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Life After University: 4 Steps to Prepare for Your Future Career

As you prepare for your transition into Higher Education, it’s important that you take a moment to also look beyond your studies and consider what you might want to achieve in your future career. To help make sense of how to prepare for a world beyond education, we’ve reached out to our friends at InvestIN, who are experts in helping students achieve success in their dream careers. InvestIN run immersive career experience programmes for students in 18 careers, which are delivered by top industry professionals, to help students maximise their career potential.

Included in this article:

  1. Pursue Your Passions

  2. Reflect on Your Skills

  3. Expand Your Experiences

  4. Grow Your Network



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Step 1: Pursue Your Passions

When considering life after university, often the variety of opportunities and career paths to decide between can feel overwhelming, and sometimes it’s difficult to even know where to start. If you are planning on studying a vocational course at university that relates to a specific field of work, such as medicine or law, you are likely to already be familiar with what that future career pathway might entail. However, for those opting to study non-vocational courses that don’t relate to a specific profession, such as History or English Literature, the wide range of career possibilities available to you can feel daunting to navigate!

To help you get some sense of direction, begin by reflecting on your true interests and passions. These could include the subjects you currently enjoy at school, debates/causes you align with, extracurriculars you take part in inside and outside of school (e.g. debate club, sports teams), and, of course, what you are considering specialising in at university. Reflect on your chosen subject and think about what made you want to study that course at university and the modules that are of particular interest to you.

Once you’ve identified your passions, you should then do some wider research into potential careers and industries that incorporate them. Which careers require the application of maths? Which industries involve an understanding of international politics? Which professions require candidates with strong teamwork and leaderships skills? Better understand the options available to you and make use of a wide variety of resources, including documentaries, podcasts, webinars and books, as they can be great for helping build your knowledge of the industry (and contribute to your wider reading on your university application). We also recommend speaking to people who studied your subject at university and asking them about their career decisions.

To get you started, take a look at our recent Career Guide video here, which is designed to help you start making decisions about what your future career could be. You can also read our Ultimate Career Guide series on our blog page (as an example, our medicine guide is linked here) and our ‘Day in the Life’ series, where you can find lots more information on the daily lives of professionals we work with, including our investment bankers, barristers and engineers. It’s important that you are fulfilled in your future career and love what you do, and finding something you’re passionate about is a great place to start!

Step 2: Reflect on Your Skills

As mentioned, employers today are looking for more than just technical qualifications when they sift through job applicants. How employable you are will be defined by your core set of soft and hard (technical) abilities; skills that are highly transferable to a wide range of professions and industries. Examples of valuable, transferable soft skills include teamwork, leadership and communication, to name but a few. The skills you possess are a reflection of your strengths and will determine your level of compatibility for different roles and positions in the future. You will already be utilising a range of skills on a daily basis, but it is critical to identify what those skills are and how you are exemplifying them in your future applications.

First, take some time to reflect on the skills you have already developed on your career journey. A useful starting point is to create a spider diagram, where you can make a note of all your transferable skills, and any examples you can think of inside and outside of school where you’ve demonstrated them. The more specific the example the better, and really try and justify why you were able to demonstrate that specific skill in that scenario.

As part of your reflection, also ask yourself which skills are your strongest and which you feel most confident in. Are you someone who thrives when working in a team? Do you consider yourself a strong natural leader? Are you always punctual and do you find it easy to manage your time effectively? On the reverse, also reflect on the skills you currently feel least confident in or you consider your weakest, as these will become your areas of improvement going forwards.

You should then practise talking about your skills to a family member or friend and getting them to ask you about specific examples you’ve noted down. Justifying your skills will be a common requirement of interviews in the future, and so the sooner you feel confident talking about your skills, the more prepared you will be.

Another top tip is take a look at the skill requirements of the careers that you’re considering at the moment, and see whether there are any skills you’re currently missing (feel free to use our blog post linked here as a starting point for this research). The earlier you can start filling in those skill gaps, the more employable you will be by the time you leave university!


Step 3: Expand Your Experiences

The next step to getting ahead in your future career is to start gaining meaningful work experience. This is because the only way to know if a career is right for you is to try it out first-hand and see whether you enjoy it! UCAS has cited that two thirds of employers look for graduates with relevant work experience, and therefore getting relevant work experience now is a great way of helping you set yourself apart from the competition in the future.

We recommend gaining some industry-specific work experience, as this can be great for helping expand your knowledge of the career you’re interested in and gives you an opportunity to try out the job for yourself. For this, we recommend exploring local organisations or companies to see if they provide any work experience placements, insight days or online opportunities. As a top tip, we encourage students to take part in some shadowing experience, where you spend time with someone who works in the industry you’re interested in and see what they get up to on a day-to-day basis. This is a highly rewarding form of work experience as it allows you to gain a first-hand insight into the career from a current employee’s perspective. Try to identify someone who works in an industry of interest to you and ask (nicely!) if they would be willing to let you shadow them at their workplace.

It’s important to remember that work experience doesn’t have to be specific to your desired industry in order to provide you with valuable skills and experiences. Any experience you can get in a workplace setting is fantastic for helping you demonstrate your transferable, professional skills. For example, you could consider gaining some volunteering experience, as it helps you develop your key soft skills, such as teamwork and emotional intelligence (which is particularly valuable for any aspiring medical students out there), whilst also being a highly fulfilling way to spend your time. Part-time jobs are also valuable for teaching you the essentials of workplace etiquette, developing your work ethic and putting into practice your professional skills, such as punctuality and communication.


Step 4: Grow Your Network

The final step is all about your connections and the people that you know that can help you on your career journey. Reflect on your network at the moment, including your friends, family and teachers, and consider how they might be able to help you develop your career ambitions.

If you’re applying to university, try and speak to students who have studied the course you’re interested in, as they will have lots of guidance for you on what careers they are considering at the moment, what resources they have found useful and whether there is any work experience they would suggest.

We’d also recommend speaking to professionals that work in industries you’re considering, to ask them any questions you might have. Example questions could include:

• “What does a typical day look like in your role?”
• “Why did you decide to go into this career?”
• “Do you have any advice you would give to your younger self considering this career?”
• “Can you point me in the direction of anyone else who would also be useful to speak to?”

Although we recognise that the idea of ‘networking’ with others can seem intimidating, it’s becoming incredibly important in the job market today, and can open up a wide variety of opportunities to you in the future. An easy starting point is to set up a LinkedIn account if you haven’t already (using our social media guide here) and to start connecting with your network on there!
Hopefully by following our 4-Step guide, you’ll feel more prepared for your future career after leaving university. By thinking seriously about your future whilst you’re at school, you will be able to make the most of your opportunities in education and feel a sense of confidence that you are on the right path for you!

Who are InvestIN

If you’re looking to get ahead in your future career this summer, then InvestIN is here to help. InvestIN run immersive career experience programmes, designed to empower you with the knowledge and experience you need to make the right choices about your future career. Our programmes are for students aged 12-18, and offer the opportunity to learn from top industry professionals through hands-on activities, interactive demonstrations, networking opportunities, site visits and much more. Coming up, we have our Summer Experiences taking place in London between 5, 10 and 15 days over July and August, with 18 different careers on offer!

For further information on InvestIN and our upcoming Summer Experiences, please visit our website here or reach out to us at [email protected]. You can also visit our blogs page here where you will find many more free resources to help you on your career journey, including our recent resource giving you an insight into a ‘Week in the Workplace’.

Places on our Summer Experiences are filling up quickly, so register soon to avoid disappointment!



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