How to Choose a Graduate Job
If you’ve graduated or are about to graduate, you might be wondering what to do next. With so many possible options out there, what if you’re not sure which graduate job is the one for you?
The first thing to say is don’t panic! The graduate jobs market can be competitive, but there’s no need to put yourself under pressure to simply accept the first position that comes your way.
Read on for advice on what you should think about whilst deciding on a career path, and how to match your degree with your career.
Think about who you are and what you want
The first thing you need to do to get started in choosing a graduate job is to build your self-awareness – a ‘soft skill’ which will in turn be very attractive to employers. Although this may sound a bit daunting, you simply need to reflect on past experiences, which should help you to identify what you’re likely to enjoy in the future. Have a think about the following questions:
- Were there any modules during your degree that you not only did well in, but also found particularly interesting or enjoyable?
- How about any internships or work experience you’ve undertaken, perhaps as part of your degree? Did anything stand out from these experiences, either as something you’d either love to do for a living, or prefer to avoid?
- Have any societies or sports at university not just become a hobby but a huge part of your life?
You may find that simply thinking seriously about what you love doing and what strengths you have to offer immediately leads to ideas for perfect graduate jobs. Factors that go into choosing a graduate career include your personality, skills, interests, values, motivations and of course qualifications.
You’ll also need to consider the practical aspects of the job – some of which will become obvious during the search process – like how far you’re willing to commute, and how much you want to earn (you can get an idea of the typical salaries for different degree subjects here). It’s also worth considering what you’d like your work/life balance to be like, whether you want a corporate or more relaxed company culture, how much training will be available, and anything else you want to get from the role.
“Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
This job interview question can strike fear into the hearts of many graduates, and while none of us has a crystal ball, it’s important to show your potential employer you’ve thought about your career progression. Employers are looking for graduates who show ambition, a genuine passion for their chosen area, and a desire to keep developing and improving. Whilst looking for graduate jobs, you should research possible career progression paths, and consider asking about opportunities for development at interviews. Your goals are likely to change over the years, but overall it's helpful to have some kind of end objective in mind, which will help keep you motivated if you hit a dull or rough patch on your way up the career ladder.
Talk to others
If you haven’t left university yet, now is the time to use the careers service if you haven’t already! They can help advise you on what careers, graduate schemes and other options are open to you, and give you a different outlook on these possibilities and what steps you need to take. If you’ve already graduated, don’t worry – there are many websites dedicated to advising jobseekers. Some helpful sites include our own careers advice section and the University of Kent’s Careers and Employability Service. The Prospects website also has a career planning quiz, which matches your personality and skills to job profiles.
You could also talk to your personal tutor or other tutors at university, as well as friends and family – who may know you better than you know yourself – who could all suggest jobs that suit your skills and interests. Consider talking to graduates who are already working in your preferred area, and ask them for suggestions as well.
And of course if you can, gain work experience before you graduate. This does more than just impress future employers; it’s also an invaluable way to find out whether a role or sector is really for you, and what kind of jobs are available.
Think about where your degree can take you
Another important step in choosing a graduate job is seeing what opportunities are open to you, and whether your qualifications are a good match for the career/s you have in mind.
If you’re not sure what sort of roles your degree is suited for, our ‘What Can You Do With…’ series can help, covering subjects such as art, geography and physics. Remember that many employers will accept graduates from any subject, so your options are by no means limited to the graduate jobs detailed in these articles! Although you should narrow down what you’re interested in, try to also be flexible, as your skills can suit a range of industries, not just the ones that naturally attract graduates from your degree.
However, it’s also important to be realistic – some of the most enjoyable, interesting and rewarding graduate jobs are also likely to be the most competitive, and it’s not always easy to get a graduate job straight after university. Many students decide to undertake postgraduate study to develop their current skills and knowledge and stand out to employers, while you could also take a conversion course if you’ve decided to transition into a different field.
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This article was originally published in September 2018 . It was last updated in May 2023