Knowing you need to make a big decision can have a paralysing effect. If you’ve left it late, are beginning to panic about what to do after you graduate, and find the prospect of committing to a career hopelessly daunting, our tips will help you get started.
To get career ideas, start with yourself
Start with yourself – this is the basis of all good career decision making. It's the only way you can make effective applications to the right employers, and the only way of finding the career path that is right for you. You need to think about what you enjoy, what you are interested in, and what you have to offer.
The career choice process can be represented as a continuous cycle of four stages:
- Self awareness
- Opportunity awareness
- Decision making
- Taking action
Knowing what your skills and values are is a good basis both for deciding which careers, employers and roles interest you, and for making strong applications.
Any work experience you’ve done, including extracurricular activities, will not only have developed your skills and made you more employable, but will also have given you some idea of what you would like to do.
Examine your values
What is most important to you in terms of a career? Are you looking for security? Adventure? Variety? Money? Travel? To help others? Work-life balance? If you value your social life, don't join a company which expects you to work 14 hours a day or a profession where you could be commuting internationally every week. If earning a top rate of pay is important to you, our advice on the graduate careers with the highest starting salaries will point you in the right direction.
Break down your job hunt into small, manageable steps
You’ll find the overall process of job hunting much more manageable if you break it down into a series of tasks that you can tackle over time. You could set aside some time to get started – a couple of hours each weekend, for example. Make a to-do list and decide what you’re going to do when. Here are some steps to consider, if you haven’t worked through them already.
- Find out how your university careers service can help you
- Sign up with targetjobs.co.uk and complete your profile to receive information about relevant jobs
- If you want to take some time to explore your career options in more depth, you could look into options for planning a gap year and think about how to market your time out to graduate employers later.
- Consider options for boosting your work experience.
Our advice will help you get to grips with the careers open to you with your degree and the range of roles available.
- Careers open to graduates from all degree backgrounds (they might surprise you)
- Careers you could do with your degree subject
- In-depth advice on popular graduate professions
- Job descriptions
- Inside Buzz reports giving an inside view of what it’s like working for particular companies
Don’t neglect your studies
Some graduate recruiters look for candidates with a 2.1 degree, so achieving this result will broaden your options. However, plenty of employers are happy to recruit graduates with 2.2s, or do not specify any degree result. Our advice on employers that accept applications from graduates with 2.2s will help you get to grips with the opportunities open to you.
Prepare yourself to keep on learning
Your career will grow and change with you as you develop your skills and specialise. The world of work is changing all the time, and in five years’ time you may find yourself in a role that now barely exists, or that you haven’t currently heard of. Graduate employers welcome flexibility; they also like to recruit candidates who are resilient, so if you experience any setbacks during the course of your job hunt, remind yourself that you’re developing an essential skill. Our advice on the ten skills that’ll get you a graduate job will help you understand what recruiters are looking for.
You're not alone: other students feel it too
If panic sets in during your final year, or even after graduation, and you feel that you haven't got a clue what you want to do, remember that you're not alone and don’t be too hard on yourself. There are many other students in the same boat as you, your friends among them, although they may wish to keep a lid on their own private job-hunting fears.
It’s worth seeking out the views of people who have been through the graduate job-hunting process before you, especially if they’re working in an area that interests you. If your university careers service offers the opportunity to network with alumni, this could be a good opportunity to arm yourself with insights and information that will get you through the challenges ahead. Our networking tips explain how to make use of social media and other opportunities to make contacts who could help your job hunt.