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Guide to choosing a career - The Careers Group, University of London


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Many students and graduates do not know what career to pursue. If you are reading this you are likely to be one of them. Should you be worried?

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Guide to choosing a career - The Careers Group, University of London

  1. 1. THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CHOOSING A CAREER Many students and graduates do not know what career to pursue. If you are reading this you are likely to be one of them. Should you be worried? It is not a worry for some people. They will get a job (any job almost) just to start dealing with their debts and their living expenses. The career can take care of itself. There are some merits to this approach. Being in the working world does help you develop your understanding of jobs and what you are good at, what you like doing. It is difficult to do this when all of your experience has been in study. But there are some dangers too. Many graduates ‘fall into’ jobs at random and find it difficult to break out of them at a later stage. If your first job is in administration, you develop administrative skills and so administrative jobs are the ones easier to get. Not so good if you decide admin is not for you. So what can you do to be more in control of the career choices you make? Find out what is out there What are the options? To some extent, options are determined by the choice of course - particularly whether you have chosen a vocational or non-vocational degree. However it remains true that many employers in the UK are interested in students because of their ‘degree-level’ skills rather than the content of their course. Employment sectors • Charities • International organisations • Finance • Marketing • Science • Health • • • • • • Education Publishing Informatics Retailing Manufacturing IT Thinking about sectors is a good starting point. It may get you to think in broad terms about your values and interests. But it will only take you so far. It may answer the question of where you would like to work, but not what you would be doing. For that you would need to explore types of jobs. Occupations For this you are going to have to find out about what jobs actually exist. has a comprehensive listing of occupations. In addition it has a career questionnaire called Prospects Planner to help you define which jobs fit best with your skills, interests and values. A thoughtful completion of this will give you useful leads for further research. A similar tool - called Careers Report is on the TARGETjobs site. Both are highly recommended.
  2. 2. Research • • • • • A useful starting point for your search is Talk to someone in the sector or job that interests you. Look for Careers Fairs, Open Days, Conferences, ‘Taster Courses’. Ask to shadow or volunteer for a short period to see the reality of a job. Work Experience. Placement. Internship. Stage. All terms for a brief period of work to help you learn more about a job or sector. See the ‘Internships, Vacation Work and Work Experience’ leaflet. Alternative approach These activities deliver results - for most students. But not all. Sometimes no sectors and no occupations appeal. So you could try another approach. Start with YOU. What do you like doing? What energises and excites you? Organising activities and events? Thinking through problems and finding solutions? Counselling your friends in their hour of need? Debating the issues of the day? Making a contribution to a worthwhile cause? Thinking up money-making schemes? Do these ‘strengths’ suggest jobs or organisations? The short-coming with this method is that you might come up with no job titles but activities which are a part of a number of jobs. This is less easy to research, but you will quickly discover that many jobs share common elements and requirements. What would happen if you found that a job you thought unappealing consisted predominantly of activities that you enjoy? One barrier frequently observed by careers consultants is the self-imposed limitation of a student’s imagination. Do you reject job ideas out of hand because of the ill-informed or unexamined public perception of them? Many do. Top tips • • • • Use your research skills Be open to ideas and suggestions Ask for help and advice Devote time and energy A word about advice A discussion with a college careers consultant will not pull a rabbit out of a hat. The consultant will try to guide you through a reflection and planning process to enable you to reach your own conclusions. Some students say they are not ready to seek a consultant’s help because they have no career ideas and so have nothing to talk about. Nothing could be further from the truth. Help in formulating a research plan for a career is an objective of career guidance. © 2013, The Careers Group, University of London This material can be provided in alternative format upon request. An electronic version of this document is available at For further formats, please contact your college careers service or email