The career reality gap.

The reality gap between what we want out of life and what we get is sometimes brought home to us when we start thinking about careers and get our first job.

Having challenging goals and high expectations of what life will provide you with shows a great positive attitude, however at some point many of us have to be realistic or we will have a nasty shock.

At this point I would like to say that there are always some people who will get what they want seemingly through no effort of their own. You will always hear about someone who landed an amazing job through their uncle Bob who works in *fill in your dream job here*.  They are not the norm, though networking is a powerful tool.

So here are some things to consider that might help adjust your reality gap and stay positive.

Be realistic in your expectations. If you have no work experience of any kind on your CV and are applying for graduate schemes, it’s likely your application will not be successful.  It’s an employer’s market and there are plenty of candidates that will have good relevant experience.  You need to get some work experience or volunteering etc on that CV fast!

Have you got the grades?  Most recruiters will have some education specification, whether its maths and English at GCSE at grade C or above or 320 UCAS points.  Check with the recruiter if there is anything else they will consider – relevant work experience, extenuating circumstances, retakes?  If not you have to ask yourself if it is worth looking at a different company?

Can you pass the tests? Psychometric tests may be used to cut down the number of applicants to a pool who meet a certain standard. If you find you cannot pass these tests – do not despair, there are other recruiters out there but you need to rethink your strategy.

Sell your skills Employers are not mind readers – so a CV or application that tells them little about how effective you are in a work situation will be rejected.   There are plenty of candidates out there who will do a good CV and may not even have the experience that you do, but they make it easy for the recruiter to pick them.

Make your own luck  Apparently “millenials” think that luck is responsible for what happens to them. That seems fairly fatalistic!  Winning the lottery that’s luck (if such a think exists), getting a good job that’s down to you. Make connections with people (networking), talk to them about their jobs, be interested and ask intelligent questions.  Sometimes just being nice to someone can have unexpected results.

Employers make applications too hard.  Some students have said that they think application questions are too hard and that it takes too long to fill them in. Employers should allow you to make one standard application and send it off to anyone.
Well that’s an interesting thought but it it’s all about you.  What about the employer? They need certain skills from a candidate not to mention commitment to the organisation and a strong work ethic.  So if you can’t be bothered to apply, are they bothered? .. Not so much really!

The reality gap at work

From various surveys reported recently there seem to be similar reality gaps when you start work.

  • Salaries are lower than expected.  Well that’s the media for you, they report averages and figures that make good stories.  If your salary is not what you expected – why is this? Did you find out what the starting salary was with that employer? What was it dependent on?
  • Employees would like more flexible working and to work from home more. For many businesses that’s just not possible, you may need to be part of a team, work regular business hours due to your clients’ needs or be able to attend meetings at short notice. If you want flexible work conditions then you need to think hard about the nature of the work, is that going to be possible?
  • New graduates find senior colleague’s work ethic intimidating.  They got to be senior by working hard and probably long hours; their expectations of you will be similar. It depends how much you want to be a success, and what sort of work life balance you want to achieve whether you want to be like them or not.
  • Sometimes you have to settle.  You may not be able to get your dream job, and not all jobs are exciting and motivating 24/7.  You can stick or twist the choice is yours, what could you do instead that you would be good at and enjoy more? 

 So really it boils down to:

  • Thinking ahead – What do you want out of life?
  • Having realistic goals based on past performance
  • Planning how to achieve those goals
  • Having a some understanding and awareness of the world of work around you
  • Doing your research
  • Having a plan B

And yes sometimes that’s what having a careers appointment is all about, so if you want to talk over your reality gap – come and see us.


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