Career Choices

The career choice you make determines a huge part of the rest of your life. After all, you spend a large part of your life working, so it’s important that you make the right choice. Choosing what to do for a career isn’t easy, which is why you should take careful consideration when deciding. If you think you’ve chosen the wrong profession, it’s even more important to carefully think about your next steps.

Are you wondering which career path is right for you?

The career path you choose plays a huge part in deciding the rest of your life. You spend the majority of your adulthood working, therefore it is essential to make the right decision. Chances are, if you’re already at uni or in the workforce then you’ve taken your first steps already, but we all know that’s no guarantee of knowing where you want to end up.

If you are unsure of what to do, don’t panic! Take a gap year from study or take your time to research and mull over before you start job hunting.  Plenty of people have no idea what they want to do next. Give yourself time to think and to have experiences that may help with your decision. You could travel and experience different cultures or stay closer to home and bank some cash at your current job. Learning some new skills could help with your decision, such as different computer programs or a second language. Many employers see speaking a different language as a huge asset, and learning new skills will do wonders for your confidence.

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you will make – it’s more than just deciding what you want to do to earn a living. Think about the amount of time spent at work: we spend about half of our waking hours working. Over a lifetime, this comes to roughly 31 ½ years! Therefore, it is key to choose a fulfilling career.

In addition, when you choose a career path that you are interested in, it is more likely you will remain motivated. When you are passionate about what you do, you are more likely to be successful because you will push yourself to achieve, and high job satisfaction will raise your overall quality of life.

There are a lot of factors to consider. We recommend narrowing it down to an industry to start with, which you may have already done through your past professional and educational choices. You will often discover unexpected opportunities, so don’t worry about picking a specific job title! Our four essentials to choosing a career are:

Know yourself – To make the right choice, you need to know yourself. Identify your strengths and weaknesses to know which career path is right for you. Assess your interests and values – what do you want your life to be like? Are you happy to grind at work for money to spare at home, or do you want to feel truly passionate about your job?

Explore your options – research the job market and areas of interest to you and narrow down your options. Careers fairs and online aptitude tests can help with this. Exploring career options develops your knowledge on the professional opportunities that are out there. It’s also worth considering whether you can afford to take a pay cut for the right opportunity, and reaching out to people you admire for their advice. Volunteering and networking with those in your desired areas can help too.

Decide – combine what you’ve learned about yourself with what you’ve discovered about your options. Decide which profession interests you the most and select one or two alternatives to fall back on if you are unable to pursue your first choice.

Act – Work out what steps are needed to get to your destination. A career plan made of achievable steps will help with this look up S.M.A.R.T. goals if you want more guidance.

When deciding what career path to choose, or when considering a career change ask yourself the following questions:

What am I good at?

What are my interests, motivations and values?

What kind of lifestyle do I want?

What do I want from my career?

Who is already where I want to be, and how did they get there?

Changing career paths

Lots of people change career paths over the course of their lifetimes. Sometimes you find fresh inspiration, sometimes things just don’t work out, and sometimes life presents you with opportunities you’d never even considered! If you ever consider changing career paths, think carefully about whether this is the right decision for you. Sometimes, you just need a change of scenery, not a whole new life. It is essential you don’t rush this decision.  Work out what you’re hoping to achieve from this change – better pay, better work/life balance, less workplace drama, or something else entirely? Once you’ve decided these basics, you’ll be ready to start the research on how you’re going to reach your goals.

Don’t know what to do after university? Here are some options:

Apply for a graduate scheme – these are structured training programmes that allows graduates to gain practical experience with a company, giving them a head-start into the world of work. Graduate schemes are paid positions and last between one and three years.

Join the workforce – Many graduates enter the workforce as soon as they can. Most universities provide support, so if you need guidance, get in touch with your university careers service.

Do a Master’s or a PhD: A higher level degree is ideal for those who want to further their knowledge in a particular subject, improve their employability or want to work in academia.

Just finishing school? Here are some potential next steps:

Apply for a university degree:

If you intend to continue down the academic route and go on to higher education, you can study vocational courses or A-levels at a sixth form or college. Universities will look at your GCSEs as part their application process, but their interest is mostly in your A-levels. So, if you decide on a career that requires a degree, then you’ll need to continue studying for A-levels.

Apply for an Apprenticeship:

An apprenticeship is when you work for an employer and are trained to do a specific job at the same time. Apprenticeships combine practical training in a job with study. They last between one and for years. As an apprentice, you work alongside experienced staff, develop skills and knowledge and earn a wage. The combination of experience and a qualification can be immensely valuable to employers. See our piece on apprenticeships for an in-depth view of the advantages.

Apply for a Traineeship:

A traineeship is an education and training programme designed to bridge the gap between school and work for young people who don’t have relevant skills or experience. Traineeships usually last from six weeks to six months.

Traineeships are unpaid, but provide all the support you need, even if you struggled at school or don’t have any GCSEs.