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What's Wrong With Being Clueless?

Tips and AdviceWorkGraduate Jobs

The results of a recent student survey suggested that the two top employers of choice for graduates were Apple and Google. Now I have nothing against these highly successful brands; in fact I'm a big fan. I am equally sure that they are brilliant organisations to work for but how many of those students who voted for them really know what working for them is really like?

The results of a recent student survey suggested that the two top employers of choice for graduates were Apple and Google. Now I have nothing against these highly successful brands; in fact I'm a big fan. I am equally sure that they are brilliant organisations to work for but how many of those students who voted for them really know what working for them is really like?

I ask because I suspect that the choices were heavily influenced by the product brand. Previous surveys of a similar kind often flagged up the BBC as a top graduate employer yet the venerable Beeb did not, and to my knowledge, still does not run a graduate programme.

When it comes to choosing a career and an employer, graduates fit into various categories. There are those who know exactly what they want to do; they studied an appropriate degree and researched the market carefully before selecting the businesses to apply to. At the opposite extreme there are graduates who just don't know what they want to do. Often described as 'bright but clueless' these graduates should not be pilloried for their indecision or lack of clarity in career decision making.

The truth is that there have always been those who did not know what they wanted to do career wise. Today, with a myriad of careers and an ever changing careers landscape, choosing a career and an employer of choice can be a daunting experience. Sophisticated marketing by employers of their job opportunities only serve to further confuse those who are already confused.

In the past, when the world of work was somewhat more sedate and settled, those who did not have a clear career goal in mind simply muddled through. They would take a punt at a few job applications and if an employer fancied giving them a chance to prove themselves, then they would take it. Surprisingly it often worked out! And if it didn't? Then they would try something different - and they could because there were lots of opportunities around.

The market started to tighten up in the 1990s. Throughout the noughties, as the numbers of students in higher education continued to grow, the transition from student to working life became more and more fraught and those who graduated without a clue what they wanted to do were often caught out.

I am on record as extolling the importance of paying attention to your future career whilst at university and not leaving it until after graduation. I still believe that it is good advice but I do now also believe that if you have not got a clear career goal in mind and a list of target employers to approach, it is not the end of the world. So if you are one of those who graduated this year and you are still unsure which direction to take your life in, don't panic. Take heart from the fact that there are many others in the same boat.

As you experience adult life it is likely too that your ideas, views, values, interests and ambitions will change. You have 50 years of work before you and in all probability a few career (rather than job) experiences ahead. So, where you start is rarely, if ever, where you finish.

A career used to be defined as a 'meandering through life'. It's worth holding on to that definition if you are uncertain about your future. Of course you can't sit around contemplating its meaning forever. You need to kick start your career sometime and sooner rather than later.

In my next article I will suggest some ways of doing precisely that.

Carl Gilleard
Chief Executive
AGR

carl gilleard grb author

Carl is the former CEO of AGR and former non-executive director of GRB. 

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