Life after university – what next?

Leaving university with no real career plans?  If you’re one of those students who focused on finishing your finals, rather than planning your future, our top ten tips should give you some ideas of how to start.

Browse job sites.  Not necessarily with the view of finding a job you can apply for (although obviously this could be an added bonus), but more to give you a sense of the possibilities out there.  Look at sites such as www.guardian.co.uk/jobs or www.monster.co.uk. You’ll see the sectors with the most vacancies, familiarise yourself with job application jargon, and help identify any common skills that you can develop to improve your employment prospects.

Try temping.  Whilst photocopying and filing may not constitute your idea of a dream job, there’s no substitute for firsthand experience when it comes to understanding a company culture, or gaining an insight into the realities of a particular sector.  As well as providing a vital source of income, developing general office skills may help you secure an entry-level or admin role as a stepping stone to your chosen career.  You may also be able to apply for internal vacancies, or establish contacts which will strengthen your application if a role is advertised externally.  A surprising number of people end up choosing their career path due to a chance temporary position.

Think about what you like.  This may be a particular shop, product, or service that you really identify with.  Look at the websites of companies or organisations that you like, they generally list their own vacancies, as well as giving an indication of the types of roles on offer.  Perhaps there’s a way to turn a particular interest or passion into a career?  To some this is their ultimate aim; others prefer to keep work and leisure separate.  Whatever your view, it’s still a useful exercise in establishing what you do or don’t want from a job.

Try something completely different.  Going from the academic rigour of a degree, to little if any intellectual challenge can prove something of a shock to the system.  Even reading a book without then writing an essay can take some adjustment.  So why not do something new to keep those brain cells active?  You could try a short course in anything from holiday Spanish to woodwork, or join a local club or society.  As well as the prospect of developing a new (potentially useful) skill, you’ll meet new people with their own career stories to tell.  This may provide some inspiration and will help build your network of contacts.

Take a break.  Visit friends in different parts of the country, stay with relatives, or even go on holiday.  A change of scene can help give a sense of perspective, and may also spark some new ideas.  You could try a working holiday or spend any last remnants of your student loan visiting somewhere you’ve always longed to go.  If you didn’t take a gap year before university, this may be the  ideal time before you get caught up in the world of work.

Volunteering. This is a great way to meet new people, boost your confidence and gain relevant skills and experience.  Check out sites such as Do It, vInspired, or The Conservation Volunteers.

Visit your university careers service or contact a graduate recruitment consultant.  You might be able to get some practical advice about which types of jobs are suited to your existing skills, together with some concrete suggestions on next steps, and details of any suitable vacancies or further training.

Be open to new ideas.  Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places.  The School of Life encourages new ways of looking at everyday issues. Why not watch their lectures by leading cultural figures?

Explore icould.com.  We’ve over a thousand videos of people telling their own career stories.  You can search by job type, subject, or life decision and browse our articles for additional ideas.

Finally, take comfort - you are not alone.  Thousands of graduates are in exactly the same position as you now, and hundreds of thousands have been there before.  Deciding what you want to do is just the start but means you can work out a plan of how to get there.  Remember a career is not static; whatever you choose, reviewing your future direction is likely to form an ongoing part of your working life.

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