At a recent business dinner, a colleague asked each of us of us, “If you had to do it again, would you choose the same career?” To my surprise, each of the eight people at the table said that they would choose a different career path. I then asked, “Did you make a conscious decision to pursue this career path?” Again, I was surprised to find that nearly everyone indicated that one of their first two jobs determined their occupation.
Intrigued, I made arrangements with a history professor at a local university to address a class of fourth year undergraduates. I asked about their career plans. Generalizing a bit, I would say that the group fell into two camps. Those pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees were able to state clear career goals and target occupations. Those pursuing liberal arts degrees struggled to state their desired occupation. Finally, one student summed it up for the others, “I want to be a business executive – perhaps start my own company – but I don’t really know what that means or how to get there. Some people tell me to start in Sales, others say Finance & Accounting. At this point, I just want to get a job offer and let it sort itself out.”
Unfortunately, for too many individuals starting their careers, it doesn’t ‘sort itself out’. Instead, employees quickly get locked into the function that first offers them a job. A troubled economy makes matters worse as younger employees are anxious to accept nearly anything in order to be able to add experience to their resume.
So how does one break out of that loop? How does an individual just entering the workforce create opportunities to experiment, testing different industries, corporate functions and roles? One approach is to consider contract work through a staffing agency. In many cases, engagements through staffing agencies are easier to secure than introductory permanent positions. Most importantly, they provide great opportunities to ‘test drive’ occupations and employers with minimal long-term commitment.
We’ve discussed this approach with the staffing agencies who participate in our contingent workforce management programs. Their advice – follow these six steps to successfully use contract assignments as a tool to defining and pursuing career goals.
Business opportunities are nearly endless. Emerging technologies and global competition are constantly creating new occupations. Contractual engagements through staffing agencies provide a low risk way to experiment, uncovering the career choices that are best for you.
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