The overwhelming number of possible careers can make deciding on a career path seem daunting. To simplify the process, we’ve come up with 6 tips for choosing a career that suits you.
1. Start early
Planning life after school is not a simple process; it can involve months or even years of research. The earlier you start thinking about your future, the more time there will be to properly consider the options.
Students should start using Unifrog as soon as possible. By doing searches for opportunities like university courses and apprenticeships at an early stage, they will be able to make more informed decisions about their subject choices. Students will be more aware of what qualifications are needed for particular degrees, and what degrees are needed for particular career paths.
2. Think broadly
It is unlikely that you will happen upon your perfect job at this early stage. However, you may be able to identify the type of work that will suit you and a field or sector you find interesting.
Try to think in broad terms about potential career paths in order to keep your options open. Avoid focussing on a specific profession (such as ‘Radiotherapist’) and instead explore a field that includes multiple different avenues (such as ‘Medicine and healthcare’).
Before diving into research, you need to develop an idea of your strengths, weaknesses, passions and preferences in working environment. In this way, when you come to choose your career path, you will have a more rounded understanding of yourself, and will be able to narrow your research to job sectors that fit with your interests and skills.
Questions to consider:
- What are my skills? Am I good at manual tasks / talking to people / creative thinking etc?
- What are my weaknesses?
- What do I enjoy doing? What skills am I using when I do this?
- Who do I look up to? Do I want to emulate them?
- Where do I want to work? In an office / at home / outside / in a different location each day?
- What are my priorities? Helping people / following my passion / earning a large salary?
- How much extra training am I prepared to do?
- What kind of lifestyle do I want? Will I want a family / lots of holiday in the future?
To answer these questions, reflect on school subjects, part time jobs, hobbies, interests and work experience. Use the Unifrog Activities tool to record what you’ve done, and then the Competencies tool to record examples of how you’ve demonstrated key skills.
After reflecting on what you are looking for in a career path, the next step is to brainstorm and research potential jobs which fit your requirements.
Tip: Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a career path, you will be able to eliminate whole sectors from your search. For example, if you are determined not to work in an office, you can immediately remove sectors such as Administration, Information technology and Finance from your list of areas to research.
Use your own research in conjunction with conversations with teachers, parents and career advisors, in order to make an informed and practical decision about the career path or sector that would suit you.
The best way to decide if a career is for you? Give it a go.
Try to get as much work experience in your chosen field as possible. This will help you determine if this job is something you can see yourself doing in the future.
Hearing the opinion of a professional can be extremely valuable when researching a career path. Make the most of your work experience by talking to the people you shadow: what is the best / worst aspect of their job? Would they choose this career path again?
Work experience will also give you a feel for the types of people that you will be working alongside in your field. Maybe your dream career attracts very competitive / creative / personable types. If you share similar skills or interests with the people you shadow, this could indicate your suitability for their line of work.
After completing work experience, it’s important to assess whether this type of work continues to appeal to you. It’s perfectly normal to decide at this point that you no longer wish to pursue a career. This does not mean that the experience has been a waste of time; on the contrary, you may have saved yourself years of effort and training, only to find that the job you’re qualified for is one you hate.
Tip: Take notes on your thoughts and observations after each day of your work experience to help you determine exactly what you liked/disliked about the job at a later stage.
Questions to reflect on post-work experience:
- What did you enjoy about your work experience?
- What did you dislike?
- What skills did you have to use?
- How has it changed your understanding of the profession/industry?
- How does this affect your plans for the future?
Once you have an idea of the kind of career path you wish to follow, the next step is to research the qualifications that you will need to succeed in this field.
For certain professions, it is mandatory to have studied a particular degree, whereas in other sectors employers value a variety of subjects and skills. Check out Unifrog’s article How degrees can link to careers for more information on choosing a relevant degree course.
It’s important to understand that, while the degree you choose is important, it is not entirely prescriptive, and will not define the course of your entire life. Indeed, degrees can often lead to seemingly unrelated careers. Students from science backgrounds, for example, are increasingly being recruited by employers in the banking and finance industry.
If you still have no idea what career path you wish to follow, it’s a good idea to choose a broader degree (e.g. History, Biology, Liberal Arts) or a Joint Honours degree that can lead to a wide range of career options.
Alternatively, you may already have a clear idea of what career you want to do, and perhaps don’t feel that a university degree would be beneficial.
In this case, it is worth considering an apprenticeship. On the Unifrog Apprenticeship tool you can choose where you would like to work, and what type of career you would like to pursue, in order to choose an apprenticeship that will help you achieve your future goals.
6. Backup plan
Use the Unifrog Post 16 and Post 18 Intentions tools to think of a progression backup plan, in case your first choice of career path doesn't work out.
By addressing this possibility at an early stage, you can make sure that the degree or apprenticeship that you choose will suit your plan B pathway, as well as your plan A.