I'm just starting to think about my career

For most people a career is not for life, so start by focussing on your first (or next step) and do something positive to advance your knowledge and your CV.

Below are three crucial steps to reflect upon. Start by grabbing a pen and paper and note down your thoughts. You will begin to paint a clear picture of who you are, focussing on your strengths, skills and values – as well as anything that might be holding you back.

You can also use the resources on the I dont know what I want to do page to help you kickstart your thinking.

Step 1 : Think about what you enjoy and are good at

Consider: What do you like about your degree subject?

  • For example: research, lab work, being creative, team projects, etc.
  • See Prospects website - What can I do with my degree for an overview of skills used in your degree, as well as some related career ideas.
    But remember that most graduate jobs do not ask for a particular degree discipline, so use this as inspiration rather than a definitive list.

What do you enjoy about your current / previous part-time job or work experience ?

  • For example, customer contact, solving problems, working autonomously.

What are your hobbies?

  • What does that say about what you enjoy doing? (E.g. helping others, co-ordinating people, team vs. individual games).

Is there anything that you are good at but perhaps don’t enjoy as much?

  • There may be things that you know you are good at and could bring to a role, even if it’s not something you love. It could be analysing, report wring, presenting. It may be that you feel happy for this to make up a small part of your role.

Step 2 : What’s important to you – and what are your values?

Looking at the list below, see if you can pick out any that stand out or resonate with you? Try to rank these in order of most to least important.

  • Status and recognition – the role I do, the employer I work for.
  • Work environment – I prefer to work in an office/outdoors/lab/etc.
  • Challenge - I welcome feeling challenged in what I do.
  • Reward – how important is a high salary (or good job benefits) to me?
  • Personal development – there are good opportunities for training, career progression.
  • Variety – experiencing a diverse range of tasks, frequent change.
  • Values, meaning and fulfilment– working in a role which is in keeping with my personal values (for example, environmental, helping others, gender equality, integrity, serving the community, influence, fair trade, human rights, wellbeing etc.)
  • Independence and autonomy.
  • Job security – the role should be secure with as little uncertainty as possible.
  • Location – I wish to work in a specific location/area, or I would like travel opportunities.
  • Work/life balance – it is important for me to have time outside work for other activities.

Is there anything else you would want to add to the list? Where would it rank?

Step 3 : Red Flags

You should have now built up a fairly detailed picture of yourself. The final step is an important one – and that’s to think about what you don’t like, or what might be holding you back.

Can you think of any jobs that perhaps have come on your radar in the past, but that you have dismissed?

  • What, if anything, is stopping you from aiming for these roles?
  • Is there something about your idea of the job or the culture of the workplace that puts you off?
  • Are there skills or qualities needed that you don’t think you have yet?
  • Is there a financial or practical reason?

You might want to talk these, (or any other barriers) through with a Careers consultant, to discuss strategies around navigating your own red flags.

Next steps

Once you have a detailed picture of yours skills, interests, values and drivers you can start to apply these to career ideas. Are there roles that you are already considering or have considered in the past? Revisit these now with your new list of criteria; how do they align? Alternatively, move on to the I'm ready to explore my ideas further section for help with finding inspiration or refining your ideas.