Career decisions: “I don’t know what to do after University, what do I do?”

This week’s theme for Careers Steps to Success is all about different techniques for effective career decision-making. The online presentation (see My Careers Centre: Techniques to Finding a Future Career) identifies five different approaches with useful tools to enhance the process:

5 approachesFirst and foremost, this is a decision that has to be made by you. You know yourself best and are most likely to adhere to your own choices. Secondly, we need to clear about what the question is and what it is asking in order to solve it.

A little bit about career decisions

A career decision is a commitment to do something, this could be the status quo or something different. It can be one big change or a series of smaller decisions. Try not to regard career decisions as life-long unless, you want them to be. This is because, we, as individuals, have changing preferences and needs coupled with living in a variable and dynamic world.

Careers Advice Online forecasts that the average worker will have between five to seven career changes in a lifetime and change jobs as frequently as every 12 months. The Financial Times produced an article informing readers to expect at least five career changes in a lifetime. Conversion Masters, in-house training and transition into other forms of employment will all contribute to these statistics.

“I don’t know what to do after University, what do I do?”

Providing an answer to the question “I don’t know what to do after university, what do I do?” is the holy grail of all Careers Advisers and most students that we meet.

First of all, don’t jump straight in, to answer the question directly ignores the premise of the question per se. Let’s break this question down:

(1) “I don’t know…”

When it comes to career I don’t know can mean something ranging between: I have absolutely no idea, right through to, I have a number of options and can’t decide, with, I have thought about profession X in the past somewhere in the middle. Where do you see yourself?

Being clear about this allows for more precise help around:

  • Career exploration from scratch
  • Understanding alternatives and suitability
  • Narrowing down your interests to the best choice

(2) “…what to do…”

Action CycleThis part is often a where do I start question. The most important thing is to take action. Action implies experience as a result so taking action. Action can be taken in the following ways:

What stage should you start at?

(3) “…after University (‘Graduation’),”

I have two perspectives on this. Firstly, post-graduate study will be a viable option for Graduates to continue developing by enhancing existing skills or learning another academic discipline.

Secondly, University is a place of growth and development, if you feel you require time for more development, give yourself more time! Treat your Graduation year as a growth year before making a bigger decision. You could try different jobs and/or trainee positions, volunteer, shadowing and internships to give you a taste of different types of occupations.

Thirdly, if you feel ready then start applying for roles.

What are your thoughts?

(4)  “…what do I do?”

Take action when you feel able to do. Thinking can quickly turn to worry or an impasse when new information and experiences are not added therefore it is critical to act. the commitments that you make should be proportionate to the stage you are at. For instance, if you are still exploring interests it would be disproportionate to invest large amounts of time and resources while you are still considering a number of other areas.

In summary, solving this question will require you to take action (i.e. what do I do?) and This will mean starting broad and becoming more focused as you narrow your options down. Consequently, be empowered by change and try not to place a life-sentence to any prospective career change. Plan for the short and medium term, and aspire over the long term. If you want to make a big decision have multiple steps and a back up plan. If you have lots of smaller decisions check regularly on the overall direction.

Lastly, reflect on your development periodically and talk through your ideas with a careers professional.

We’re still here to help!

As always, the Careers and Employability is here to help, even in these difficult times. You can access us, via emailtelephone or video call by emailing as well as My Careers Centre.

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