December 2, 2021, by Leah Sharpe
The First Steps Towards Figuring Out Your Career Options
By Anna McConachie, English student blogger
Deciding what you want to do after university can be tough. This is especially true if (like me) you find yourself interested in many different career sectors, with no clear route to that ‘end goal’.
As an undergraduate English student, I’m often overwhelmed by the opportunities that come from a non-vocational degree. Whilst I welcome the freedom that comes from being able to explore (almost) any career path I desire, sometimes I find myself unable to narrow down my choices, or even decide on an area to begin with. I consider myself to be an ambitious person, but when you don’t have clear steps to take in order to access a specific role, it can feel like you have no ambition at all. So, what should you do when you don’t have your career prospects mapped out?
These are some of the steps I took to get myself started:
Utilise the Careers and Employability Service
This is an excellent place to start. Even from a quick glance at the website you can find information about careers ideas, developing applications, work experience and job vacancies. If you want more support and guidance, you can book an appointment with a careers adviser, who will talk you through options no matter what stage you are at. I’ve already had my first meeting with a careers adviser which really helped give me some direction. Plus they run events throughout the year highlighting different sectors. They provide a great opportunity to meet prospective employers and give you a flavour of what is on offer.
This may be a cliché, but talking to others about their work and seeking advice is a great way to inform your own career decisions. Maybe you have a family member or friend whose job has always intrigued you? Ask more about their role and see if it sounds like something for you.
It might also be worth finding individuals in fields you are interested in on LinkedIn. Reach out to see if they would be willing to answer some questions about their role or the company they work for. Just bear in mind not everyone will want to talk, but that’s okay! After attending an English alumni talk hosted by the university, I reached out to one of the panellists who held a role in the charity sector, and she was happy to chat to me about her own career journey.
Seeking advice from others is really about networking. An excellent skill that will help not only inform your career decisions, but will be useful later on down the line when it comes to finding a job.
Try internships and placements
Internships and placements are another great way to not only gain experience in the sector, but confirm your interest in it too. It’s important to recognise that some roles may not be what you expected, and perhaps you want to take your career in a different direction. Internships can also help you discover roles you weren’t even aware existed.
Organisations like the Bright Network offer free online internships. They allow you to get a taste of the different sectors they have to offer, give you the opportunity to speak to relevant employers, and develop your applications with sector-specific skills in mind. I attended their public sector, policy and charity internship experience last summer. I found it very helpful for showcasing the range of roles that are available across these sectors. You have to answer a few questions when applying but they’re fairly straightforward, making it a great, low pressure option. Keep an eye on the careers website for upcoming internships and how to apply.
Deciding what you want to do is daunting, but hopefully the ideas in this blog post will help you to begin the process. Remember that a lot of people are in a similar position to you. The best place to start is talking to people about your ideas or anxieties, to make those first steps that little bit easier.
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