Lessons can be learned from the cars that crowded the background at the Naturejobs Career Expo in Düsseldorf, says Thais Moraes.
Guest contributor Thais Moraes
On the 26th of November in Düsseldorf, the Naturejobs career expo took place at the perfect venue. The Classic Remise center displays a collection of classic and historical cars that we all admired during the short breaks at the event.
It was my first time at a career fair, and my first impression was that there were only young people there, starting the ignition in their professional lives. Since I already have many years on the road, I didn’t think it was for me. I was completely wrong: after listening to the talks, I was reminded that I don’t need to keep driving in the same direction just because it’s a road I’ve already started down.
The environment could have been just novel and enjoyable, but it also made me think about my future career plans, especially the fears and challenges that arise when you go for something new. There are four things that these machines brought to my mind.
You’re not old, you just have more experience
If Carl Benz didn’t develop the first gasoline engine in 1879, we wouldn’t have the Mercedes-Benz cars of today. The past is important. In your previous career steps you acquired skills, expertise, and knowledge. Your years of work are proportional to the experience you’ve collected and that can help you with the next step, or convince you to start driving in another direction. In his talk, Dr. Vincent Mignotte, director of Association Bernard Gregory (ABG), suggested writing a detailed summary of your last few professional years. You might realize you’ve been underestimating your work experience.
You can always renew yourself to go further in your career
An eligible, elderly bachelor today may once have been another old, forgotten car. But, if new technologies are applied to those vehicles and new components can be added, they’re ready to break back into the market at many times their original value. Sometimes, we just keep going sideways. We get used to the everyday tasks and feel stuck. It’s never too late to innovate and improve. The key is to change your attitude to transform yourself and your career. The first step could be starting a new course or activity and acquiring new skills that could help you to move forward.
You’re able to raise your value
A classic VW bus can get really expensive. A Mercedes, even more so. These cars are valuable and marketable because of the status they come with, or because they’re a good investment, or even because they provoke passion and nostalgia. The truth is, the owners and the sellers know it and through branding and networking they promote it.
The same can be applied in terms of your career. Identify your strengths and what makes you unique. Also get to know your weaknesses. Finally, work out what you – deep down – want. Then, create your brand and start self-marketing. Promoting yourself properly can help you to overcome the competition, attract the right employer, and help you grow at your current workplace.
Marion Gürth, a career service project coordinator at DKFZ, delivered a relevant talk. She recommends using social media, such as LinkedIn, to promote yourself and to practice networking. A simple first step is to create a professional profile. Be careful and honest, as the profile will be seen by possible employers. Then get in contact with people whose jobs you find interesting and see what advice they can give. This kind of attitude is positive and can bring information, contacts and even point towards a potential new job.
If you’re not satisfied anymore, maybe it is time to change
You could have the best car in the world in your garage, but if you don’t like it you won’t take care of it and, at some point, it’ll end up as a dusty set of parts. Maybe it’s better to sell before it loses value. Your job is the same. You can be skilled and hardworking, but when you’re feeling unhappy and uninterested in your work it’s hard to be completely focused and invested in your tasks. You might get stuck. At any point in your career, if there’s no interest or satisfaction anymore, it’s worth considering a change.
In Düsseldorf, the lectures I visited, the people I talked to, and the vintage atmosphere all made me consider my career. I’ve learned that by respecting my past experience, by incorporating attitudes such as self-marketing and networking, and by acquiring new skills, moving forward and changing direction is easy.
We spend a great portion of our time at work. It’s better if these hours can be enjoyable, not just necessary. It’s never too late to change course and come across the right road again.
Thaís Moraes is a research fellow currently at Heidelberg University in Germany, where she researches Dengue virus. She is interested in how science can help us have healthier and happier lives.