After graduation you may feel torn between career paths or even frustrated that you’ve got a seemingly limited number of options of jobs because of what you’ve studied.
It can feel like being in a bubble: you’ve spent three or four years learning something which perhaps you wanted to pursue professionally, but what if you’ve changed your mind or decide on something else mind later on? Every career fair you go to constantly pushes options A and B – what else is there? How do you even begin to look for other options? Or you’ve found an alternative that you like but it seems inaccessible because you’ve studied, say, History and not Engineering, or Maths instead of English? Does this mean you need to go back to square one?
Well, you’re not alone and it’s important to remember that you likely have more options than you think. Contrary to popular peer belief, there is no rush to make the perfect decision right away and it’s a good time to look at a few options to pick up experience. Here are a few things to remember for starting out after graduating.
So, what do you want?
When it comes to deciding on the area to go into, it’s useful to take a step back from the immediately ‘next step’ careers from the course you have been studying. You may have picked a degree because it seemed like a sensible option and not because you live and breathe Law, Computer Science or whatever else. Equally, you may be talented in areas that your degree does not specifically focus on, so make sure to take that into account – what if you’re studying History out of passion but you’re also really good with numbers and want to use that in your job too? Or you are a mathematician with exceptional creative writing skills and alongside your degree you’ve been working on your own blog? In many cases, it’s not necessarily your course that limits you but the fact that you start to define yourself and your abilities exclusively through that lens.
A step towards broadening your horizons is to consider the things you’re genuinely passionate about and you may find that you have picked up the competencies along the way to get there. No matter what you’re studying, you have one hundred percent acquired a set of transferable skills. If you can pair that with the things that genuinely excite you, it will be easier to look for options.
Skills outside of the degree course
You’re not limited when it comes to transferable skills. Many graduate employers will also recognise skills outside of your main degree discipline and the work that you have put in to get there including independence and maturity.
Once you’ve done your research on the area that you’re looking to go into or the specific role that you’re applying to, take some time to think about the skillset that your degree has helped you to develop. It can be research, creative problem solving, teamwork, data analysis or a range of other things.
During you studies and across degree disciplines you’ll have learnt a good level of written communication skills. This can be an essay, research paper or lab report – all of which you will have done to a large quantity by the time you’re leaving university and show that you can clearly articulate your ideas and write for a targeted audience. And not to forget time management, planning, working independently (or part of a team) and critical analysis.
You’ll likely have picked up a level of verbal communication through things such as seminar presentations and presenting opinions or research in a visual way may have also been involved with the university work. Outside of this, consider that you may have also been involved in a sport team, society, academic group or part of a group task for your course which demonstrate teamwork, communication and dedication.
By taking a step back, then you’ll find there will be many of things to highlight to the hiring manager.
Types of company to consider
So, another step you can take is to think about what companies you’d like to work for. There is more information available than ever before on businesses so you should be able to do thorough research and find out pretty much everything you want.
As general pointers, these are the considerations for building up experience within different types of companies:
Start-ups: Newly established businesses can be good for the undecided because you’ll usually be chucked into the deep end and get to do a bit of everything until you figure out your strengths. But aside from the glamour of this space, there is a lot of hard graft involved in getting a business off the ground and you’ll be pitching in wherever.
Corporates: These are well-known for the structured training they provide and there might be opportunities to move internally into different teams.
Graduate programmes: Schemes often follow a rotational structure which, again, will enable to try a range of things.
Experience and advice
If you’ve studied something quite technical and looking to go into that, it’s worth trying to get a bit of work experience in the field just to see how you really feel about it because you can’t say for certain that you don’t like it if you’ve haven’t tried it. If it’s not possible to get an internship or a placement, speak to someone who has done it. It won’t be the same as first-hand experience, but it’s sensible to get some insights before set out to find alternatives.
It might be that you’re a big fan of a company but it looks like they only hire…developers, for example – what you can do in that instance is to find someone who works there (LinkedIn is your friend here) and ask them for their input, how could your skillset fit in there? What opportunities are there?
The options are there and it helps to structure your approach towards uncovering them. Be aware of what your peers are doing but don’t feel pressured to follow in their footsteps. Make mindful choices and spend time figuring out what is the most important to you on both a personal and professional level. Most importantly, it’s okay to ask for help and for someone else’s viewpoint, where it’s a recruiter, career counsellor, a parent or a friend – you’re not meant to figure it all out on your own!