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This way up

<>This way up

Thinking about your career this way up will take the frustration out of your job search and help you make stronger applications.

We call it the “The Career Development Pyramid”.

Career Development Pyramid

What is it?

A way of thinking about your career that means you will avoid common mistakes that job seekers make.

Why is it important?

Many people start at the top of the pyramid. They start with their CV, or by writing cover letters and filling in application forms.

This kind of activity feels good at first because it’s tangible and it feels like you are doing something. But people who start here quickly run into problems.

  • They’re not sure what to include on their CV, or what to write in their application
  • They apply for lots of unconnected jobs, without having a plan
  • They feel frustrated at their lack of progress, or overwhelmed by the amount of work they think they have to do
  • They’re not really sure what they are applying for or why - and employers spot this and reject them.

A much more effective process is to start at the bottom and build the foundations of the pyramid first. Take some time for self-reflection. Think about your previous experiences (these don’t necessarily have to be work related). What did you like and dislike about them? What motivated you? What demotivated you? What were you good and bad at? What kind of people did you like spending time with? What inspired you?

Perhaps you’ll see that you’re a team player who likes to get results and enjoys seeing projects come to fruition. Or maybe you’ll realise that you work better on your own, you like to make your own decisions and you don’t like competitive environments. Whatever it is you learn about yourself, it’s important.

Then apply that self-knowledge to researching careers. Which industries, companies and job roles might be a good fit for you? Which career paths motivate you and why? If you can answer those questions, you can start to make some decisions about which career paths to pursue. Suddenly writing CVs and making applications becomes much easier, because you know what you’re aiming for. You know what’s important to include and you can start to talk clearly about your motivations, which are crucial for employers.

What to do

There are many ways to do this, but here’s a quick way to start.

Take 5 or 10 minutes to identify some of your skills and some of the activities you enjoy, like teamwork, communication, managing projects or meeting new people. Think about skills you don’t have and activities you don’t enjoy as well.

Then go to a job website – is a big one – search using a job title that appeals to you (e.g. “Investment Analyst”) and read 8-10 different job descriptions. Does that job role sound like something you could do? Would you enjoy it? Can you picture yourself in this career? If you can, make a note to research this career path!


There is a lot of great advice for this and other aspect of careers on Henley’s blog.

We also put on workshops to help you with self-reflection and skills development while you study with us.

And there are opportunities to hear from employers at events like these that we hold for students studying finance.

Published 4 February 2019

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