Career pathways

Deciding on your future career can often feel like an overwhelming task. However don’t worry! It's totally normal to feel unsure of what job you might like to do and be confused by the massive range of choices and opportunities available


Even if you already have a specific job idea in mind, you may feel less clear about the path to get there. Whatever your situation, the steps below can help you clarify your thinking and plan for the future

  • Ask yourself some questions

    Whether you are clear about what you want to do or are just exploring options, it’s helpful to ask yourself questions to better understand who you are, where you are right now and what is important to you in a job. This self-reflection process will help you take stock of your interests, strengths, skills and motivations. Try the following questions:

    • What am I passionate about? What subjects do I enjoy/dislike? Are there any specific topics within a subject I especially enjoy studying? What are my interests in my spare time?
    • What am I good at doing? Which subjects am I strong in? How do I learn best?
    • What skills do I already have? Try to list your skills and then think about which ones you most enjoy using.
    • What do I want from my career? What is important to me? (e.g. money, challenge, fulfilment, security, job satisfaction, success, travel, status etc.)
    • What sort of work environment would suit me? (e.g. indoors/outdoors, office/active, team or independent work)

    You can also try the Buzz Quiz, which is a short online quiz that identifies your personality type and what job areas suit people with your traits.

  • Explore career possibilities

    Given that most people spend a large part of their lives at work, spending time researching job sectors and roles to help you make a career decision you’re happy with is time well spent. A good place to start is online. Many excellent websites provide up-to-date and impartial information and advice and the following free to access websites are recommended in particular:

    All of these sites include useful profiles which describe the key elements of a job (such as responsibilities, qualifications and skills needed, pay and career prospects). They also have information on which jobs relate to a particular subject, which can be a helpful starting point if there is a subject you are passionate about. If you are struggling for ideas, the sites contain different tools which suggest job ideas or job sectors which might suit you based on your skills, interests, motivations and personality.

    Other suggestions to help your career exploration include doing work experience, work shadowing and volunteering. These can help you ‘test the water’ and give valuable insight into a job or industry you might be considering to see if it’s right for you before making any commitment. You will also gain practical skills in a working environment and it could lead to paid work or making connections who can help you in the future. If you don’t enjoy the experience, then this is still valuable learning and can help you understand more clearly what you actually do want to do.

    Take any opportunities you have to ask people about their jobs (for example through attending any careers events or employer visits your school/college arranges). This can give fresh ideas and inspiration for your own career plans. It can also be helpful to discuss your thoughts and ideas with family and friends, school/college staff and a trained careers adviser.

  • Start to make a decision (and a plan)

    After doing your initial research, compile a shortlist of those jobs that most interest you. Use your answers to the earlier questions to help you assess how well you match up with these jobs. Do you have the right skills, qualities and interests for the role? Do you have or expect to get the right qualifications? Does it correspond with what you want in terms of pay, working conditions, training and career development?

    Take plenty of time to make a decision, rather than rushing the process or making a snap choice based on a particular piece of information you read or hear. Writing down your key points and preferences can help you make sense of them all. Read and reflect back on all the information gathered about your ideas over a period of time. If after this stage you are able to make a decision you feel comfortable with, it is beneficial to write yourself an action plan. This will set out your short and long-term goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them. You will need to review this plan regularly, adding new information and changing it if needs be. Staff from your school/college (such as a careers adviser) should be able to support you with this.

    Lastly, it is really important to understand that your job ideas are likely to change and develop over time as you have new experiences, learn new things and meet new people. As such, it is important to take a flexible approach in your career planning as your decision making evolves.


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