How to choose my career


Well if this isn’t one of the most important questions you’ll ever face in your life, we don’t know what is. 

How to choose my career

Well if this isn’t one of the most important questions you’ll ever face in your life, we don’t know what is.

You’ve faced big questions before now; what university to attend; what course to do; to party or to study on a Friday night.

But they were all leading up to this moment.

What is your future going to look like? Where will you work? What role will you do?

Of course, you may be someone who has had a calling, a burning desire from a very young age. You may have been addicted to Lego throughout your life and realised that engineering is the way to go. You may have been a talented artist and always known that you’ll work in the arts. Or you may be a rare case, handpicked for a career in Sports.

Perhaps influence from parents has made it highly likely you’ll follow down the family career path, or that a television programme or personal experience has made you passionate about a profession.

But, for most students and recent graduates, certainly from our experience of speaking with them, this question often remains a big one up until graduation and beyond.

After all, there is so much at stake. Applying for roles that aren’t right for you could result in rejection and a knock to your confidence (see our guides on how to overcome this here). Spending too long deciding could see you miss out to other candidates. And landing in the wrong job could see you unhappy and looking to leave after a short time – research shows that this happens probably more than you think.

So, we’re all agreed that this is a big question. And it needs the right attention. So here’s where to start.

Understanding your own skills and strengths

A process that not everyone enjoys; looking at yourself. Needing to be objective and honest about one’s own abilities is tough, but if you want to find the right career, you need to do it. And the best place to start is a big piece of paper.

  • Start with the easy ones; your academic strengths and knowledge. E.g. strong in maths, strong in statistics, good writer, multilingual, scientific/analytical, a whizz with computers, artistic and so on
  • Then move on to your personal qualities (and be honest, not focused on what you think an employer wants to hear). Are you proactive and self motivated or are you happier being given tasks? Are you highly organised? Do you perform or fold under pressure and targets? Are you a natural leader or more of a team player and co-ordinator? Are you more of a competent deliverer and project manager or more of an ideas generator? How do you cope with change and pace? Are you comfortable speaking in public? Are you great at dealing with lots of information, researching and analysing? Are you a natural negotiator and influencer? Do you think creatively? Anything you decide that you are, note examples of when you’ve demonstrated this.

Many of the skills that you identify will be highly transferable between roles and industries.

Identifying what drives and interests you

You may be thinking ‘but I don’t know what interests me, that’s the whole point’!

But let’s take a step back. Instead of focusing on the actual job or industry, start thinking about the type of environment and activities that appeal to and even inspire you.

For example;

  • Environment. Do you relish the idea of putting on a smart suit and heading to a large bustling office every day? Or, do you like the idea of a small, casual office space. Or, the great outdoors. Perhaps you don’t want to be tied down at all and love the idea of travelling and working autonomously.
  • Reward. Is your idea of a rewarding job a great salary? Impressive benefits like company car? Or some other specific benefit or outcome?
  • Organisational type. Are you desperate to be in a corporate environment, where competition and pressure enable you to shine and progress up a clear career ladder, based on performance and effort? Or does a collaborative, team working type environment with a clear structure and grades suit you better? Perhaps the shackles of any kind of formal structure feel you with dread and you want to be in a smaller company that’s going places where you can make your mark without bureaucracy?
  • Activity. Are you happy to be based at a desk? Do you want to visit clients and do presentations and entertaining? Do you want to enjoy brainstorming as part of a creative team?
  • Personal fulfilment. Does this come from financial compensation? From knowing you are doing good in society? From working for a company with good ethics? From being able to solve problems or invent something new?

Knowing what’s out there

Law. Medicine. Accountancy. Engineering. Banking.

Those are the main jobs out there for graduates, right? WRONG! There are so many different roles for graduates, many of which you will never have come across or heard of. Even within the well known professions there are lesser known specialisms.

And the thing is, they want to find you, as much as you want to find them. But how do you find what’s out there?

  • Make a start with our mini-guides. These give an insight into some industries, but keep checking back because we are updating them all the time
  • Use your University’s career service for advice
  • Look at sector industry bodies for inspiration and links
  • Attend Careers Fairs
  • Use your networks and ask people questions about their jobs
  • Look at job boards like mybrink

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, then establish what skills and qualities are required for that career, and make a list (yes, another one).

And finally, bringing it all together

The last piece of the career puzzle is to put it all together. Somewhere along the line, something will fit. Your skills will overlap with something you’d love to do.

Sometimes, this exercise can be very challenging. Our expert career coach Dave Cordle works with many young people and offers one to one sessions which can be invaluable in helping guide you towards a career if you’re really stuck.

Dave says “Knowing and keeping a track of your transferrable skills and qualities (and being able to talk about them), alongside being able to profile an ideal role, are the foundations of managing your career. This process will help you get jobs that you love with the right rewards that motivate you’’.

Keep an eye out for mybrink career workshops and webinars online and at Universities and Careers Fairs around the country.

We understand how crucial and how difficult this process is, but we’re here to help.

From the mybrink team, good luck!