Choosing a career


You may be approaching the end of GSCEs, A2s or a degree but at some point we all have to start thinking about the career that we want to have. For many people this can be a scary prospect, this article is here to give you an overview of some of the things that you need to think about when deciding what career you would like.

Before you start researching careers

Before you start researching specific careers there are some factors that you have to consider.

What are your talents?

Each of us has things that we are good at and things that we are less good at. It is important that you are able to recognize what your talents are as this will make it easier for you to choose a career that you will be successful in. For example if you are someone who likes meeting new people then you might want to consider a career in hairdressing or public relations. If you are a person who has always been good mediating arguments between friends or warring siblings and you are able to diffuse a difficult situation maybe you could consider the police force. Making a list of not only the things that you are good at but also the things that you are not so good at will help you make your decision. You can use personality tests such as Myers Briggs combined with Workplace Culture Fit to find a job and company to match your unique personality.

What do you want from a job?

An important thing to consider is what you want from this career. Do you want something that is emotionally rewarding where you leave at the end of the day feeling that you have made a difference to someone’s life or is it more important for you that you have job security? Do you want a job which is constantly changing or would you to be settled in one place and be able to work your way up the ladder in your chosen career? A good thing to do before you start thinking about specific jobs that you would like to do is to sit down and make a list of things that are important to you. This will enable you to rule out career paths that you might be less well suited to. Use this information to make a list of possible careers to research.

Your life is longer than the next five years

Whilst our parents might have had one job or career area for their entire lives, this is rarely the case anymore. Whatever career or job you start off with at 16, 18 or post-degree its almost certain you will be in something different in 5 or 10 years time.

You start off working in hotel management, you move into recruitment within a bigger hospitality company and 10 years later you have made several other jumps and find yourself working in HR in a Telecoms industry. You serve 10 years in the Royal Navy, discover you enjoy training other people, you do a PGCE as a mature student and become a Secondary School teacher at 35. You do a degree in Neuroscience and end up working for a Pharmacy company. The possibilities for our lives in the 21st century are endless.

So, don't think you are choosing a career that you will necessarily do for the rest of your life - you probably aren't. Look upon this as a starting point - especially if you really aren't sure yet who you are and what you really enjoy doing. And just because you decide to do a Law degree or train as a Nurse, that doesn't mean you are committed to a career as a lawyer or a nurse for the rest of your life.

Where do you start?

The internet is brilliant for just 'searching'. Type in some keywords of things you are interested in or just enjoy. 'Rugby jobs', 'Museum work', 'Art and Design vacancies', etc. etc. See what comes up, explore pages, read recruitment ads and explore company websites.

Look at employment websites. There are heaps out there, some are very big and recruiting for every sort of job possible, others are more specialised. Examples of big ones relevant to the UK are JobsiteMonster Jobs and Indeed. Examples of more specialised ones are this for language jobs or this one forengineering jobs.

Check out the sort of jobs that appeal to you (even if they way beyond you at the moment) - what qualifications and experience do you need to be a BBC camera operator or an Events Organiser? How could you get there from where you are now? Do you need A levels to get on the relevant training scheme or HND course (do you need to retake some to get better grades?)? Would some overseas experience help you get a job in that area (Gap Year?)? Think strategically - how do I get there from here?

Researching Career Choices

By this stage you have hopefully had a think about not only what you are good at but also what sort of career you want. This will hopefully have helped you to create a shortlist. Now you need to start doing your research into your possible careers. There are some key things that you need to think about.

What qualifications do you have/need?

It is important that you find out if there are any specific qualifications that you are going to need to do the job that you are interested in. Firstly you need to know do you need to have completed a vocational degree or course to do this job or can you enter with more general qualifications. It is important that you make sure that you think about what the requirements are for this job and whether you are going to be able to achieve them. For some jobs this might involve going to university or back to college so this is something that you should prepared for.

Where are the jobs?

Another factor that it is important that you consider is where are the jobs in this sectors generally located. This is less of an issue if you have decided to join the police force or become a nurse but may be more of an issue if you want to go be a marine biologist. Is it likely that you are going to have to move a long way from home to pursue your chosen career and if so is this something that you are going to be able/willing to do?

Some careers have the opportunity to be pursued from home but they may not be right for everyone. Lists of work from home companies are worth checking over to see if your career path is listed and comprehensive guides to working from home should be looked over thoroughly. A need to be extremely flexible and determined is essential in working successfully from home.

What is the pay like?

While money is probably not the main deciding factor when it comes to choosing a career but it is something that you should consider. Do most people in your chosen field earn a good wage or it is just the top 10%, are there good opportunities for progression, and if you decide to go into a field in which the pay isn’t particularly high is this something you are willing to sacrifice in exchange for career satisfaction.

So you think you have decided on a potential career. Now what?

You have done your research and you think that you have found the right career for you. You have the right qualifications (or you know how to get them) and you think that you have the qualities necessary to succeed in your field

Work Experience

Work experience can be an opportunity to experience your chosen career without commitment to see if it really is how you imagined it would be. Having work experience will also give you valuable experience to put on you CV when applying for jobs and may give you the edge. It is also important to take note that if you are considering becoming a doctor or dentist, to get into medical school you MUST have had some previous work experience whether it be in a hospital ward or volunteering at your local care home.

Short term employment

If you think that the best way to experience your chosen career is to work in it, then you might consider short term contracts as this gives you the experience and you get paid but you don’t have the commitment of a long term contract so if you find that you are as suited to the career as you thought that you were you can finish your contract and try again.

Key Points

  • Start thinking about what you want to do early this gives you time to get the qualifications that you need.
  • Don’t be worried about taking your time to make this decision it is an important one and you shouldn’t feel rushed.
  • You can always go and see a careers advisor who will be able to discuss your options with you
  • If you start a job and you aren’t happy there is no harm in admitting that and trying something else.
  • The Student Room has a dedicated careers forum where you can talk to other people who might be feeling the same way that you do.[1]
  • Most importantly stay calm

Also See