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professional future


As a graduate, figuring out the most appropriate career path or the best way to secure your chosen role can be daunting. If you find yourself in this position, the optimum course of action is to pause, take stock and consider several key questions that can guide your decisions and define your goals.

Firstly, are you certain of the career path you wish to take? Or are you weighing several options that all seem attractive, but you’re unsure which one could be the best fit?  

A simple tried-and-tested approach will yield effective results if that's the case – make a list. This will help you focus and separate fact from supposition.  

For each option you consider, note the educational qualifications (if any) that are required and determine the skills, attributes, and experience employers look for in entry-level graduates. Also, identify gaps between your existing skills and those needed for the role. Other factors to assess include the company’s location and working structure – will you be office based, or does the employer offer a home-office hybrid? 

Once you’ve completed this stage, judge the advantages and disadvantages of each option and decide which function would best suit your interests, values, lifestyle aims, and long-term ambitions. You can also assess current developments in your chosen industry and try to gauge if the role will still be sought after by employers in the future.  

Identify short-term career targets

Various options will emerge when you have identified your career trajectory. Therefore, establish a set of short-term achievable targets to get you started on that path. Write them down and develop a plan for achieving each one. These could include improving your industry knowledge, joining a professional body, and boosting your existing skills. 

Proving you have or could acquire job-specific skills is essential to kickstarting your professional journey. But remember that broader qualities like flexibility, mobility, and creativity are equally crucial, so it’s vital to start planning how to demonstrate these “soft” skills, too, as these will take on greater importance as you progress in your chosen role.  

Build a viable longer-term plan 

Now you’ve established near-term objectives, the next stage is to think over the longer term, map out achievable goals, and identify opportunities and challenges that might affect your career path.


Prepare for lifelong learning… 

Using the finance industry as an example, our research shows that 22% of C-suite executives started as accountants or auditors, and 23% of portfolio managers began their careers as analysts. Businesses are becoming increasingly fluid, which means being prepared for lifelong learning. As such, assess the possibilities for professional growth and check if the employer offers training programmes or sponsors industry certification.  


…but anticipate change

Similarly, be prepared for potential roadblocks or diversions. For example, your personal circumstances may change, or your employer could restructure its business. See these events as a learning experience, as very few careers are linear.  

Develop your problem-solving skills

Essential and difficult-to-find abilities employers look for across all specialities are solutions skills, creativity and innovation, an ability to articulate vision and mission, and situational fluency. Potential employers want to see if you can demonstrate those attributes.  

Keep track of developments in technology 

Technology is becoming dominant across multiple sectors, so familiarity with the systems that drive your chosen industry’s progress is now a prerequisite for many jobs. Future professionals will need to have a firm grasp of their daily role and be literate in the language of technology. 

Your career plan: an evolving strategy

Having filtered your job options, chosen a pathway, established short- and long-term strategies, and recognised potential scenarios that could affect your career, you’ll be in a strong position to pursue your selected profession. That said, your career plan isn’t a means to an end. It’s an ever-evolving strategy that may need modifying throughout your working life.   

And remember, your goals should always be achievable. However, if you fall short in any area, review that objective and try a different approach. Ultimately, you control your career, not the other way around.  


– CFA Institute has produced a report on the Future of Careers and Learning in the financial industry, which identifies how roles are changing, the most important skills for the future, and supply-and-demand skill gaps


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