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Career Path

What is it that makes a ‘career path’ different from merely a ‘job’? Well, a career path encompasses much of your professional future, with an end goal in sight. A simplified career path could look something like this

Assistant Store Manager --> Store Manager --> District Manager

It’s all about progressing within your chosen industry. Whereas, in just choosing a job, you may not be looking for something to move forwards in long term, but to tide you over. Given a career path is something you intend to follow for a long time, we need to look at how best to choose one, whether you need further qualifications to achieve your goal. It’s possible to change at a later date in life, of course, but if you can find a career path you’re interested in now, then you’re sorted for later on in life too!

Choosing a career path

Choosing a career path is like choosing a job, only with far more of an eye on the future. With that in mind, check out our advice on how to choose the best job for you.

When choosing a career path, you want to look at industries that will last. There are a couple of possible ways to look at this – you could do something that there will be a constant need for, such as financial services. Or perhaps you could do something that’s becoming the next big thing – like renewable energy for example. Areas such as education, retail or law are likely to always be necessary, so there’ll be plenty of room to advance within them.

That’s not to say that it’s not worth taking a risk – if you’re interested in technology, and certain you’ve spotted the next big thing, then as long as you’re confident it can be worth going for it. Maybe you’re interested in something like acting or writing. But in cases like this, having a back up career plan is probably worthwhile.

If you’re not entirely sure on what area of work you’d like to start in, it can be worth seeking out help from the careers advice available to postgraduate students. They’ll be able to answer all your questions, or point you towards people who can. It can also be worth doing work experience in the field, whether through volunteering or internship. After all, you want to make sure you like the area before you commit to it!

If you’re still struggling, here are three big questions to ask yourself:

What do I enjoy doing?

Now obviously, this has to be something relevant to a job role. But looking at the things that interest you can give you clues to what you might want to pursue. Maybe you like problem-solving, and mathematics. This opens up options like accountancy, but also less immediately obvious answers such as computing. Even those areas that you might think are obvious – say, education, have more than just one thing linked. If you’re interested in education, teaching isn’t the only option – you could consider museum and education work, working for exam boards, or private tuition.

Start general, do some research, and then focus on the specifics.

What skills do I have?

Another good place to start is to look at what you’re good at. If most of your skill set revolves around the sciences, you might want to look at starting roles such as lab technician. But if you’ve got a cross-section of skills – perhaps your strengths are science and writing, in which case, you could look into working in academic journals – then don’t forget to branch out and explore!

What would I like to be doing in 10 years’ time?

Of course, as important as liking what you’re doing now is, you also need to consider the future. Maybe writing is your favourite thing in the world, but after 10 years of reaching deadlines and hitting required word counts, will you love it just as much, or will you resent it? Maybe part of your goal involves moving countries? In that case, perhaps you’ll want to start on a career path that’d allow you to relocate and not lose any career advances you’ve made. If you’re still not entirely sure on this, it can be worth holding out until you are – it may well be easier to get a temporary job to give yourself a little longer to plan, than get five years into a career path and decide you’re in the wrong field entirely.

Once you’ve got answers to these questions, you should have narrowed down the field significantly. Take time to look at your possible options, and, if you’re still a bit stuck, take your list of options to your careers advisor – they should be able to help you narrow it down even further!