‘No Career is Linear – Step down from the Ladder and Follow the Squiggle’

a picture of a squiggly soundwave
  "Blue and white light streaks" by Kyle Bushnell.

Nicola Urquhart is a Lecturer in Careers and Employability at Kent Business School. Here she reflects on the path to successful working life and the adaptability and robustness that will enable success in many fields for students.

“I came across Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper’s book “The Squiggly Career” recently. The squiggly career is a concept that Helen and Sarah use to describe working life. In a world that is neither linear nor predictable, no two careers are ever the same. Like a ‘squiggle’ there are ebbs and flows, ups and downs.

If your future career is viewed as a squiggle as opposed to the more traditional ladder, you are better placed to develop a mindset that will help you to succeed in a dynamic and ever-changing graduate labour market.

The mindset we encourage at Kent Business School is based on two major principles: confidence in your abilities and a sense of curiosity, again two things that cannot really be measured in a traditional stagnant way. Here’s how we delve into the detail of each:

  • Confidence

Starting with confidence we encourage students to view confidence as they would a skill, and like other skills, confidence can be learnt, practised, and developed.

  • Reframing emotions

Using tips and techniques from positive psychology, we discuss how to reframe nervousness before a job interview as excitement. By describing the physiological response in a positive way, they will feel more empowered by it.

  • Power Posing

Amy Cuddy’s power posing suggests that your body language shapes and influences who you are. Cuddy’s research showed that students who adopted a strong expansive stance prior to a job interview performed better than those who adopted a low power stance.

  • Curiosity

Being open and curious helps students to transition into a labour market which is complex and uncertain. A majority of recruiters now focus on potential as opposed to skills in the modern labour market. Taking part in extracurricular activities such as our Business Start-Up Journey, or Study Plus courses can aid this area.

As the class of 2022 prepares to make the transition from student to graduate it will be interesting to see where their squiggly careers will take them. Perhaps more than any other cohort they will be well placed to navigate the changing and unpredictable world of work through having to adapt to the changes that Covid-19 brought to their university experience.”

Nicola is a Lecturer in Careers and Employability at Kent Business School. As a qualified Careers Adviser and Coach Nicola uses her in-depth knowledge of the labour market and current recruitment practices to support students to be successful in the highly competitive graduate labour market. Nicola works in collaboration with key graduate recruiters and organisations to ensure students have the necessary attributes and skills required to effectively manage their careers.

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