How holding out for the perfect job can hold your career back

How holding out for the perfect job can hold your career back

A considerable number of millennials (those of us born in the 1980s and 1990s) came of age during the global financial crisis. We started our careers against a tough economic backdrop and now (in the UK) we’re facing uncertainty caused by Brexit. And if that wasn’t enough, many of us are saddled with up to £55,000 of debt from our university days.

It would appear that the narrative surrounding millennials and our job prospects often seems to be resolutely negative. So, maybe it’s time to change the narrative?

Many of us are not fully grasping the opportunities offered by the start-up world, partly as a result of “holding out” for a graduate position at a big corporate firm. However, working in an unfulfilling non-graduate role while you wait around for your dream job to materialise could really hurt your long-term career prospects.

Farzana Ali

The job market is now vastly different from the environment experienced by previous generations. The number of people graduating from university has expanded exponentially in recent years and access to the best graduate job schemes is now highly competitive.

However, many of us are ignoring the amazing opportunities to be had by starting our careers at smaller firms. My own journey into the workforce was through this route, despite spending much of my second year at university applying to graduate training schemes.

In the summer vacation at the end of my second year I did an internship at a start-up graphic design agency. At this point the company’s workforce consisted of 10 people - two in London and eight in India. The following year, after graduating from university (with a degree in mathematics and business management), I joined the company as a project manager.

My responsibilities quickly grew, in tandem with the company which expanded to five people in the UK and 23 in India. By the age of 24, I was managing the entire team in the UK and India.

Taking on this level of responsibility at such a young age taught me much more than I would have learned on a graduate training scheme. I learnt on the job and although it wasn’t always easy, the experience and confidence it has given me has been invaluable.  

I am now one of the youngest managers within a global asset management firm and as the Creative Services Manager I have been given the opportunity to build an in-house design team.

My experience has taught me that the career path your parents pursued, or the path that your teachers encouraged you to take, may not always be best for you.

My advice for millennial job-seekers is never “hold out” for the dream job. Your focus on finding something perfect may blindside you to the other opportunities that are available. The path to career success is rarely a straight line and each job or internship that you take on will teach you something new.

Try to do something that you love (although I appreciate that this is not always easy), work on your personal development and try to build your own training programme. Try to see every new challenge as an opportunity to learn new skills, which can then help you in your next role and as you climb the career ladder.

In 2017, there were 311,550 company directors under the age of 30, up from 295,890 just two years earlier, according to accountancy firm Moore Stephens.

So, despite the often gloomy narrative, the millennial generation has possibly the best career prospects, and the chance to grow their careers faster, than any other generation. The world of work has changed and it’s up to us to seize the opportunities that are now on offer and stop “holding out” for the dream job.

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