effectively sell herself at job interviews.
Jane found a new job, a managerial position in a field that was close (but not identical) to her previous role, in an international company. During the process she realized that she did not want a complete career change, because it would involve starting in too junior a position. However, she did manage to find a different role – thanks to career advice and her own determination to refresh her professional life.
Jane’s example points to a number of areas where career advice often focuses: self-confidence, the ability to present ourselves effectively, and understanding the market we are trying to work within.
During 20 years working in recruitment I have witnessed an unbelievable increase in the demands placed upon employees.
I have spent the last eight years working for technology companies, recruiting highly qualified specialists.
It’s no longer enough for them to meet the technical requirements. They also need to be creative, communicative, client-oriented, and of course to speak English fluently.
Accordingly, I have observed how the personality-type of top technical staff has changed over the years. At one time, the laconic introvert was typical. Now, they are more likely to be self-confident extroverts.
I speak with many candidates every month, and these interviews often reveal big cultural differences between applicants in this regard.
For example, it’s nearly always the case that applicants from Western countries are more self-confident, with better presentation and communication skills, than Czech ones.
They usually also have better practical experience after graduating from university. Czech candidates who have experience abroad or with an international company are closer to their Western counterparts.
By contrast, communication skills among candidates from the East (in particular Romania, Ukraine, or Russia) are often very poor and reveal a lack of self-confidence.
Although these candidates have excellent technical skills and realistic salary expectations, they often find it difficult to succeed in telephone interviews with employees abroad.
For a number of years I have focused on career advice for qualified people from Eastern European countries who seem to lack the self-confidence and presentation skills needed to move forward professionally.
There is a shortage of these highly-qualified people on the Czech market, and I have witnessed how they can develop the required personality traits within a matter of months – and achieve their career goals.
But career advice goes deeper than these issues.
Career advice is also about discussing why we have these goals, and how else they might be achieved. For example, we are looking for a new job – but are we sure we cannot change our position with our current employer?
This is an option many people overlook.
In many ways, seeking a job internally is much the same as any other job search – you’ll need to tailor the CV to suit the job requirements, and be able to present yourself brilliantly at the interview.
But there are key differences and challenges.
For one thing, it will be necessary to discuss this frankly with your current boss much earlier than if you are seeking work at a different company.
He or she will be still be your colleague if you do move on, and the working relationship will still matter.
It will also be important to maintain your performance in your current role at a high level before you have this conversation.
A key element of a successful strategy for an internal job move is also building networks within the company.
For example, by working on interdepartmental projects you can build strong relationships with your possible future bosses – making the interview process much easier. They will already be impressed with your performance and aware of your qualities.
But a key question will also be: what do you do if you don’t get the job? How will you feel about continuing in your current role – and how will you manage your relationship with your current boss?
These are difficult issues. I often advise people to apply externally at the same time. This is to give themselves options in the case of failing to secure the internal position, but also leverage on pay and conditions if they succeed.
In any case, you must be prepared for lots of intense discussions with your managers. We will help you prepare for them.