Most students I see are split broadly into two camps. Those who know exactly what they want to do following graduation and those who have no idea yet. There’s lots of advice available for both of those groups in terms of what they can do next to get where they’re going or figure out where they want to be. However, what if you’re one of those people who doesn’t fall into either category? It’s not that you’ve got one idea or no idea, you’ve got dozens! Teaching appeals but so does being a writer or maybe a journalist. However you also want to travel or do a Postgraduate course but want to be sure that whatever you do is of benefit to the community and involves using your foreign language skills. Throw in the fact that the science and philosophy modules your friends are doing sound fascinating and it all gets a bit overwhelming. What adds to your confusion is that every new option you come across is just as interesting as those already on your list and fills you with the same wave of enthusiasm. You probably have felt under pressure to make a decision and stick to it. You might consider yourself a commitment-phobe and worry that there doesn’t seem to be one thing you excel at. So, where do you start when you want to do everything?
The key is to manage and explore your options in a way that means you don’t get overwhelmed by the range of choice facing you. Easier said than done? Here’s some suggestions to help you out.
Identify what it is specifically that interests you in each of your options. If teaching is on your radar, is it working with children, the opportunity to use your subject knowledge or the working hours/pattern that attract you? Is Postgrad study an essential step to one of your chosen careers or do you want the opportunity to explore a subject (or more than one subject!) in greater detail? What would you hope to gain from going travelling? Each time you find yourself saying “I like that… that’s interesting… I’d love to do that…” imagine someone has asked you “Why?” and start to articulate the reasons. By identifying key elements you can begin to create a picture of what’s important to you in a job. Prioritise the elements you identify from what is absolutely non-negotiable to what you’d like to be included but isn’t essential. You might not have one neat job title to file it all under, but you will start to understand what a career must contain for you to be happy in it. Alternatively, use a tool such as Prospects Planner. While this tool will suggest some roles that might be interesting to you (more ideas to add to your list!) what you’ll find most useful is to focus on the elements that Prospects ask you to consider. Think carefully about things like the skills and experience you’d like to use and develop in the role . Also, what motivates you and maybe the environment and people you’d be exposed to. Don’t just rate the things you’re good at, as being good at something doesn’t automatically mean you want to make a job of it. Don’t limit yourself to the range on Prospects, if something is important to you, include that too.
Explore, explore, explore. Try work experience, work shadowing, volunteering, getting a mentor or any other opportunity to actually get a real taste of the role(s) you’re interested in. There’s no better way to find out if the job really is what you expect it to be. You also get the opportunity to consider the strength of your interest and ask yourself, even though you find this interesting, is it something you see yourself doing in the longer-term as a career? If you’re someone with a quite a few options to explore, you might want to start this sooner rather than later. Have a look at the Careers Service website to see how we can help you with this.
Consider if working is the only way for you to get involved with some of your options. If you just don’t have time or opportunity to undertake more than one of your career options (or work experience has made you realise that one or more of your interests isn’t something you actually want to do as a career but you still enjoy it ) could it be a hobby or something you do on a freelance basis? If writing is something you enjoy, writing blogs and freelance articles can be a way to get your creative fix and still fit it in around a career in a completely different field.
Still think of yourself as a jack-of-all-trades and worry you’ll never master one thing? Who says you have to? Margaret Lobenstine would describe you as a Renaissance Soul (doesn’t that sound better?) with the skills and abilities to do multiple things well. You can get a brief overview of her ideas HERE. You could also read Barbara Sher’s book “What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything” which can be found in the Careers Resource Centre. Sher identifies a range of ‘types’ of people with different approaches to managing their range of interests and options. Are you a Scanner (wide range of interests), a Plate-Spinner (doing a number of things at once) or a Serial Specialist (doing one thing well and then moving on when you’ve mastered it)? Rather than trying to find just one career to do, you might find it useful to identify your preferred style of indulging your interests and then use that style to help you decide what to do next (and maybe what else to do after that, or alongside it, or maybe at the weekends etc. etc.)
Problems only occur if you feel so overwhelmed by choice that you do nothing. If you’re out there exploring and getting experience but still feel under pressure to be making a choice by now, so long as you’re taking some kind of steps reassure yourself that it’s actually fine to be open to a whole range of options. Where’s the rule that says you can only have one career choice at a time? There isn’t one!
Two years after graduating with a degree in Politics from University of Salford I found myself still there, working in the library. I re-shelved books, got involved with projects and helped with student enquiries. Forced out in the big wide world when my project funding was cut I started temping as a Clerical Assistant in the HR Department of an engineering company. Demonstrating that I was enthusiastic and prepared to get stuck into anything thrown at me, saw a 12 week temp placement become a 2 year job full of opportunities. I learned employment law, how to recruit and even got involved in setting up a new business site in Dublin. Realising I wanted to develop my career in HR I found a role at University of Manchester initially as a Recruitment Assistant and then, in order to undertake a wider variety of tasks, as HR Assistant. I discovered a talent for training and jumped at the opportunity to undertake a placement in the Staff Training Unit to develop these skills. After 9 years in HR and training roles, the post of Careers Consultant seemed the perfect mix of using my HR/Recruitment experience and my interest in learning and development activities to support students as they find their own way into the world of work.