Leaving university with no real career plans? If you’ve been focusing on your finals, rather than your working future, use these ideas to plan your next steps.
Browse job sites
Don’t focus on looking for vacancies to apply for straight away – first get a sense of possibilities and future options at sites such as Guardian Jobs or Monster. Investigate the sectors with the most opportunities, familiarise yourself with job application jargon, and identify common skills you can develop to improve your employment prospects.
Think about what you like
Is there a particular shop, product, or service that you really identify with? Look at the websites of companies or organisations that you like to get an idea of vacancies and job roles. Perhaps there’s a way to turn a particular interest or passion into a career? Even if you’d prefer to keep work and leisure separate, establishing what you do or don’t want from a job is a useful exercise.
Keep your brain ticking
Going from the academic rigour of a degree, to little if any intellectual challenge can prove a shock to your system. Even reading a book without then writing an essay can take some adjustment. Keep those brain cells active with a short course in anything from holiday Spanish to web design, or join a local special interest club or society. As well as developing a new (potentially useful) skill, you’ll meet different people and 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 provide a sense of perspective, and may also spark some new ideas. You could try a working holiday or spend the 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.
Get stuck in
There can be a big gulf between the idea and reality of a particular job or career route – the only way you’re really going to know if you like something is to give it a go. Volunteering is a great way to try things out and gain relevant skills and experience at the same time. Explore options on a community level – if you’re interested marketing could you help promote a local event? Investigate shadowing, internships and work experience and take a look at relevant professional associations which may signpost opportunities for new entrants.
Whilst photocopying is unlikely to be the mainstay of your dream job, there’s no substitute for first-hand experience when it comes to understanding company cultures, or gaining insights into the realities of a sector. As a temp you may be able to apply for internal vacancies or gain knowledge to strengthen other applications. General office skills for example, could help you secure an admin role and set you on the path to your chosen job.
Visit your university careers service or contact a graduate recruitment consultant. Ask for practical advice about which job types are suited to your existing skills, suggestions for next steps, and details of suitable vacancies or further training.
Be open to possibilities
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places so keep an open mind. Think about career wherever you are, from days out to watching TV – what jobs are involved and do any of them appeal to you?
Finally, don’t lose heart – career is an ongoing process, not a subject with a simple answer. The mindset of reviewing your direction, developing your skills and planning your next move, will stand you in good stead for the rest of your working life.