As you approach (or if you’ve already arrived at) the end of your time at university, the question of what you do next is likely to weigh increasingly on your mind. Having no idea about what to do next is not unusual. In this post I outline some simple things you can do to help figure it out.
Firstly (and perhaps most importantly)…
Regardless of what stage you’re at with your career planning and university career, bear this in mind:
You do not need to know or decide now exactly what it is you want to do for the rest of your life.
Career decisions are not one-off and are not made in isolation. Rather they are part of an ongoing process which will continue and evolve throughout your life: ‘career management’ is actually a much more appropriate way of thinking about it.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself: You will change over your working life, as will the jobs market. Jobs exist today which didn’t exist 10 years ago and some which exist today won’t exist in another 10 years . Think less about a “career plan” and more about “career direction”. Focus on what’s best for you now and work from there.
Having some sort of idea of what you’re interested in (for the short-term at least) means that you’re much more likely to;
a) Be able to find opportunities
b) Get hired
I have no idea
If you’re in this situation, the tips below will all help you focus your thinking.
- It’s all about you
If you’ve absolutely no idea then the best place to begin is with looking at yourself:
- What are your interests?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What kind of environment could you see yourself working in?
- What motivates you?
- What is important to you?
These questions can be tricky to tackle in isolation, so a useful starting point is to reflect on what you’ve done so far in your life. Whether these be elements of your course, part-time or voluntary work or work experience, things you do in your free time and so on; think as broadly as possible. This may throw up some recurring themes which you could use as the basis of your direction-finding. Talking these through with a Careers Adviser can also be helpful.
- Career Guidance
Career guidance gives you an opportunity to discuss ideas, identify your priorities , explore options and get some direction, with the help of a professionally qualified Careers Adviser. We offer individual career guidance to students and graduates of the University of Leeds. Access this via our drop-in service. You can continue to use our services after graduation. If you are a graduate and are no longer in Leeds, we offer an e-guidance service and you may also be able to access the Careers Service of your local university. AGCAS has a searchable list of all member university careers services in the UK.
- ‘Career-matching’ tools
There are various on-line tools to help you consider the above questions which then suggest some broad career areas it might be worth you exploring. Examples include Prospects Planner and Targetjobs Career Report. Such tools do not have all the answers, but can be a useful way to structure your reflection or of flagging up some ideas for you then to explore in more detail. You may find it helpful to discuss your results with a Careers Adviser.
- Options with your degree
If you’re keen to directly apply the knowledge, skills or expertise gained during your studies, then using your degree as a starting point could be useful. However, unless you’re doing a vocational course, it may be that the degree-specific knowledge is less important (in the context of looking for a job) than the skills gained. Therefore, I would still strongly recommend that you reflect on yourself first. Most university Careers Services (us included) can provide you with information about what previous graduates of your course have gone on to do. At Leeds you also have access to the Leeds Network whereby you can see profiles of previous Leeds students, as well as being able to contact Alumni for advice on getting into their sector.
I have some vague ideas
If you have some vague ideas of areas in which you think you might be interested already, fantastic! You should now crack on with researching those sectors in a bit more depth. There are various ways of doing this;
- Our website has some great starting points for research, organised by career areas and by school
- Professional bodies/ associations and learned societies are great sources for researching careers. A quick web-search using relevant keywords will be a useful starting point. You can also search more formal directories such as totalprofessions although these are unlikely to be exhaustive.
- LinkedIn – the advanced people search function of LinkedIn can be great tool to explore the range of job roles/ employers in certain sectors. We have produced a short video on how this feature of LinkedIn can help you explore careers
- The Career Events (employer presentations, workshops and fairs etc) that we organise throughout the academic year. These are great opportunities to meet people doing the jobs and to find out more about what it’s really like
- Prospects provides overviews of job sectors which can be great starting points for further research
Developing your ideas
Once you have some ideas, you need to develop them. Try things out. Get some work experience. Speak to people you know about their jobs. Try speaking to people you don’t know about their jobs if they’re doing something which interests you. It is difficult to feel confident in any decision if you do not have as much information (and ideally, first-hand experience) as possible.
- Take advantage of all the opportunities available to you as a student at Leeds to get involved in a range of things and develop your interests and skills
- Take advantage of the opportunities to develop and expand your network
- Try out informational interviews with professionals in your target industry
- Come and talk to us – we are here to help you!
You might also find it helpful to check out the ‘career planning’ section of our website