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October 14, 2021, by Leah Sharpe

Career Exploration: What Is It and Why Should I Start Now?

By Anna Scrivener, Employability Education Projects Officer 

We see students to help with a range of career questions, but often the real problem is that they need to spend time on their career exploration. Before you can find suitable opportunities, or put together a great application, you have to know the answer to a few questions:  

1. Why am I passionate about this? 

2. What skills are employers looking for in this space?  

3. What have I done to build skills and experiences relevant to my goals?  

4. What are the big companies and issues in this sector?  

If you can’t answer these questions you need to start with career exploration in order to concentrate your efforts. With that in mind, what can you do?  

Gather information

Look into the types of jobs you are interested in using Prospects Job Profiles or our Career paths webpages to get a feel for the realities of a job and the skills that will be valuable to you. These are skills you should enjoy using and will need to evidence in job applications. If you have identified gaps in your skills, focus your time on filling them with your extracurricular activities.


Search for employers and build your commercial awareness through sector-based websites and publications. Follow companies on social media to stay on top of the latest news and see what jobs they are advertising. Even if you don’t want to apply now, it can give you a feel for what they will be looking for.  

Attend employer and alumni events

They happen all year round and are bookable through MyCareer. They are a great opportunity to gain real insights into particular jobs or companies so that you can make an informed decision about whether it is the right thing for you, plus gaining some tips on how to be successful.


Use LinkedIn to find people working in companies and jobs that you want to explore. The University of Nottingham Alumni group may be a good starting point. Check out their profiles to see what they did straight out of university? Can you contact them for a virtual coffee to talk about their career journey and any advice they have for you at this point in your career?   

Gain work experience

This is the ultimate test of whether a job and industry are right for you. There is a limit to how much work experience you can gain around your studies and the chances are you won’t be able to test every possibility. So be targeted and make sure you are doing the other things too. Don’t worry if you can’t get work experience in the exact industry you are aiming for. The important thing is gaining experience that builds the skills you need, and more importantly, being able to articulate that.   

The earlier you can do this, the better, as it will allow you to target your efforts and find the right opportunities for you. Doing this work in advance will save you a lot of time and possibly even heartache because you will be making informed and considered decisions about your future steps.

Get started by trying our online exercises, Making Career Decisions and Building your self-awareness to help with career thinking, to help organise your thoughts and priorities. 

Good luck!

Posted in Careers AdviceChoosing Your CareerWork experience