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Employment

What job should I do? How to build a career on your unique strengths

“I think sometimes we don’t recognise how much we do have to offer as people and how great we are.”

If you ever find yourself asking: “What job should I do?” then identifying your unique strengths and interests could be a good place to start.

We spoke to Yasmina Kone, Senior Partnerships Manager at Beam, a social enterprise that has the world’s first crowdfunding platform for homeless people. Yasmina shares how caseworkers help Beam‘s service users build a career based on their unique strengths and interests and how you can too.

Identify your unique strengths and interests

The first step in finding a job based on your unique strengths and interests is identifying what they are. One tool that can help is Beam’s careers quiz, which is available to everyone online.

The quiz, which takes about two minutes to complete, asks questions such as whether you’d rather work in a team or independently, be on your feet all day or at a desk as well as engaging with customers or behind the scenes. It then matches you to a set of careers that might be of interest.

Yasmina says: “This is really helpful because it gives them a big overview of things that are matched to them on the basis of those skills and interests. That’s key because some people might think they want to be a carer but not realise that they actually could be a barista, chef or baker too.”

Tammy Harman, specialist career coach at Evenbreak, an accessible job search site for disabled people, previously told The Big Issue: “Skills aren’t just about the workplace, they can be from any aspect of your life. Experience can range from jobs whether they are paid, work experience or part-time, plus things you have done outside work from neighbourhood watch to coaching a sports team. You can also include voluntary work, life skills and hobbies.”

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What job should I do? Questions to ask yourself 

People helped by Beam have on average been out of work for five years, which means they can often lack confidence or don’t have experience of identifying their skills and interests.

Yasmina says a really good question to ask yourself is what you like to do in your spare time and then think about how it could transfer into a work context.

She says: “What do you get excited about? What do you like to put energy into when you’ve got a couple of hours to spare?” This might be cooking or crafts or being around people.

Another way of looking at it could be asking yourself what you enjoyed doing at school, says Yasmina: “What were you good at? What lessons were you excited about going to? What made you want to go and do extra research?” Thinking this way could help you on the path to a career you find fulfilling.

If you have had work experience or previous jobs, ask yourself what elements of it you really enjoyed, such as engaging with customers, or focusing on finances when packing up the tills.

Yasmina adds: “Think about what you have received praise for – if you’ve worked before, what did your boss say you were particularly good at? Did you ever get employee of the month? If so, what for?”

Ask your friends and family

It can sometimes be difficult for us to see our unique strengths, so it can be good to ask friends and family for help.

“Ask your friends and family what they really respect and love about you because I think sometimes we don’t recognise how much we do have to offer as people and how great we are,” says Yasmina.

It is common for people helped by Beam to lack confidence and hearing encouraging words can really help build it back up.

This supports what Tammy from Evenbreak previously told The Big Issue: “For some people it works to sit down with someone else and talk about the things that you’ve done. Different things work for different people but everyone needs to remember they have stuff to offer.

“Knowing who you are and what you have to offer and knowing where you can find that is key. It’s very much about remembering you have your entire life experience to offer. You’re looking at the whole of you and the best bits of you and they are there.”

Do your research

Once people helped by Beam have worked with a support worker to answer these questions, the next step is to think about how all these competencies tie into a suitable role.

If you are doing your own research, you might want to speak to a careers advisor or you could also use a search engine. For example if you have decided you want to work with people, search ‘best jobs working with people’. There is lots of free information available.

Beam also connects job-searchers with people already working in the industry that interests them. Once you have identified a job of interest, you could ask friends and family if they know anyone working in a similar role so you can ask them some questions.

You can also browse jobs listings on sites such as Reed.co.uk to find out more information.

Finding a job that fits with your lifestyle

Beam works with people to help them check the role they are interested in will fit with their lifestyle and also helps with personal budgeting. For example if a single mum is juggling childcare, then Beam helps identify what salary would help them be in a stronger financial situation and if the job fits around the children.

Yasmina says some good questions to ask yourself are what salary you need to be better off, whether you want to work part-time or full-time and what sort of hours will fit with your needs such as childcare.

Career progression

Beam is focused on long-term sustainable jobs that will keep people in work and build their careers.

Yasmina says it’s good to think about your long-term aspirations and career progression as well as looking for employers with training programmes.

Challenges

People being supported by Beam often have bigger challenges on their job search including having access to technology such as a laptop or a smartphone. This is something their crowdfunding platform for people experiencing homelessness helps fund. If you are struggling to access technology, your library or a local charity could be a good place to start. Get Online At Home offers discounted refurbished computers to people with disabilities or receiving benefits.

Beam also aims to help people see the breadth of opportunities available to them as well as assigning a caseworker to help them build their confidence.

The caseworker will also work with them on challenges such as working in a professional environment and work etiquette. This could be reminding them to let their boss know if they are ill and promise to keep them updated.

Yasmina says: “Sometimes people need a pointer in the right direction. It helps break down barriers so you can perform well at work.”

If you need career advice or help finding a job, these are some charities to turn to for support: Catch22, Radical Recruit, Only A Pavement Away, Springboard

Get career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

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