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Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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4 Progressing your career: new job or career change?

Described image
Figure 4

Look again at Lucy’s SWOT analysis and examine her statements; there are a number that could be useful if she is considering a career change. First, consider her strengths:

  • I am a good communicator with both colleagues and customers.
  • I can organise my time efficiently.
  • I contribute effectively to teams I belong to.
  • I take the lead where this seems appropriate.
  • I enjoy my work and get on well with my employer.
  • I have three reasonable A levels and a vocational qualification in marketing.

While these are fairly generic, and would be very relevant to her current career in marketing, they are also the kind of attributes that employers seek in many areas of work. The Open University Careers and Employability website lists the following ‘employability skills’ (The Open University, 2021)

Core skills and competencies Personal attributes and behaviours External awareness
  • communication
  • problem solving
  • collaboration
  • numeracy
  • digital and information literacy
  • initiative
  • self-management and resilience
  • self-awareness
  • commercial and/or sector awareness
  • global citizenship

Lucy’s strengths already match several of these skills and attributes and areas such as digital and information literacy, and her commercial and global awareness, she has already targeted as important areas for her development and planned action to address these. . This suggests that she could legitimately consider new jobs or a career change if she wished. Her lack of a degree, as she acknowledges, might hold her back, but she has a vocational qualification, A levels and work experience that would redress some of the balance.

In addition to these strengths, Lucy also refers to several opportunities and threats that have implications for her future. In particular, the following statements are worth examining:

  • The company is still family owned with a very traditional culture.
  • There is a lack of good designers with the right skills in the organisation.
  • My line manager would like to leave his job and I am uncertain about his possible replacement.
  • There is a major industry conference soon where I can make new contacts.

The first of these statements suggests that Lucy might feel stifled by her current employer and that the opportunities for her might be limited. Moving into a similar job somewhere else might allow her talents to flourish and provide her with greater potential to forge a successful career in marketing.

The second statement indicates that she has done her research and identified a problem for her organisation that might present her with an opportunity. Lucy doesn’t mention that she has any design talents but, if this were the case, she might be able to make a sideways step into a new career as a designer with her current employer. This would probably depend on their recognising her interest and supporting her through the necessary training, possibly via a degree or BTEC course in footwear design. This would also have the advantage for Lucy of filling the gap in her education that she acknowledges exists when she states that ‘many of my work colleagues have a degree and therefore have more potential opportunities’.

The third statement could be read as a sign of Lucy’s ambition to move into a position of greater responsibility. Her concern about the replacement for her line manager, who she feels is going to leave his job, might be mixed up with her perception that maybe she would be the person to fill the vacancy should it arise! As suggested earlier, there is no harm in Lucy letting her employers know that this is in her mind; communication, initiative and self-management, are on the list of employers’ preferred attributes, after all. It is possible also, that if she harbours ideas of promotion, then these might be realised with another employer so looking outside her ‘comfort zone’ might be productive.

Lucy’s final statement indicates her shrewd understanding of her sector and how it operates. While this could be construed, in the context of networking, to further the interests of her organisation, such a conference would also present Lucy with a golden opportunity to do some networking on her own behalf. It would allow her to find out whether job openings exist elsewhere and potentially meet the people who influence decisions about recruitment.

Lucy, therefore, has options for change that could include getting a new job or even changing careers. Her statements about herself and her sector, based on her research and investigation into the ‘bigger picture’, have revealed to her some possibilities that would probably have remained hidden otherwise.

Activity 4 Thinking about changing your job

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Return to your SWOT analysis and select any statements that, as with Lucy, could be useful if you are considering a career change. These will not be realisable immediately, of course, and will require a great deal of thought, and possibly taking some objective advice; however, they may provide you with a starting point from which to carry out further research. You might also want to look back at the results of Activity 7 from Week 1 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   in this context.

Table 5 Thinking about a career change
SWOT statement Implications for job or career change
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There is no right answer to this activity but it should reveal how researching your sector and using the results to inform a SWOT analysis of your current situation can be helpful. This can bring factors to the foreground that may have remained hidden, providing you with resources that you can use to your advantage.

This week, by using Lucy as a case study, you have been able to combine your knowledge of yourself with an understanding of your sector or industry to construct a powerful analytical tool – the SWOT analysis. There are two final comments to make in this context. Firstly, your circumstances – and your attitudes and priorities – will change, so updating your SWOT analysis at regular intervals is a useful habit to adopt. Secondly, it may be helpful to involve someone else in this process who can provide you with an objective perspective and ask you the right questions about your analysis. This might be a friend or colleague that you trust or an outsider such as a careers adviser or mentor (to be discussed in Week 8).