Don’t know what you want to do? Top tips to get past it

Written by Callum McAvan, Student Communications and Marketing Assistant at the Careers Service

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.

For the first eighteen years of my life I was on a pretty set track. When I was in primary school, I knew I’d be going to a pretty decent high school, when I got to high school I worked hard to get to sixth form and then after that I knew exactly which University I wanted to go to and knew what I needed to do to get there.

But, when I hit third year, I found myself thinking “What now?”, because the comfort of knowing there was a defined next step was gone. So, whether you’re in third year now or you’re reading this earlier in your university journey, here are some top tips to figure out what it is you want to do:

Identify what you’re good at

When you’re faced with a wall of job adverts and career options, the easiest thing to do (speaking from experience) is to be paralysed by choice, and back out before you’ve even started. However, that’s not going to be the best tactic for finding a job, so here’s an alternative method:

Instead of looking for a job according to a sector, or a job title, make a list of what your strengths are and what you enjoy doing. Sure, knowing you love to play football doesn’t sound useful but it might tell you that you enjoy working in a team, so look for roles that depend on good communication skills and an ability to work closely with others.

Whether you write in your spare time, you’ve learned a bit of code or you make bracelets and sell them on Etsy; the things you enjoy can be full of useful transferrable skills! They’re the perfect starting point for your search.

Meet a Careers Consultant

“If I haven’t got a clue what I want to do, then how will a Careers Consultant have any idea?” That was my thought throughout the majority of third year. Don’t be like me, because actually the “I don’t have a clue” kind of conversations are when Careers Consultants come into their own.

It’s not true that you need an inkling of what you want to do, because they’re there to help you along the way to realise what kind of role suits you best. So book yourself an appointment and ask away, there’s no stupid questions!

Guidance appointments are free, and if you ask me, very worthwhile.

Consider alternative routes

Many people think that you need to get onto a graduate scheme, or get a steady graduate job to be a “success” after university (whatever that means), but life isn’t that simple, and there are some really fun alternative routes you should consider.

The first is Postgraduate study, which is great if you feel at home writing an essay. A Master’s can offer the chance to learn new skills and specialise. If that sounds like a good option to you, come visit the Postgraduate Study Fair on 19th November at Manchester Academy. You’ll be able to scout out your options, learn about funding and scholarships as well as grab yourself a bag full of freebies.

Alternatively, why not adventure a bit? That could mean a gap year but it could also mean working abroad. There are plenty of opportunities including teaching abroad, which can enhance your CV and also offer you a great experience and memories to last a lifetime.

Come to an insight event

The Careers Service organises hundreds of events throughout each academic year, ranging from single company presentations, to huge open evenings and even a session especially for students who don’t have any idea what they want to do after finishing their degree.

You can find out about our latest events by following us on Facebook and Twitter, as well as looking at the calendar on CareersLink.

Most importantly, remember not to get too stressed. No matter what route you take after your graduation, you’ll be just fine! Your first job isn’t your last job and you’re not locked into a career. You’ve got this.

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