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How to take the next step in your career

Posted October 01, 2020

So you’re settled into your first job. You’re happy to be bringing in some cash and – hopefully – enjoying what you do. It might feel easiest to stay in your comfort zone and stick with what you know. You’re no longer the newbie. And you’ve made some good friends and mentors along the way.

But if you want to achieve your career goals over the longer term, it might be time to move onwards and upwards. Applying for a new job can feel like starting all over again. But it could also be the start of a new exciting chapter in your life.

Use the questions in this blog to help you decide if you’re ready for the next step in your career – and how to make the leap…

How do I know if I’m ready?

Perhaps it’s a gut feeling that you want to stretch yourself. Or you’ve seen friends or colleagues move on at work. One way to see if you’re ready to take the next step is to become your own career adviser. And there are a few ways you can do this:

1. Do a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s often applied to big business decisions – like whether to launch a new product. But you can perform a SWOT analysis on yourself too! Pull out the four elements and write down how these relate to your job and career goals. For example, you could list ‘chance to gain a further qualification’ under Opportunities. Or ‘I am a good communicator’ under Strengths. Be honest, and then read back your list to weigh up where you are in your career plans.

2. Do a competency assessment

A competency assessment is a tool sometimes used by companies when they’re considering your suitability for a job. Completing one on yourself before you think about your next step might help you narrow down what you’re good at and what you enjoy. 

There are a number of examples online, but the general idea with a competency assessment is that you look at your current workplace duties and you list which ones you are confident in and which ones you find a challenge. 

You could also use this to look at your ‘soft’ skills such as time management or showing emotional awareness, by asking yourself questions, such as:

  • Can I describe a time I led a team?
  • What has been my biggest achievement?
  • How do I keep good working relationships with colleagues?
  • How did I approach a difficult problem?


3. Try visualising your career goals

One of the most popular interview questions when you change jobs is, ‘Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years’ time?’ Putting yourself in your future shoes now can help you see where you’d like to be and how that would feel.

Think about a scene where you have already attained what you want. It could be anything from managing a team, to gaining a supervisor role or moving to a different company. Picture yourself waking up, getting ready for work and making your way there. Research the steps you need to take to get to this position. You’ll realise it’s not that far away. And your next job might be a smaller goal on the way to achieving this bigger ambition.

I’d like to take the next step: what do I do now?

If you’ve decided it’s time to take the next step in your career, well done! Now you need to make sure your CV is up-to-date, and that you’re prepared for any interview questions or assessment centre activities.

Boosting your CV

It may feel like you don’t have much to add to your CV if you’ve only had one job since leaving education! But if you focus on the results you achieved and skills you demonstrated in that role, you could stand out against other candidates.

Steer away from jargon about your job responsibilities and instead talk about tangible results and examples – such as ‘I helped ensure a project finished on time and 10% under budget’.

Get more advice on writing your CV

What are your skills and behaviours?

Do an audit of your skills and behaviours, and consider how you’ve demonstrated these in your current job. For example, if you managed relationships with suppliers, this is a great example of communication. Or perhaps you were part of a team that came up with a new way of working during Covid-19 – this is not only a great example of problem solving, but also adaptability.

Consider too, how these skills or behaviours relate to the job you want. Or how can they help you decide what your next step might be? Then, think about how you would show these skills in an application or interview.

Below are some examples of how you might have demonstrated five of the key skills and behaviours that employers look for in applicants:

Communication: Perhaps you delivered a presentation, ran a weekly meeting to decide on tasks, talked to customers about a project, or went back to your old school to talk about your job.

Problem solving: Perhaps you overcame a tight deadline, worked with limited resources, worked with another department to find a solution, or found a different approach to a challenge.

Team working: Perhaps you were given a special role to liaise with different departments and worked together to come up with a new rota, or you helped out a new starter on the team.

Adaptability: Perhaps you learnt a new software programme, made a shift to a new working pattern, or coped well with a different type of working– such as online meetings.

Emotional awareness: Perhaps you listened to a colleague who was struggling, volunteered to help those less fortunate during Covid-19, or supported others in dealing with a difficult situation.

How to find a job

You’ve prepared your CV and you’re ready for your next move… what next?

  1. Research the market: What roles are out there that match your skills? Find out if there’s a job site that focuses on your chosen area or industry. Look at the terms they use and try to match them in your CV or application form. Start’s a good place if you want to find out more about different roles on site at HPC.
  2. Choose a role (or roles) and apply: Look carefully at what the job ad and role description are looking for and think about how you show that on your CV or application. Check whether you need a covering letter. If so, use this to highlight your key skills and experiences. Get more tips and advice here.
  3. Get ready for an interview: Remember to give examples of what the organisation is looking for. Talk about your successes in your first job – and how you demonstrated key skills they’re looking for. Get more interview tips here.
  4. Talk to your boss: Whether you're successful in finding a new role or not, it’s worth talking to your manager about your career ambitions in your existing role. They may know of openings at your company or opportunities to develop your skills.
  5. Put yourself out there: One way to find out about new opportunities is to expand your network or to ask around. Some organisations offer employee networks where you can meet people with similar interests. Or you could join a group that represents your industry. LinkedIn is also a really good platform for finding companies that you’re interested in.

Other considerations

If you already have a job, you don’t need to rush into any quick decisions. So have a think about what type of move you might want to make next. For instance, whether you want to work for a big company, where there might be options to further your qualifications with your employer’s financial support. Or perhaps you want to go the other way, and work for a small business – where you might be promoted more quickly and gain more hands-on experience. Or perhaps you want to set up something on your own!

Working on a large infrastructure project, like HPC, is an opportunity to meet with other employers. And make connections with other young people who might know about any upcoming opportunities in their workplace. So try to make use of any networking opportunities that come your way.

Why should you plan for your career?

You may feel like getting your first job is an achievement already. But there’s no need to stop there. There are a number of benefits to making a career plan for the future, including:

  • You can set a timeline for achieving certain goals;
  • It can help you see if you need to build new skills;
  • You can find out if you need specific qualifications;
  • You can keep an eye on the job market and see when your skills are in demand.


Your life doesn’t have to be set in stone though. If you decide a certain path isn’t for you, go back to the drawing board again. Go back to thinking about the parts of your job you enjoy most. Or the skills you’ve developed – even when not at work. Are there other job areas that would be a good fit for these skills and behaviours?

What are your career options?

Your next big career move could involve a number of things – it doesn't have to mean a new job. Have you also thought about the following:

  • Taking on more responsibility: This is a great way to gain leadership experience, which is a skill employers look for in more senior people. This could be managing a team, running a project or handling an important aspect of the business on your own. It shows you can make independent decisions and find ways to solve problems.
  • Learning a new skill: With the workplace changing so quickly, it never does any harm to keep your skills up to date. Keep an eye on technology skills (new software or programming languages for example) that you see in job adverts. Or think about where there might be gaps in your knowledge. Can your current employer support you with any courses or training?
  • Volunteering or mentoring: Doing some voluntary work in a field you’re interested in can be a way to see if you like it and make new contacts – without the risk of making a big career jump. Or mentoring someone more junior than you – perhaps who’s still at school or has just started a job – is a great way to build your communication skills. Read more on how to build your skills through volunteering.

I’ve just finished my apprenticeship – what should I do next?

First of all, well done! Managing an apprenticeship means you can balance the demands of work with study and have achieved a qualification. Hopefully along the way you’ve made friends in the same line of work and a host of contacts that can help with your next career move.

Lots of apprentices choose to stay on with their employer because of the support and encouragement they receive while studying. Perhaps you’ve already talked to your manager about a permanent role after finishing your qualification. If not, make sure you book a meeting. What roles are available and are you at the right level to apply? If not, can they support you to build your skills further, for example through an Advanced or Higher Apprenticeship?

My journey with Bylor has been a great stepping stone and I’m grateful to have been supported by my employer to progress onto a management role.

former steel fixing apprentice at HPC

Useful links


If you’re ready to take your next step, use our 'Build your own toolkit' section to draft your CV, prepare for assessment centres and be interview-ready.

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