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How to choose a career path

Did you know that the average person tends to change careers 5–7 times during their working life?

This means that your first job is unlikely to be your last and the decision you make now, isn't set in stone.

But your first job is important, it can set you up with the skills to progress and thrive.

So how do you decide what you want to do?

With so many different types of jobs out there, if you're a soon-to-be or recent graduate, it’s normal to be confused about what’s next.

Check out our three top tips for choosing a career path and join our Careers Lounge for more helpful advice!

1. Industry isn't everything

Lots of people start their job hunt by thinking about the industries they might be interested in, but most of us don’t know much about all of the different sectors out there, so it's difficult to make an informed choice. 

For example, most people don’t know much about shipping, insurance, telecoms, retail operations, packaging, food and drink manufacturing etc. (The list goes on!)

Not knowing much about a sector doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work in that industry, you might find it really interesting.

Instead, start by thinking about the type of work and work environment that would suit you. This is much more likely to define what your day-to-day experience is actually like.

Plus, once you work out what type of environment you want to work in, it's far easier to narrow down the type of industries that offer this.

2. Your work environment should work for you

Things to consider when thinking about the type of work and work environment that would suit you include how fast-paced, social and high-pressure you'd like the work to be.

Some questions to ask yourself might be:

  • Do you like the idea of fast-paced or slower longer-term projects?

  • Are you someone who prefers to work in a team or by yourself?

  • Are flexible hours a priority for you or are you happy with something quite structured or which involves lots of meetings?

  • Do you work well under pressure and enjoy the adrenaline of tight timelines, or is this your worst nightmare?

A lot of the things that will define the work environment you enjoy, will correlate with the things you currently enjoy. For example:

  • If you’re sociable and like doing things with groups of people, working in a team might be for you. 

  • Do you work well under pressure and get bored easily? A fast-paced environment could be a good fit.

  • If you prefer flexibility and solo work, a job with longer timelines and individual targets might be better for you.

3. Identify job titles

Once you have answered the questions above, you should take time to speak to friends and family, ask them what they do and what the job involves day to day.

It's also worth making use of your university career’s service. You can do this even if you have already graduated.

Once you have an idea of the type of work environment you think you would enjoy, you can use resources around you to help you find job titles that would fit.

Look at the key words in job descriptions. For example, if the description includes things like "team player" or "fast-paced", that's a good indication of the type of work environment.

Lots of different industries might have similar job titles, so you can apply to a range of sectors and then work out which you’re most interested in when you’re doing your research to apply.

Make sure to check out our free Careers Lounge for more tips like this as well as free CV and Cover Letter resources.

Best of luck from the Lounge team!


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