Remember: There’s no such thing as a stupid question.
One of the biggest mistakes people make at the beginning of their careers is not asking enough questions.
There are questions you have to ask yourself, like ‘why do I want this job?’
There are also questions you might want to ask experts in your chosen field. And there are questions you may want to ask future employers.
Navigating the world of work can be overwhelming, confusing and emotionally draining at the best of times. Adding the uncertainty and volatility of the current job market on top of this is incredibly stress-inducing. But don’t let it faze you, allow it to motivate you. Yes, you’ll have to push that bit harder to get your foot in the door, but it will be more rewarding when it happens.
Questions to Ask Yourself
It’s okay to not have an end career goal in mind. Not everyone leaves college with an applicable degree. The main thing is, you have the qualification, and by studying you have developed those key transferable skills for the workplace.
Narrowing down your career prospects is tough. Asking yourself these questions will help.
What fulfils me?
This is the most loaded question, so it’s best to ask it first. In other words, what makes you feel good? Often people embark on careers for the flimsiest reasons and end up regretting it later.
This question is the most important as it is a good indicator of what motivates you. Here are some common answers:
What skills can I bring to the table?
I’m not just talking about academic skills. If you have read some of Start Me Up’s other blog posts about specific industries, you’ll know that every job requires hard and soft skills.
Hard skills are those that are specifically taught. Such as: coding and formulas. Soft skills are those which are observed and developed with practice. For example, communication skills and being empathetic.
Write them down in a list from best to worst.
Then, do some research about which industries best match your skillset. Utilizing the skills you already have will make your job easier and more enjoyable.
What lifestyle do I want to lead?
This question forces you to think about your priorities. Is travel important to you? If it is then the chances are you won’t enjoy a job with zero travel opportunities.
Do you enjoy an active lifestyle? Then perhaps a 9-5 office job sitting in front of a screen isn’t for you.
We spend the majority of our lives working. It’s sad but true. So ask yourself, can I cope with 80 hours a week sat at a desk?.
Questions to Ask an Industry Expert
Asking an industry expert provides great insight. You may have an idealized version of a sector in your head. While this can certainly motivate you, it may not reflect reality.
TIP: Struggling to find an expert to chat to? Try connecting with some on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to send a personalized message with your request to ensure they accept you.
What do you love and hate the most about the job/the sector?
Life is full of compromises, and compromising when it comes to your perfect job is no exception. It’s extremely rare to find a job where you love every aspect of it.
Hearing what current experts love and hate about the job will give you an honest and accurate depiction of what working in the sector is really like. If the positives of the job outweigh the negatives then this is a good sign.
What does your day-to-day look like?
This question provides clarity. You’ll hear about the nitty-gritty of the industry. This is something that’s often left off of the job descriptions. Will you spend a lot of time on calls? Or by yourself? Will you spend a lot of time presenting? Or quietly researching?
How fast is career progression in this industry?
This could alternatively be ‘what’s the career progression in this field like?’ Careers are lasting longer than ever nowadays. Given this, it’s important to understand your chosen industry as a whole, not just one specific job role.
Understanding how you can progress from one role to the next is a key factor of career longevity and fulfilment. Knowing how you can get to the higher positions will keep you motivated.
Equally, it’s becoming more common for people to switch industries throughout their careers. Understanding how having experience in one sector can help you in another is also significant. This could help you to map out your career as a whole.
Questions to Ask Your Future Employer
Interviews are just glamorized conversations. Sure, interviewing with a potential employer is nerve-racking. But, it’s best to think of an interview as a negotiation. Just as they are trying to find their perfect employee, you’re also on the hunt for your perfect employer.
Former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss believes that the tool of tactical empathy, one which is commonly used to negotiate with terrorists, can be applied to every conversation you have.
Empathy ‘is just describing, demonstrating and understanding the needs, interests and perspectives of your counterpart without necessarily agreeing’, Voss explains.
By applying this method, you can truly connect with who is interviewing you. This will make you an unforgettable candidate.
The questions below are designed to demonstrate your empathetic capability.
Can you tell me more about the team I would be working in?
It’s extremely rare that you’ll be working completely alone in your career.
Even if you loathe working with people, chances are you’ll have to at some point. This question indicates that you understand how your individual work is part of a larger team. And by doing this, you’re demonstrating a level of empathy.
Can you describe the working culture of the company?
Again, by asking this question you’re applying the technique of tactical empathy. You are trying to establish the interests and perspectives of the company that will (hopefully) surround you.
A job is more than just completing the tasks that you have been set. Every day, you’ll come into contact with the company’s culture. It’ll either be one that works for you or doesn’t, so it’s an important aspect to think about.
Where do you see the company in the next five years?
Here, you’re attempting to understand the company’s goals. You’ll show genuine interest in the future of the company, indicating that you want to grow with the company.
Use this question to show how your personal career goals align with the company’s goals. By doing this, you’re showing the employer you two are a match made in heaven.
And finally, the most important question of all. One that can be asked to yourself, the expert and your (hopefully future) employer.
The simple question of WHY.
Asking this helps you understand your purpose. Agreed, this sounds like an incredibly serious thing to think about so early on.
But, asking yourself why can keep you on track and stop you staying in a job for the wrong reasons.