You’ve likely heard it already: wake up early to exercise and meditate, write down your goals daily and leave no distractions all day and you’ll be a CEO of your own business at 25…. Yeah right.
While those blog posts and articles about ways to stay focused and reach your goals are great, they don’t often relate to university students. When you’ve got essays to write and pages of reading left, or an early morning lab (whether virtual or physical!), it’s not easy to keep your mindset on discovering careers, focusing your options and taking action towards your next steps.
So, let’s take a look at how university students can stay focused on your career journey while keeping things realistic. University is all about learning, meeting people, exploring your interests and having fun. To maximise your time at King’s we recommend you think about these 5 tips to staying focused on your career journey:
1. Choose your direction – but don’t stress if your ideas change
Choosing your direction is a core element to starting your career journey. While some arrive at King’s already confident in their next steps after university, many more students admit that they are still discovering their options. And that’s very much okay!
Think about what your degree is all about – there is a lot of clarity that comes from your chosen subject. If you are studying a vocational degree with a specific career aspect, such as dentistry, engineering or finance, that already gives you a rough direction, but also there are lots of different careers within these bigger sectors. If you are studying less “streamlined” subjects, for example in arts and humanities, take a look at your interests and passions, and see whether your degree skills fit to industries of your interest.
2. Write down (smart) goals
Once you have a direction – and it doesn’t need to be too specific, or even your final one – have a go at keeping track of your goals. This could be taking notes on your phone, creating a vision board or anything in between.
What are goals? Let’s break them down with the use of the SMART acronym, which describes goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. To stay focused, you’ll want to know a specific way to get to your goal and when you need to take steps. Rather than “I’m going to be a pro chef in 1 year’s time!” it would be “I’m going to practice one culinary technique each month, and by 12 months I’ve mastered 12 different techniques.”
So, break those big unattainable goals to small steps that fit in to your university experience. Interested in becoming a lawyer? Set down goals for your academic term like attending an event, meeting and talking to an employer, or even joining a law society!
3. No distractions? Well, maybe a few!
Many advice articles tell this: to achieve your goal, keep your eye on the prize at all times. However, as university students, it’s easy to have a lot going on at the same time. As well as being a student, you might be part of hobbies, societies, work or volunteer at the same time, or have health-conditions or caring responsibilities to consider. And that takes time off your calendar. Expecting to keep yourself under “no other distractions” and working on your career with a tunnel mindset is, therefore, a pretty unhealthy expectation.
Rather than expecting yourself to have a tunnel mindset, focus on having a varied university experience. Your studies, extracurriculars and fun activities are important in shaping your values, passions and interests, and they help build meaningful, employable skills.
4. Surround yourself with people that help you grow
Our next tip is all about finding and building networks, both casual and professional. During university, your first contacts are likely your academic or society peers, your friend group and your lecturers. With time, you’ll see that circle grow, but only if you put in the work! Think about how you can connect with people who support your career journey. This could be seeking mentorship, talking to industry professionals, finding peers who are interested in your interests, and even helping others find their feet by becoming a mentor yourself.
If you’re looking to meet industry professionals, this is easy with King’s Careers & Employability: our career festivals and employer panels enable students to connect with professionals from all industries. Check out our next events on KEATS.
5. Self-reflection is key
Self-reflection is your best friend when it comes to keeping focused on your university career journey. Remember Tip 2, writing down steps to reach your goals? Our final tip is about keeping yourself reflective and revisiting your progress. Look at your step-by-step plans and ask yourself: how are you finding these steps? Is there anything you have learned along the way? Does your plan need some changes?
Reflection isn’t just about awareness, as practising it can also help you become more employable. After all, knowing what you’ve learned and keeping track of your employability development is key to showing your skills to others. In interviews, you’ll be talking about how your experiences taught you skills, and how you plan on using them in new contexts.
King’s Experience Awards are here to help you reflect on your experiences, whether that’s volunteering or work-related. While strengthening your reflective skills, you’ll work towards an official awards certificate! Read more about King’s Experience on KEATS.
So there you go… 5 tips to keep you focused on your career goals in university! We hope that your university journey will be filled with fun, challenges and reaching your goals!