I’ve chosen my degree – how do I choose a career?

Some degrees lead straight into a career – think nursing and nurses or law and lawyers. But many don’t. So unless you’ve always known what you wanted to do for a living, how do you choose?

Today’s students are graduating into an employment market that’s complex and competitive. You need to be bold and take the initiative! Don’t wait until the last minute to think about what career you might like. Finding a job is a process and the earlier you start, the more likely you are to find a job that suits you.

Below are some ways to narrow down your field.

Why did you choose your degree?

First, think back and ask yourself why you chose the degree you did. Remembering what led to your choice of study may well suggest a career direction.

Hopefully, you chose to study a subject because you are good at it and enjoy it. Even if you find neither of these things to be true now that you’re actually at university, this too is useful information. Knowing what you don’t want is as useful as knowing what you do want!

What module did you love?

Now think about your degree course and ask yourself which modules you are good at and what you are enjoying the most. Can you match the skills you use in that module with a type of job?

For example, if you’re a marketing undergraduate or love the module on consumer psychology, what kinds of jobs are related to this field of study? If, as an engineering student, you particularly enjoy the business module, you could look for business roles in an engineering company.

You’re acquiring a huge amount of information and gaining many skills doing your course. If that course doesn’t lead you into an obvious career choice, find a way to frame things differently and use all the learning you’re acquiring in an area that interests you.

Try taking a personality test

A personality test won’t necessarily suggest a particular career, but it can be a very useful indicator of what kind of field might suit you. Broadly speaking, if you’re an extrovert, chances are you want a role that involves lots of interaction with others.

An introvert, on the other hand, might prefer to work alone, in which case a desk-based job might be more suitable.

You won’t be happy in a job that doesn’t suit your personality. If you’re a misfit in your role, you won’t stay in it for long.

Explore your key personality traits and use them to help you narrow down the field.

Clubs and activities are useful indicators, too

Being at university is a great way to find out about yourself, where your skills lie and what you enjoy. And everything you do counts as an important indicator of what career might suit you.

You might discover you’re great at managing projects and people while helping manage sports fixtures for your college team.

You might discover a passion for accounts by managing funds for your drama club, or for organising events as secretary of a social club.

Writing for the student magazine might turn up a talent for words, or deadlines, or organisation.

Try everything you can and pay attention to what gets you excited and where your skills lie. Don’t forget, too, that everything you do can be used on your CV!

How can I start exploring what jobs are available?

This is an important question and it’s never too early to start exploring your options, even if you’re months or even years away from being ready to apply.

The more you know about what’s available, the more you’ll be able to steer yourself in the right direction for you.

Here are three key ways to explore what kinds of jobs are available:

  • For jobs on the open market: Look at job boards, like CV-Library, and recruitment agencies.
  • For graduate schemes: These companies tend to come looking for graduates at graduate careers fairs and the ‘milk round’. Talk to your college or university careers service for information.
  • For specific companies: A third strategy is to identify companies you’d like to work for, then go on their website to see if they are hiring – or even approach them directly to ask questions and maybe even ‘sell’ yourself. Many companies are impressed when you show initiative. They might not employ you immediately but they’re likely to remember you when a position becomes available.

It’s never too early – or too late!

As we’ve seen, it’s never too early to start thinking about your career choice. However, it’s worth stating that it’s also never too late.

If you’re close to graduating, it can be easy to get panicked into grabbing the first thing that comes along. However, even doing this is not a disaster. It’s been many years and several generations since graduates entered a particular profession and stayed in it for all of their working life.

Today you can change career several times if you choose. Of course, the more experience you accrue in one area the further you’ll advance in that area. But you have time to try a few things before you settle – and even then, you can choose to change tack at any time.

Even the jobs you don’t love will give you useful experience and help you on the journey to discovering your true vocation!

And finally…

Choosing a career isn’t a one-off decision you have to make. It’s a journey. Your most valuable companion on this journey is your university careers service, so be sure to use it! This service is there to guide you and help you with every aspect of finding and securing a career, and you can access it at any time, whether you’re a fresher or just about to graduate.

This article was written by Lee Biggins, Founder and CEO of CV-Library. CV-Library is one of the UK’s largest online job sites and attracts over 4.3 million unique job seekers every month. Founded by Lee Biggins in 2000, CV-Library is one of the UK’s leading independent online job boards with a database of over 19 million CVs, around half the UK workforce.