Making time to think about your career plan can help your future.
Career planning is about organising your career ideas to make them achievable. It doesn't matter where you start with your career planning, as long as you consider all the steps along the way.
Check out each step below to make a start on your plan.
Making a start
There are 4 key steps to consider, as shown in our handy infographic below.
You can make a start today by noting down some initial ideas and planning what you can do next.
1. Thinking about me
Consider what you want out of your career and what you have to offer. Think about your individual skills and talents and what careers line up with them.
Your skills can be diverse and usable in a variety of fields. Use our guide on identifying your skills and figure out what careers might suit you.
2. Researching my options
Think about the options that are open to you and find out where to research opportunities. This could be as simple as looking for jobs online or networking to find contacts in your sector.
Visit the jobs and work experience section for advice on searching for vacancies.
3. Making plans
Writing an action plan will help you achieve your goals. This can be in any format, so use what suits you best. Start by using our tips on planning your actions.
4. Taking action
You can also talk to our friendly and expert staff at the Careers and Employability Service. Why not organise an appointment or drop in to have an informal chat?
Options after your course
A useful starting point for career planning is to look at the options for graduates from your course. Graduate Prospects' options with your subject looks at how you can use your degree.
You should also think about job roles that aren't linked to your degree. Many employers seek graduates from any discipline.
Employers aren't only interested in the subject you've studied. They value the skills and understanding you've developed and your future potential. Employers will support new graduates with on-the-job training, giving you the support to learn the specific knowledge for your role.
Unsure about your career plans?
Don't worry if you're not sure what career path you want to take. Students often find it hard to identify what jobs appeal to them.
Follow our tips to get ideas of the actions you can take to clarify your plans.
Actions you can take to clarify your plans
To find out what kind of jobs would suit you, think about the skills you have to offer an employer, what interests you in a job and what would motivate you.
It's not always easy to come up with answers to these sorts of questions. A good place to begin is by using an online questionnaire that takes you through the process.
Prospects offers a job match questionnaire that helps you generate ideas and explore your interests. The questions are also designed to identify your skills and find out what motivates you in a job.
Try to be positive with your answers and avoid choosing "don't mind" too often.Make a note of any questions you think are important to you. This will help you identify what you want from a career.
The quiz then matches your skills and motivations to graduate-level occupations and helps you research jobs in more detail. Make sure to analyse the job suggestions. Which ones interest you and why? Are there any you wouldn't consider and why not?
Many jobs that are similar to each other are in clusters or "families" with lots of overlap. This can give you ideas that branch off from your interests into areas you may not have considered.
Job profile listings provide a great starting point such as:
Identifying areas that you definitely don't want to work in can help you narrow down the areas that you do.
Try doing a vacancy sift by finding job listings online. Now cross out everything you wouldn't consider quickly, with not much thought. Then take a look at what you have left. What sort of things do they have in common? What was it that appealed to you?
These days there are nearly as many job titles as there are jobs, so don't feel like you have to go for a specific job title. Doing so could exclude a wide range of jobs that all have the criteria for a job that you are after.
For example, an accountancy graduate could look at many roles in the finance sector. The role doesn't have to have "accountant" in the job title to be of relevance and interest.
Latest statistics show that most graduates change jobs within 3 years of graduation. Don't try and identify something you'll do until retirement. Try and find something that will hold your interest and allow you to build up experience for a couple of years.
You could also take a year out after you graduate to try volunteering options or research your path more clearly. Remember, you can always come and speak to our staff for a chat about your options.
Identifying your skills
Understanding the skills you have will help when you start looking at job roles. You can check if your skills match the job requirements and identify skills that you would like to develop.
We have a full guide on identifying your skills as you'll need to be able to outline and demonstrate your skills in applications and during an interview. You can also use our skills audit (PDF) to help you do this.
Thinking about the skills you have to offer involves looking at all aspects of your life, including:
- your academic studies (modules, projects, group working)
- your work history (work experience, work shadowing, paid and unpaid employment and voluntary work)
- your social life (membership of teams, societies or activities in your community)
Take a look at the example below:
Planning your actions
Once you have a rough idea of what you want to do, it helps to produce an action plan. This will bring together all the work you've done so far and give you a clear idea of what your next actions should be.
Include the steps you need to take to get to where you want to be in the future. Include a timeframe of when you want to achieve things by, as well dates to review your plan.
Ensure your plan is flexible so you have a contingency to fall back on. Try to think of your short, medium and long-term goals.
We recommend using the SMART method to set your goals.
Is your goal well-defined? Avoid setting yourself vague or unclear objectives. Instead try and be as precise as possible.
Incorrect: I want to do well in my exams.
Correct: I want to increase study time to 30 hours per week.
Be clear on how you can tell when you've achieved your goal. Use details like dates and times to represent clear objectives.
Incorrect: I want to get fit.
Correct: I want to swim twenty lengths, twice a week for the next 3 months.
Make your goals challenging but realistic. Setting yourself impossible goals will only end in disappointment.
Incorrect: I want to give up all junk food, never stay out past 11.00pm and complete 4 marathons in the next month.
Correct: I want to improve my fitness by making sure I go to the gym at least twice a week.
Make sure you re always keeping your goals relevant to where you want to end up.
Incorrect: I want to make sure I attend each of my team's home games this season.
Correct: I want to be fluent in Spanish within the next three years so I can work in Madrid.
Set yourself a timescale for completing each goal. Even if you need to change this as you progress, this will help you stay motivated.
Incorrect: I want to look into working abroad over summer.
Correct: I will complete my CV and identify at least 4 overseas working opportunities by the end of the Easter vacation.
Further Advice and Information
- Key Skills Audit (PDF)
- The 53 Student Employability profiles (PDF) produced by the Higher Education Academy with the Council for Industry and Higher Education help you identify the work-related skills you've developed through your studies
- Prospects have job profiles for many graduate roles in various sectors – find out what’s involved, entry requirements and where you can find jobs advertised
- The National Careers Service website has job role profiles for you to explore
- 1-to-1 support for your career plans is available from the University Careers and Employability Service to help you set targets and make a plan of action to achieve your goals
- Our Disability, Equality and Diversity Guide is for students who feel that their personal issues may affect or disadvantage their career planning or job selection process