Home » After your studies » Entering a career » Three ways to choose your career path

Three ways to choose your career path

Graduate Prospects runs UK graduate careers website prospects.ac.uk, where you will find graduate jobs, postgraduate courses, work experience and careers advice. Here, the experts share their top tips for planning your career.

Finding a job that's right for you is paramount you'll enjoy your work, stay motivated, and always strive to do your best. Choosing a career path that suits you in the first instance will also help avoid a potentially stressful vocation swap further down the line.

If you don't know where to begin, here are a few ways that will help you to consider your options:

1. Discover which jobs suit you

Think about your transferable skills and qualities. If you're empathetic and want to make a positive difference to people's lives, then social work may be your calling. Maybe organisational tasks and social occasions are where you shine? If so, event management might be the career for you.

A personal skills audit is a good way to bring your talents to the forefront. This is a personal evaluation exercise that simply involves writing down all of your skills. Your ideas will start to flow, and your options will start to take shape.

Another way of exploring your options is with Prospects' Career Planner, which generates personalised jobs, courses and careers advice (it is free to register).

2. Explore different industries

Whether it's a corporate company, working for a state-controlled body, or being your own boss, figuring out what kind of industry you'd like to be part of is an important factor.

  • Private sector: encompasses all for-profit businesses that are not retained or run by the government. The main types of organisation in the private sector are: sole traders; franchises; partnerships and companies.

  • Public sector: consists of national and local governments, their agencies, and their chartered bodies. Economic resources are owned and controlled by the state. The public sector has historically been recognised as offering extensive training, good equal opportunities policies and great benefits and pensions.

  • Charity sector: in the UK, this often referred to as the third sector, the not-for-profit sector or the voluntary and community sector (VCS). Its priority is to use funds raised to deliver the charity's aims, and you might work in a voluntary or paid role.

3. Identify employers

Another avenue to consider in your job hunt is what type of employer would suit your personality and work ethic best.

  • Self-employment: covers freelance work, setting up your own business and buying into an existing business. You'll need to be good at networking, making decisions and focused on achieving your business goals. Find out more about self-employment.

  • Small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are made up of fewer than 250 employees and are sometimes overlooked by job hunters as they don't typically have the influence of larger corporations with bigger budgets. With a proactive approach and a bit of research, however, you'll find great graduate opportunities within SMEs. Although starting salaries may be a little lower, there are more opportunities to carry out tasks beyond your remit, work on more varied tasks, and to work more closely with senior management. This might also mean you progress to a senior role more quickly.

  • Large companies have more than 250 employees, and tend to include many well-known graduate recruiters as well as national and global organisations. Better resources and generous budgets often mean higher salaries, support for professional qualifications and scope to move between country offices  but on the other hand, it's more common that employees work longer hours and have less flexibility.

Once you know what your criteria are what type of job you want, in what type of organisation – you can start looking for opportunities that match your ambitions! Read more advice for finding your dream job and writing a successful CV.