How to choose a career: Tackling the “What are you doing after uni?” question

This post provides two steps that will help you consider your career interests. It focuses on what will help you decide what to do.  You may be considering other things alongside this, such as further study, self-employment, travel or something else.  For help and advice on these, take a look at our website

Over recent weeks, we’ve seen a steady stream of stressed-out finalists worried that they have no idea about what to do next.  If you’re feeling like this, the thought of the inevitable questions about your future plans from well-meaning friends and family over the holidays may be filling you with dread. It needn’t. Here we outline 2 simple things you can do to get the ball rolling with your career decisions, whilst still giving yourself time for university work  (and enjoying the festive season) over the holidays.

1. Try to get an idea of your interests

You don’t need to decide now how you’re going to spend the rest of your working life. In any case, this will probably change throughout your life. What is important is to start identifying areas that interest you now, so that you can explore and identify what opportunities there might be and how you can access these.

How might your interests map onto different careers?

Thinking about your motivations, values, interests and the type of environment you want to work in will help you.  Doing this in isolation can be a bit of a challenge so try tools such as Prospects Career Planner or TargetJobs Careers Report which, although each takes a bit of a different approach, both provide a structure in which to consider what matters to you and then provide some suggestions of career areas to explore.

Consider your passions

Do consider all aspects of your life when thinking about what you enjoy, for example whether your passion is sport, baking, music, art, technology or anything else – you may well be able to use this passion in your career.

Get some inspiration

What other graduates of your subject do

This information can be useful for inspiration, or flagging up areas you might not have considered, but this definitely does not mean that these are your only options.  If you would like to explore this, here are a few ways you can do so;

  • A top level summary, by school, is available on the school resources section of our website. Some example jobs, by faculty, are listed on the graduate destinations pages
  • Prospects provide a summary of some of the most common graduate destinations, by subject, on their website
  • The Leeds Network enables you to search profiles of previous graduates by key-word (e.g. subject of study). See this post for more information on the Leeds Network
  • The Alumni and Fields of study features of LinkedIn are great tools for exploring this information on a much larger scale. See this post for how to do this

Find out about people you already know

We are often only vaguely aware of what people we know do, or what these careers might entail. If you’re going to be catching up with friends and family over the holidays, take advantage of the opportunity to actually find out what they do and what it involves. You may be surprised or find completely new career ideas to explore.

2. Explore your ideas

If you already have some ideas, great! Now is the time to explore these in more detail.  There are various levels of exploration, each with increasing value.

Read Talk Do1.  Read about it

At a basic level researching careers, for example through information online, is a starting point. We have loads of useful information sources to help you do this on our website. You can browse or search these by Career or by School/Faculty

2.  Talk to people doing it

Next, speaking to people doing them (a.k.a networking) will give you much more detailed insight and a chance to ask specific questions. When I speak to students about networking, one of the responses I hear most of often is

“I don’t know anyone working in that sector/ career/ industry”.

This doesn’t matter.  The power of networking lies not necessarily in who you know, but more often in who the people you know might know.  Speak to friends/ family/ coursemates/ housemates, or post something on Facebook, Twitter etc. to see if anyone you know might be able to put you in touch with someone working in that field.  You may be surprised at what contacts you find.

Similarly you could use the Leeds Network or LinkedIn Alumni tool (as mentioned in point 1 above) to identify people working in particular careers.

Once you’ve identified people to contact, I’d suggest trying to arrange an information interview.  See this step by step guide for what this is and how to do it.

3.   Try it

Finally, testing out your career ideas, for example through work shadowing, experience or placements will be most helpful.  This might require more time than you feel you have currently which is understandable.  Do bear in mind that work experience needn’t be a large period of time.  Consider whether you might be able to use some time during the Easter vacation or even in Leeds during term-time. This could be as little as one or two day’s work shadowing as well as longer placements. We can support you in seeking work experience and you will also find lots of useful information about this on our website

Talk to us I’d suggest making use of our advice and guidance services. You can talk to us, either in person or via phone up until the 24th December or once we reopen on 5th January.

1 Comment

Filed under Advice

One response to “How to choose a career: Tackling the “What are you doing after uni?” question

  1. Pingback: How to net your dream job: Proactivity pays | University of Leeds Careers Centre Blog

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