Start a successful career without a degree
Not going to uni? Matt Gubba is an entrepreneur with a mission: to help young people succeed without a degree. Here’s his advice on how to hit the ground running in your first job out of school.
So you’ve made the choice not to go to university and you’re getting ready for your first job. It’s a time that’s mixed with excitement, anticipation and the nerves that go with such a big change.
Understanding how you need to prepare yourself in order to make a great impact is of key importance if you want to be successful in your new career. In this article I’m going to talk about how you can make sure that you are ready to take on every exciting opportunity that comes your way.
Develop your personal brand
When most people hear the word ‘brand’, they’ll likely think of the kind of brand you see advertised on TV or in the shops. But when I talk about ‘personal brand’, I’m not referring to your favourite type of trainers. In simple terms, your personal brand is who the general public perceive you to be.
Celebrities and those in the public eye spend a lot of time and money developing their personal brands to fit how they’d like to be perceived by the public and to resonate well with their target audience. In order to maximise your success in the modern business world, you’ll need to apply the same principles to developing a personal brand for yourself that’s well received by employers. In the age of social media this is something that’s incredibly important to do, yet more straightforward than it’s ever been, if you follow some simple guidelines:
Understand what your personal brand needs to look like
In theory this should be quite simple, and should come naturally if your desired career path reflects you as a person. Start by looking at successful people in positions you’re interested in. What do they look like, what kind of clothes are they wearing and how do they speak? Think about what you can do to bring yourself more in line with the perceived image of someone who’s already doing whatever it is that you want to do.
I’m not suggesting that you should pretend to be something that you’re not; just that you can try to look and sound the part. For example, if you’re hoping to end up in a finance role, you’ll want to be seen as smart and professional.
Show off your personal brand publicly
Once you understand what your personal brand needs to look like, the next step is to make sure that potential employers see you that way. When meeting or engaging with people in a business context, you should always make the effort to dress, speak, and act in a way that’s consistent with your personal brand. While it’s fine to dress down and talk using slang when you’re in a closed group of friends, it’s essential that you present a professional image in business situations.
If in doubt always err on the side of caution; dress smartly, and make sure that you’re well-spoken and polite. Just remember it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, and there’s no such thing as being too polite.
Use networking to your advantage
One of the most effective ways that you can excel in the business world is to make sure that you’re constantly building and developing a strong professional network. In the modern competitive environment simply spending time in a job and waiting to be offered career progression doesn’t cut it. A huge number of the most exciting job opportunities are filled through networking and if you want to be a serious contender in the business world, you need to start networking yourself.
You can start to network in a variety of ways. Attend events related to your desired industry, or join online forums and LinkedIn groups dedicated to the type of area that you want to work in. Why not reach out to personal contacts including friends and family?
It’s important to remember that networking is an ongoing activity and you can’t expect instant results. Meeting and making a great impression on senior people in your industry can have an enormous positive effect on your career in the long term.
Learn to leverage social media
Using social media for business can give you a huge competitive advantage over your peers if done correctly. It can help you share your personal brand with employers and be a powerful networking tool.
To get yourself started, I’d strongly recommend that you cover off the following:
- Having an account on each of the main social networks that is solely designed to be viewed by employers. From a business perspective I would say that LinkedIn and Twitter are particularly important. These accounts must reflect your personal brand.
- Making personal accounts private and restricted from public view. No one expects you not to have a life outside of your job, just makes sure that you keep it strictly between you and your friends when you share it online.
- Avoiding sharing photos or posts that could portray you in a negative light. If it’s not something that you wouldn’t happily include in a cover letter to a prospective employer, then don’t share it publicly!
Once you’re certain that your profiles are business friendly, you should reach out to more senior people in your field. The aim is to start building relationships with people who could benefit your career in the future. You’d be amazed at how much doing this can speed-up your progression.
Developing the right mindset
Ultimately your level of success in your new career will largely be determined by your attitude and mindset. I’ve always been a strong believer that attitude has more of an impact on success than aptitude. I tend to find that those who approach a new role with bundles of enthusiasm and show a willingness to learn, normally get much further than someone who’s academically talented but has a poor attitude.
It’s also important to remember that at this stage in your career, you aren’t expected to be perfect and you certainly won’t be expected to know everything. Make sure that you ask lots of questions, particularly when you aren’t sure about something. Lots of people worry that asking questions might make them look silly, when actually it will make you look keen and engaged.
Never be afraid to put yourself forward for opportunities to learn new things or get involved with additional areas of the business. Think of yourself like a sponge: you want to try and soak up all of the knowledge and experience that you can.
When it comes down to it, job skills will be acquired naturally as a part of carrying out your job. But having the right attitude and a positive mindset towards what you are doing is something that only you can decide to foster in yourself.
From an early age Matt Gubba knew that following the conveyor belt of formal education wasn’t for him, and made the decision to enter the world of business aged just 16. Now he’s on a mission to help others who choose an alternative route to uni.