Here’s my advice to young people looking for jobs. Feel free to use it if you want.

For some reason a particularly long line of young people, mostly graduates, looking for jobs has been beating a path to my door this year.  When there’s only a couple, I suppose it doesn’t matter much if what you say is mostly rubbish, but when there are rather more it is better if you have something reasonably plausible to say.

Noticing that the key problems experienced by many are a) that they don’t know what they want to do, and b) they don’t actually have any idea what most jobs would be like, I have prepared a handy job-seekers’ roadmap.  It goes something like this.

First, let’s assume that you don’t want a disagreeable, and/or badly-paid, and/or unsatisfying job.  That rules out a whole lot, which I won’t go into here.  What it leaves are four basic categories into which, I would argue, all other jobs can be categorised.  The four categories are:

–  jobs which are mainly about interacting with people;

–  jobs which are about organising things;

–  jobs which are about coming up with ideas;

–  jobs which are about practising a skill.

Somewhat confusingly, many jobs are about more than one of these things, and some may even be about three or even all four.  Still, if you can decide which of these things you enjoy and are good at, then that gets you at least half-way to figuring out what kinds of jobs would be good for you and what kinds wouldn’t.

Note, importantly, that this is much more about specific roles than it is about broad industries.  If I take the world that I know best, advertising and creative services, then very broadly first-category people would make good account managers;  second-category people might too, but would also be good in purer project management roles;  third category people would enjoy being creatives, and also probably planners;  and fourth-category people might be illustrators, photographers or these days more likely IT specialists in digital roles.

Equally, and perhaps more importantly, it tells you the sorts of roles you wouldn’t enjoy or be good at.  I, for example, should never take on a role that is mainly about organising things.  A friend who is a notorious misanthrope should not try to be a people person.

There is of course still a fairly major problem here – you still have to figure out what roles exist, and which of the four options they call for.  This isn’t easy, and will very probably involve a lot of advice-seeking coffees with people like me.  But at least you’ll have some kind of construct to help evaluate whatever the person like me is saying.

Anyway, it may not be much but it’s the best I can do.  Leaving aside whatever skills or abilities are required in unpleasant jobs, do you think my four directions omit anything?”  


2 thoughts on “Here’s my advice to young people looking for jobs. Feel free to use it if you want.

  1. Good stuff. It would have helped me to have thought about things through this prism when I was 21.

    But, to confuse matters a little, one probably needs to think about “career” vs “job”, because some careers require one to progress through the various categories. Taking my own area (the professions), one typically starts out practising a skill (or knowledge), on instruction from others, but progress only comes through being able to organise client delivery projects, managing people and – if one reaches management level – needing to have ideas (although not nearly as often as in a creative role).

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