Choosing Your Career Path

Tara Sallis

Especially when you have just graduated, and you probably have limited professional experience, it can seem daunting to have to start from scratch and pick a career path.

Although it might take some longer than others, with the right attitude and some perseverance you can rest assured that your next job is out there somewhere - it's just a matter of finding it! In this post we'll give you somewhere to start with your decision-making process and provide some helpful pointers as to what to think about when you start searching for a career.

Don’t put too much pressure on it

Many people will switch career paths during their working life and people change jobs all the time. If you end up doing a job that isn’t right for you, you can always move your career in a different direction at any point. It is very common for graduates to be unsure about what they want to do and just because you are not already fixed on one career path, doesn’t mean you won’t find a job that you really enjoy. In fact, it is often through doing a job that you dislike that you learn what you do enjoy and where your strengths lie!

Think about your priorities

Most people have some practical constraints on what they can do for work. For example, think about questions like these:

  •      Do you need to find a job near to home, or would you be willing to move?
  •      How much do you expect to be paid?
  •      How far are you willing to commute?
  •      What qualifications do you have?
  •      How many hours do you expect to be working each week?

Having a clear idea of what you expect from your job can help point you in the right direction. For example, if you cannot work long and unpredictable hours then perhaps graduate schemes that require overtime and high levels of commitment, often in sectors like finance, may not be right for you.

Think about what you want

Once you have worked out practically what you can do, you should think about what you want from your career. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Do I enjoy numerical, technical, creative, or people-based work most?
  • Do I want job stability, or would I like to be on the cutting edge of an industry?
  • Would I rather work in a small team, or as part of a big company?
  • Do I want my work to be challenging so I can learn new skills, or would I rather be certain that I will always know what I’m doing?
  • Do you want opportunities for promotion and career progression, or are you not very career driven?

If you really enjoy particular types of work or you are looking for a specific company culture, then this can help you narrow down the sectors or organisations that might appeal to you.

Consider the experience you have had, or get some


p>Once you have a shortlist of the sort of roles you want to look at, narrow this down by getting some experience or thinking about the experience you already have. Doing an internship, or even just a short work experience period can give you a flavour of the role you are considering and confirm if it is for you or not. Consider what you did and did not enjoy about any past experience that you do have.

When you are doing your internship or work experience, be sure to ask about the roles of the people you meet and how they find their working life. If you see other roles or tasks going on that you would like to find out more about, for example in another department of the company you are interning at, ask your employer if you could find out more. If you mention it then they may be able to tailor the internship to you. Internships are often a good way for graduates to connect with companies they like, and statistics suggest that around 1/3 of entry level graduate roles are taken up by people with previous experience in the company.

Another good way to get insight into lots of roles during an internship is to intern at a start-up or SME. In these companies you will work alongside people doing lots of jobs, rather than being stuck in one single department.

Speak to people in the industry

You may not have experience in all the roles that you are considering, but you can still get an idea of what they are like by speaking to people who have similar jobs. You can search on LinkedIn, use previous contacts, or ask friends and family to put you in touch with people you think would be useful to chat to. Keep your priorities in mind and ask them about any things that might put you off the role or particularly draw you in to get a realistic perspective of the good and the bad.

Once you have decided

Once you have thought about what you want from your job and looked into your options, you will be in a good position to start making applications! Make sure you stay on top of your applications to be in with the best chance of landing your dream job. Check out our Graduate Handbook for more advice on this.