Walk the talk

Where will you be in 5 years, or 10 years? This was the question I received during my first job interview nearly 16 years ago as a newly graduated M. Sc. in Business and Administration from Lund University. How could I possible know that? I don´t remember my answer, and I didn´t get the trainee position I applied for. Probably not because I didn´t have an answer well enough for that specific question. I think, me as a person did not really show during the interview. I was too nervous, not experienced in performing interviews and honestly I had no clue what I wanted to do with my degree…

As you grow in your different job roles, you start to explore yourself. What motivates you, what are the drives and interests? You also learn what you don´t appreciate in a job or organization. This takes time. I have had a fantastic personal development in my current role as Career Program Manager at Karolinska Institutet during 10 years. Not only through tackling the challenge to build a business within the University, but also conveying the society benefiting of it. Yes, you can call Career Service a business in terms of searching and applying for internal and external funding for the projects involved. First you need to convince the management about the advantages of offering and delivering high quality career development to our students and researchers. After a couple of years you can present successful data on the outcome and expand your business, receiving more funding from both the university and collaborators outside academia. This is one of my absolute drives. Convincing people about good ideas.

The ideas are of course not only mine. They are a mix coming from all great colleagues working in the office. The think tank is profound and extended to partners and colleagues all over the world. There is no prestige involved. I want our ideas to benefit the end users which in this case is the students, researchers and organizations within life sciences. Nothing is more satisfying than the positive feedback when a PhD student land the first job after dissertation thanks to using our services.

About two years ago I started to think more about my own career. I have always been interested in leadership and communication, and with my years of experience I thought this could be something for me. I mentioned this to my boss and she passed it on in her network, but the managing jobs in the organization are not available very often. However, she encouraged me to apply for a substituting head of unit position at another department last spring. The interview went well and I got great feedback, but the position was offered to someone internally and more experienced in the field. I decided there and then to start looking for open positions also outside KI.

I was in no hurry and thought the opportunity will come someday. When I got the possibility to be part of a pilot career coaching program through a new collaboration between KI and Newstart I jumped right on it. During six sessions I got to explore my own interests and drives with the help of a career coach in a more structured way. The sessions confirmed my feeling of aiming for a leadership position, within the career field and preferably building something from scratch. To be a good leader the role as a certified career coach could come in handy and so I discussed this with my boss. I´m now soon to be a certified career coach, sending my report for review within a couple of days from the day this blogpost is being published.

So, in the beginning of October 2018 I saw this ad for the study and career guidance unit at Södertörn University. A new organization taking place – looking for a unit head. Out of 28 applicants, they chose me and I had no professional network there. Knowing someone is of course always beneficial – they can put in a good word for you, but you can also get the job without contacts. I was definitely better prepared this time compared to my first interview 16 years ago. I knew what role I was interested in and for what reasons – a more goal oriented approach. And I can only assume my references did an outstanding job describing me and why I would be the perfect fit.

Personal conclusion: 14 years of my work life is probably a mix of lucky coincidences, great job experiences, interests and a little bit of persistence. The last two years I actually walked the talk.

With this post I want to thank all of you who made my time at KI such a great job experience – students, PhD students, researchers, colleagues, management, company partners and many more. I´m ending a position but luckily bring all my connections with me and hope for future collaborations in my new job.

See you soon!

The pics above is my empty office space and a bunch of cups I bring with me (together with the memories). Come visit me i Flemingsberg for a coffee!

Kerstin Beckenius

Career Program Manager at Karolinska Institutet (for another couple of days)


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