10 ways to get ahead
Whether you’re settled in a seemingly secure job for life, or you’re embarking on the rocky road to your first career successes, one thing is certain: you can’t afford to stay still for a second. Here are 10 ways to get ahead.
Part-time education in particular has gone from a career after-thought to something more and more people are turning to in their professional lives, at all stages of their career. At this time of year the focus is on degrees, Masters and PhDs, but there is much more to education than points and letters after your name.
Siobhan Kinsella of the The Cpl Institute recently discovered the value of part-time education herself. “I graduated with my MBA in November 2014 and studied on a part-time basis to develop my own skills and capability. I was completely taken by surprise by the opportunities not only to develop professionally, but the support and friendship element of the journey. When you study as a professional while working, you are making a significant commitment to your future and your study and a sacrifice of free time. You find that those in your course of study are doing the same thing, you meet people from diverse industries and experience who are making the commitment. Therefore as a professional adult you benefit not only from the learning experience but also the support of the group in addition; these friendships and a greater peer network were unexpected but hugely beneficial for me.”
Diversify your skill set
It used to be good enough to be the best at just one thing - so people would apply themselves to one, focused career path and wait to rise to the top. That’s not the case anymore. You need to be great at multiple things. That’s not to say you have to be great at everything, but you need to be able to do more than what is perceived as the requirement for any one position. It will give you the edge over others who don’t have your skills.
“Considering that nearly half of the jobs recruited for today did not exist 10 years ago, it is vital for those in employment to upskill both formally and informally throughout their career. Skills that make you employable include your communication and interpersonal skills, any work experience achieved and the formal qualifications that can differentiate you from the competition. Learning is no longer expected to finish at third-level; there is an expectation of continuing professional development in different applicable skills to progress in your career. Lifelong learning is now here to stay to protect your future career which will be in multiple different companies,” says Siobhan.
The best way to upskill and expand your horizons is to study part-time. Whether you’re just out of university or have been in your job for years, topping up your skills or learning something new shows people you’re serious about your career trajectory. Studying part-time gives you a new perspective about what you’re doing with the rest of your time, and increases your chances of progression.
National College of Ireland offers a variety of full-time and part-time courses in the areas of business, finance, psychology, human resources, marketing and computing. Their courses are available from foundation to degree and postgraduate level and the college is conveniently located in Dublin’s city centre.
Aine Nolan, who studied the MSc in Marketing, says that the course she studied is really practical. “We’re able to bring in examples from our own companies into our lectures, also the lecturers have real world experience so they’re ready and available to answer all your questions relating to your working environment… Employers definitely look favourably on the fact that I’m combining my work and study, so in that respect the course has made me more employable.”
Jonathan Crosbie did the MSc in Management at NCI in order to diversify his undergraduate qualification in financial services. “The MSc in management really helped me gain the position I have in my career now. Some people can be overwhelmed going back to college, but in the long run it really works out for the best, it actually flew by and I had a great time… The best thing about the MSc in Management is it’s very practical and it definitely aided my management skills. If you’re thinking about doing a part-time or full-time MSc in management I’d highly recommend doing it at National College of Ireland,” he says.
Mark Reilly did the Master in Cloud Computing at NCI. “The best thing about the MSc in Cloud Computing is the access to the facilities and the Cloud Competency Centre at NCI. We were taught by very experienced lecturers who worked in the industry for many years. It’s a great time to get involved in the area of cloud computing with companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google having their European headquarters right here in Dublin,” says Mark.
Save for a rainy day
It may seem obvious, but regular saving can give you the safety you need should you ever be unexpectedly facing a change of career. But more importantly it will give you the opportunity to invest in yourself, your education, your hobbies and interests and it can give you the space to take a leap of faith should you want to take yourself in a new direction. Even if you’re perfectly happy where you are, circumstances can change and any kind of financial breathing space you can give yourself will make all the difference.
Build your social network
Your social media networks are invaluable and if you don’t use them you can expect to be overlooked for positions and to miss countless opportunities. Most employers will assess your profile on LinkedIn rather than read your CV. Starting groups, managing them, even blogging your job search will teach you skills that you will need in almost any job today.
Do what you love
It’s an old one but it’s never been more relevant. By doing something you love you’ll be always curious, always be willing to sacrifice to ensure you’re an expert in your field and it won’t feel like work at all. There’s nothing like good old fashioned passion to help you succeed in anything, by channelling the energy of passion you can’t fail.
Don’t rest on your laurels
It’s not enough to qualify, you need to keep evolving. Consider how much the landscape in the media has changed. Google was only founded in 1998, things have changed very quickly and are set to continue to change at an even faster rate. “There is such a great buzz about web technologies and cloud computing that you feel you are really doing something of benefit to your future," says Valerie Andrews, who gained a certificate in Science in Web Technologies at NCI.
Don’t wait for an opening
Don’t wait for an opening in the career you want, create it. If the career you want doesn’t exist, create it. With all the insecurity and dynamism in today’s job market there is also opportunity to create jobs that haven’t existed before. That’s the future of the digital age.
Stress is the enemy of meaningful production. A job is not the be all and end all and while there is nothing more undermining and degrading than unemployment, there is more to life. By embracing the opportunity given to you by not having a job to get the most out of all other aspects of your life will improve your outlook and make you more employable.
Know your strengths
Knowing your strengths is also knowing your weaknesses. Everyone has something or a combination of things that they do better than anyone else. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with knowing what it is you’re not good at.
Practice makes perfect
Whether you’re preparing for an interview, a yearly review or even formulating an idea you have for the company you work for and have an ‘elevator speech’, practice it, the time will come when you want to deliver. Actors practice their lines in front of the mirror and you should too. Look out for ticks and mannerisms, speak out loud, speak in front of your family and friends they’ll be searingly honest with you, but that will only make you stronger.
If you’re ready to take the next step with your education and career, drop in to an Open Event at National College of Ireland on September 10 from 5-7pm at the IFSC campus.