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January 3, 2023, by Leah Sharpe

Challenging Traditional Career Paths

By Alina Vasile, Head of Product and Design at Gemba, UK

BA International Relations, graduated in 2015 

The world is changing at a scale never seen before and our skills have to change with it. What were previously considered the jobs of the future, could be gone by tomorrow or replaced by AI. As you might have seen, art generated by Midjourney won a fine art competition earlier this year.

According to the World Economic Forum by 2030 about one billion people worldwide will have to be re-skilled because their career paths will no longer match market needs. 

This all may sound daunting, but as individuals, to move forward and grow, we need to embrace the uncomfortable reality that there is no hard truth of where our careers will go and that continuous learning is the new norm. 

When I started my degree in International Relations in 2012, the industry I am currently in and the job I have, were virtually non-existent. Now, I lead a cross-functional team of designers, artists, engineers and testers to create virtual reality applications. At the time, virtual reality seemed to be a futuristic trend, even though we are talking about only 10 years ago. You too, could have a job in 10 years in an industry that doesn’t exist, yet. 

There is no linear journey

The reality is that throughout your career you need to follow your skills, your values and the journey that brings you the most joy and growth. 

In today’s workforce, you would spend about 48% of your waking time either at work or going to work, so making sure you do something you are really committed to and enjoy doing is vital. 

There is no need to stick to the linear path simply because you made that choice at the beginning of your career or based on the degree that you did. If you realise that you reached a dead-end with what you are doing and discover something else you are interested in, it’s never too late to switch into a career path that does bring you joy, growth and matches your values. 

My key advice here would be to keep assessing every six months the following:

1. Ensure your career path brings you joy and there is full of growth opportunities

2. The goals and vision for your career still match your values without any doubt

3. Skills acquired in this timeframe, and potential gaps that you could work on

Fail fast

After the first year of my degree, I did a three month placement in my home country’s equivalent of the civil service. It was a brilliant opportunity and experience, however I realised that it wasn’t the career path for me. Most people would see it as failure, and get unnerved by it, however it was the most effective learning experience. This way, I knew that it wasn’t the path for me and I could easily adjust my direction. 

I spent the next few semesters doing as many electives from other schools as possible, volunteering in various roles, attending loads of events with professionals from various industries. This helped me figure out another career path which was more aligned with my values and skills. 

Trying and failing fast is essential in understanding what works and doesn’t work for you. Hoping that eventually a career path would work out even though it doesn’t feel right at the beginning, is not a proactive approach that leads to professional happiness. Instead try exploring as many activities and roles as possible to enable you to know yourself, the type of roles you would shine in and what to say ‘no’ to. 

Focus on transferable skills

The learning journey doesn’t start and end at the university. What kept me growing in various roles (some unexpected) and helped me get into my current role, was that I always keep learning new skills but also refocusing some long learned skills. 

Knowledge can fade away, be replaced or become irrelevant due to the exponential rate of change. As we all have immense knowledge at our fingertips, you can rest assured that there is a fix for any knowledge gap just a click away. This makes it even more important to focus on transferable skills. 

Quite often I would look on LinkedIn at individuals who had the career path I was striving towards and check the job specs of roles I would like to have in a few years. I would take note of the skills mentioned, measure myself against them and start working on the gaps I would find using online courses and small projects I would then add to my portfolio. If choosing this approach, always keep track of where you are, measure progress and break larger chunks of skills learning into small achievable goals. 

Even though my degree doesn’t match my current career, looking back, I have built some of the most powerful transferable skills, while at university. In my course, I learned discipline, critical thinking, qualitative and quantitative research, making presentations, time management and problem solving. I still use some of these skills every day in my role and these are sector agnostic skills. 

So keep learning to keep growing!

Explore different career ideas on the Careers website, no matter where you’re at with your career journey. 

Posted in Choosing Your CareerStudent Bloggers