What do you wish you’d known when you first started out? We asked your fellow alumni

We had an amazing level of response to this month’s discussion topic – it seems like your fellow alumni are always keen to share their hard-earned wisdom. Here’s what they had to say about the advice they wish they’d been given when they first embarked on their education or careers.

Your career path is not set in stone

Many of the alumni were keen to stress that your career plan doesn’t have to be immovable.

“I wish I had known then that a career is not set, it does not have to be planned and nor is it necessarily directed or controlled by you or others,” said one alumnus. “As I have grown and moved between roles, I have become more and more relaxed about taking on opportunities that come my way and seeing where they take me. Whilst it is great to plan for the short, medium and long term I would suggest that you become relaxed about regularly changing those plans to suit you at particular times.”

“Be flexible and open in determining the industry you would like to work in after university as you can be surprised what you might enjoy in an industry you might have otherwise avoided,” agreed another.

One former student pointed out that transferable skills are useful in moving between industries and roles. I wish I had learnt about transferable skills and how everything learnt during studies and my career opens up a world of opportunities,” she said. “I have worked in hospitality in numerous departments before becoming a manager, then went into a hotel, conference and travel specialist before leaving industry to become a FE lecturer and now a HE lecturer. Take risks and have confidence in everything you do.”

The importance of work experience

“Start applying for internships and graduate schemes as early as you possibly can,” said one alumnus. “Be the one who applies to the graduate schemes and internships in their first week of openings. It will save you a lot of stress and present much larger opportunities.

Another added: “It is important to keep your CV continuously updated as you go through your career as there are a lot of achievements you can forget about.”

Staying abreast of technology

Many of the alumni realised the importance of keeping up with technology in order to progress in your career, and not to be overtaken by younger applicants in the job-hunting process.

“I wish I had been advised to do an IT course earlier on in my career,” said one respondent. “I was late in my thirties when I started learning, and it was a barrier.”

“What I missed was anyone explaining how you must blend technical knowledge into business knowledge to progress in the industry,” said another alumnus. Probably because at the time no one realised.”

Learn how to write a business case

One particular insightful piece of advice came from an alumnus who advocates asking your employer to pay for any training you want to undertake to help progress your career.

“Learn how to write a business case,” he said. “If you’re ever in the position of wanting to undertake training but can’t afford to pay for it yourself, you should make a business case to the budget holder with details of the training and how it will aid the business in the immediate and long term future.”

“Asking for help is nothing to shy away from,” agreed another former student.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the alumni discussions this month! Look out on your LinkedIn group for the next topic.