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What Career? Making a Career Decision Making a Career Decision can seem daunting. You want to pick the ‘right’ career for you, however sometimes it is difficult to know what this is.

What are the options? The kind of career decision you make is likely to depend on your own circumstances but also on the kinds of work you are interested in. Some common pathways for graduates include: 

Graduate jobs – Graduate jobs require post holders to have a degree. Sometimes this degree needs to be in a specific subject, like science or engineering. However up to 75% of graduate jobs are open to graduates of any discipline. This gives you a lot of options!

Graduate Training Schemes – Graduate training schemes are offered by many large companies. They are typically open to graduates between 2 and 5 years after graduation. These training schemes tend to involve a structured training and experience programme which may involve moving around different departments in a company and can include periods of work in different parts of the country or in different countries.

Internships – Getting into a ‘graduate job’ can be very competitive. Only a minority of students enter graduate jobs straight after University. Many take an internship or another form of work experience before entering graduate work. Internships vary in duration, but are often between six months and one year long. They may be paid or unpaid.

Vocational pathways – some careers (including teaching, nursing and social work) require specific qualifications that you can take after your first degree.


Non-graduate jobs – many graduates find work that doesn’t require them to have a degree. However having a degree is often an advantage when it comes to applications. Although many graduates start in non-graduate jobs they may work their way up into graduate level employment.

What if I make the wrong decision? Traditionally we have thought about careers as a decision that happens once (when you leave education) and then you enter a full-time career that you will stay in for the rest of your life. However, the working world is actually very flexible and many graduates try out lots of different kinds of work before they settle into a specific career. This means it is often more important to try something out rather than be put off in case you make the ‘wrong’ decision – career decisions are rarely irreversible. If you are worried about making the wrong decision then consider temporary opportunities, internships and work experience as ways of starting out in a career but without having to take the step into full time permanent employment. These are some facts you may find useful: 

Work experience – having a degree is rarely enough when it comes to entering graduate level employment. Most employers look for employability skills (see a further sheet in this series) and evidence of work experience. This means that many graduates go through a process of gathering experience from voluntary work, temporary jobs or internships before ‘settling’ into a full-time permanent job or career.

Career Development – Many graduates change job frequently in the early days of their career. Instead of ‘working their way up’ within one company some graduates will change job in order to progress in their chosen career. As well as helping progression and promotion, changing job can also help gain experience in order to decide what kind of job to do in the long run.

The Labour Market - As technology develops and the needs of business change new kinds of jobs are being created the whole time. As your career develops you may find opportunities arising in surprising areas.

Alternative careers – Some graduates choose alternative options such as a ‘lifestyle career’ (where they choose a job based on criteria other than the job itself, for example that it enables them to live in a place they want to) or ‘portfolio careers’ (where they choose to take on two or more jobs or careers at once). Self-employment, voluntary work or working abroad are all also options that may appeal to different people.

Career Choice: Some practical Steps There are some practical steps you can take: 1. Gather together information about your qualifications, work experience, voluntary experience, and achievements so that it is all in the same place. Some people do this by putting together a basic skeleton CV covering all their main experiences. Having a ‘master’ CV like this can help to remind you of your key selling points. However do remember that you should target your CV for

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every job you apply for, and although a master CV may be useful for you, you should never send out a ‘general’ CV for a job – more information is available on our CV advice sheet. 2. The kind of work you enjoy will depend on your working values - so for example, if you are motivated by money then your choice may be different from someone who is motivated by wanting to help people. Try our ‘values’ exercise in the ‘Who am I?’ advice sheet for further information. 3. Take a look at the skills you enjoy using – if you enjoy writing for example you are likely to be happy in jobs which use this skill. Try our ‘skills’ exercise in the ‘Who am I?’ advice sheet for further information. 4. Try out a career matching computer programme to generate some initial career ideas – check out our ‘who am I?’ advice sheet for further information. 5. Check out how ready for work you are by auditing your employability skills and your graduate attributes. Look at our ‘Employability skills’ advice sheet for further information. 6. Start researching different kinds of careers – you can do this by looking up different careers on an online database. Further information is available in our ‘career research’ advice sheet. 7. Remember that getting some practical experience can help build skills and give you the opportunity to reflect on the kinds of work you like and don’t like. Try out some work experience or voluntary work to help you, further information is available in our ‘work experience’ advice sheet. 8. Draw up a plan of action to help you manage your career research and your work experience. Help with action planning is available in our ‘career planning’ advice sheet.

Using this sheet as part of your Personal Development Planning This sheet is the first in a suite of resources that can be used to help with Personal Development Planning (PDP). PDP is a structured process of reflection and personal development which any UHI student can engage in and is supported by a personalised online space. Check our website for more details: http://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/students/career-centre/while-youre-studying/pdp

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Career centre advice sheet - What Career?