If you don’t already have long-term career plans it can sometimes be hard to figure out what you should do straight after university. But if that’s you, don’t worry.
Many graduates take time to find their career path, and sometimes it’s hard to work out what kind of job or career is right for you until you try different things (ie through work experience). Sometimes it helps to separate the short-term and the longer-term plans; you don’t need to let uncertainty about what career you ultimately want to pursue prevent you from taking action now.
The most popular ‘next steps’ for new graduates are:
- Get (more) work experience
- Look for a graduate job
- Go on to further study, eg a Masters course
- Take time out
Which path or combination of paths you choose will obviously depend on many factors, such as how much work experience you have already, whether you have clear longer term career plans and whether you feel you need a break before jumping into the job market. Let’s examine the options in turn.
Good reasons to get (more) work experience when you graduate
Make yourself more employable.
Most graduate recruiters now expect you to have at least some work experience. Even if the experience isn’t specifically relevant to the job you are applying for, it will probably have helped you to develop some of the ‘transferable skills’ employers look for, such as communication, teamwork and organisation skills.
For the most competitive career areas (for example, the media or law) relevant work experience in that field is essential in most cases.
If you don’t know whether you have enough work experience to start applying for graduate jobs, have a look at some advertisements for graduate jobs you are be interested in and see what kind and level of experience they are asking for. If you’re still not sure, consider booking an appointment to have a chat with one of our careers consultants.
You’re not sure what you want to do for a career.
If you have a few career ideas but are not really sure whether they’re right for you, a graduate internship or other work experience can help you test out different options. You can read about different career options on the internet or go to careers talks, but until you actually get out and try a particular type of work for yourself, you won’t know how well it will suit you.
Looking for a graduate job
If you already know what type of work you’re interested in and you feel you have the kind of skills, qualifications and experience relevant graduate employers are looking for, you might be in a position to start applying for graduate jobs straight away. See the graduate jobs and schemes section for information about what sorts of graduate jobs are available and when to apply.
As well as the specific job role, think about what type of organisation you want to work for – for example, the culture of a small business can be very different from that of a large organisation.
- You might be considering doing further study (for example a Masters) after graduation. Typical reasons for choosing this option include:
- You enjoyed your degree and you want to pursue the subject further
- Your chosen area of work requires an additional qualification – this may be a natural progression from your first degree or a new field
- You are considering an academic career
- You don’t ready for the transition from being a student to the world of work
- You think that a postgraduate degree will compensate for disappointing A level results or a 2:2 degree classification
- You believe that, in a competitive graduate job market, a postgraduate qualification will automatically make you more employable than someone with ‘just’ an undergraduate degree.
Some of the reasons for doing further study are arguably sounder than others. Unfortunately, most companies that require a specific number of UCAS points or a 2:1 or above in an undergraduate degree will still demand those, even if you have since obtained a higher-level qualification.
While a postgraduate qualification is essential for some areas of work, for others spending time getting more work experience may be more valuable. In terms of employability, many graduate employers do value additional qualifications, but the onus will be on you to explain why you chose to do further study and what you have gained from it that sets you apart from other people in terms of your suitability for a particular job.
Taking time out
If you didn’t take a gap year before university or you just feel like you need a break to recover or take stock before embarking on a career path, taking time out (often with some travel) is a popular choice. You’ll find more information about things to consider if you’re thinking about this option, such as factoring in timescales for applications and interviews.