What do you want to do after uni?

By Ali
Category: Career | Date: Fri 26 Sep, 2008

If you’re a first year undergrad, you probably don’t need to worry about your career yet. Feel free to skip this article and put that student loan to good use instead…

Life after uni

I’m about to tell you something nasty. It might come as a shock. It might make you flinch. And in today’s litigious culture, I should make it clear that I’m not taking responsibility for any emotional distress incurred. So here goes:

One day, you’re going to have to leave university.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to postpone that fateful day awhile – maybe by doing an MA and a PhD, and drawing both out as long as possible. But eventually, you’ll need some form of income other than a student loan/grant.

So, it’s a good idea to give some thought to your career now. Too many people (myself included) leave university and panic their way into the first job they find. This isn’t a recipe for having a happy and fulfilling work life.

What do YOU want to do?

You probably have some ideas of the type of career you’d like. Maybe when you were a kid you wanted to be an astronaut (I did) … perhaps you’re still keen on having a job in the science industry.

Don’t be limited by what seems “sensible” or “realistic”. People can and do make a living by doing what they love: you do NOT have to go into investment banking, corporate recruitment, accountancy, consulting or any other “milkround” career. If you want to, fair enough – but don’t feel pushed towards a particular path just because you (or your parents, friends and lecturers) think you “should” do it.

Here’s a quote that really stuck with me from a book Don’t Ask Stupid Questions: There Are No Stupid Questions by the brilliant life coach Tim Brownson.

People make money doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things, things that they genuinely love. People actually get paid to go shopping, eat food, tell jokes, play with toys, design things, play sports, pretend they are other people, write stuff, daydream, drive cars, care for animals, fly planes, talk, coach people and more or less anything else you can imagine.

Spend some time now thinking about what you want to do with your life. You hopefully have a huge number of opportunities open at the moment – but, believe me, it gets a lot harder to chase after your dreams once you’ve got a full-time job and rent to pay on a non-student place.

Still stuck? Try reading some of these…

When I was a third year undergrad, I decided to focus on finals and left worrying about my future career until after the exams. During the somewhat panicked job hunting stage, I found lots of useful books, websites and sources of advice:

Your Uni Careers Service

I wish I’d made more use of this in my first and second year, rather than just sidling around job fairs to pick up free mugs, pens and sweets … All universities have a careers service, where you can get a huge amount of free advice and information. Set aside an hour at some point this week to go and check out what’s on offer at yours.

What Colour Is Your Parachute? (Book)

This is a classic job hunting manual, but also hugely useful for thinking about what sort of career might suit you. Your Careers Service will almost certainly have a few copies, though they might be a year or two out of date. I think there might be a new edition out at the end of this month (the 2008 one was released on Oct 31st 2007), so hang on till then to buy it…

Ten Reasons You Should Never Get a Job (Blog article)

I read this piece about a month into my full-time tech support job (which lasted nearly two years). It haunted me the whole time. If you’re at university, read Ten Reasons You Should Never Get a Job. If it seems like nonsense to you, no worries, but if it strikes a chord, give it some thought. It’s by Steve Pavlina, who is an extremely popular self-help/personal development writer – I recommend checking out some of his other articles while you’re on his site.

Graduate Careers section from The Guardian (Newspaper articles)

There’s some good stuff here on The Guardian’s website, with regular news and a lot of case studies of students who’ve just graduated looking to get into a particular career. You might need to dig around a bit to find information which is relevant to you.

Have you started thinking about life-after-Uni yet? What are your plans, if any? What would your dream job be?


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