Students sat on a bench using a laptop and writing notes

February 8, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Career Exploration: How I Figured Out What To Do After University

By Agnes Sokolowska, mathematics student blogger

Like many people, I came to university with a very vague idea of my career plans. In fact, the further I got into my degree, I became even less sure of what I wanted to do. For my first blog post, I want to share how I figured out what I wanted to do after university, and the steps I’ve taken to help get me there.

Going into the first year of my maths degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do once it finished. I’ve always had the mindset of ‘I’ll worry about it later or ‘I’ll deal with it when it comes to it’. I was vaguely working towards a career in teaching, but at the back of my mind, I knew that it wasn’t quite right.

Going into my second year, I started feeling a bit nervous. The uncertainty of the future (combined with the state of the world; we were at the height of the pandemic) brought my career prospects to the forefront of my mind. I spent a lot of time thinking about where I want to be and what I’d like my life to look like after graduation.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. I was already a passionate environmentalist but it never occurred to me before that I could use my degree to work in sustainability. This is what I started working towards straight away, shaping my next steps with the help of my academic tutor and a careers adviser.

Diversifying my degree

Once I figured out which industry I wanted to base my career on, I began finding ways to diversify my degree. To achieve this, I made my module choices according to the skills that would be most beneficial to me in the field of academia. In addition to the relevant skills, I tried to find modules which covered content I would be able to apply in my career. Specifically, I decided to focus my degree on statistics and computation. I chose to take a module in the Department of Geography and I chose a research project somewhat related to the topic of sustainability.

Completing a relevant internship

Over the summer, I also completed a research internship at the University of Oxford which focused on preserving biodiversity on a global scale. This not only gave me an insight into what it would be like to work in a research environment in a related field, but also provided me with opportunities to network with big names in the industry. This means that I already have a metaphorical foot in the door of my future career.

Producing a backup plan

Although I’m confident in my career aspirations, I understand that it’s possible that I will change my mind. For example, if I decide that my working style isn’t suitable for a research environment or I struggle finding opportunities once I graduate. This is why my backup plan is working in technology for a ‘green’ company or in a sustainability department of a not-so-green company. To ensure that my backup plan is feasible, once I graduate I plan to focus my time on perfecting my coding skills and building my expertise on commercial sustainability.

Now, in third year, I’m excited for my future and looking forward to beginning my career after university. Figuring out the direction I’m heading affirmed my choice of degree and provided me with confidence to pursue related opportunities.

If you’re just starting your career exploration journey or have a vague idea but aren’t sure where to start, check out the Careers and Employability Service website for help and guidance on choosing your career.

Posted in Choosing Your CareerStudent Bloggers