The first step towards making a sound career decision is to understand yourself and be clear about what motivates you, your values, interests, personality and skillsAwareness of these will help you clarify the key criteria that a future career path needs to fulfil.

career planning

You may be tempted to ‘fast forward’ to applying to jobs even if you are not too sure about what you want to do. Remember though that understanding what you can offer an employer and why you are interested in a particular type of career can help you make the most effective job applications.

You can also use the Careers Service's iPlan via Blackboard Learn to help you plan your overall personal development. This facility will enable you to assess yourself, plan your personal development, take action, keep a record of and review your progress during your course.

Where do you start with planning your career?

Your skills and interests

Students with pensYou may want to consider the following:

  1. Academic Experience – see the skills section of ‘Options with your subject’ on the Prospects website for ideas about the types of skills which you are developing. Think about the different activities on your course such as group projects and presentations – what have you gained from doing these?
  2. Work experience - may have helped you develop skills such as team working and project management.
  3. Extra Curricular activities – active membership of a student society, team sports, voluntary work and other interests are a good source of skill development.

Career Planner (from Graduate Prospects) - is an interactive career planning tool and it can help you to prioritise skills which you would like to use in a job and suggest careers for further exploration

You can continue to develop skills all the time - think about getting some work experience or volunteering. Also consider getting involved with student societies.

Think about your interests

'I want something interesting' is often the driving force behind career choices but what does interesting mean to you? It can be helpful to think about what you most enjoy and also what you don’t like about your current course, previous work experience and hobbies and interests. Make a note of any activities you most enjoy and why you like them. Things to think about include:

  • Are there aspects of your current course which you really enjoy and would like to pursue further?
  • When you read about or hear people describing what they do in their career, which aspects attract you?  Are there elements which you are not keen on? Just looking through the vacancies on JobsLive and noting your reaction to the jobs on offer can be a good, quick starting point to identifying what interests you.
  • Are you involved in any hobbies or interests that you would like to develop?

Your values, motivations and personality

Identifying your values in relation to careers can often make an impact on the direction you want to take after graduation. Values can be defined as what motivates you to do well and what you consider to be important to you in life. They give a sense of purpose to the work which you are doing.

Values can include security (stability, secure employment), material benefits (financial rewards), and altruism (working for the benefit of others).

Some careers might be identified by a particular set of values, for example, an alternative technology specialist working in a developing country might consider that altruism, collaboration (working with others) and risk-taking were among the key values.

Working in different employment settings could mean that  individuals fulfil a variety of values, e.g. a systems developer could work for a large multi-national financial company (material reward, and prestige) or a charitable organisation (altruism) or become an independent consultant (risk-taking).

Career Planner (from Graduate Prospects), is interactive careers guidance, and has a section on career motivations. The program can help you to prioritise those which you would like to use in a job and suggest careers for further exploration.

Some other considerations

There may also be some more practical factors which could motivate you to take a particular job. These could be geographical in terms of the need to be close to family or to find a job in a location which is compatible with a partner’s employment. You may have particular views about work-life balance and want to ensure that you have time to continue to devote to interests outside of work.

Your personality

Understanding your personality can help you think about how you prefer to approach problems, plan your time and relate to people. You can also learn about your preferred working environment and the types of work that might be most rewarding.

The Careers Service offers the opportunity to complete a personality questionnaire, the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator which can give you some insight into your personality.