Where to Start
Our students chose Sociology and Politics & Sociology because they have passion for, and interest in the subject, the majority did not have a specific career in mind when they started studying for their degree. Our research shows this changes throughout the course of the degree, and by stage 3, students are often thinking a great deal more about life after university and what path they might take.
Some people know exactly what they want to do next and have a very concrete plan for after graduation; some are a feeling worried and at a bit of a loss about “what next”; and others are relaxed about not necessarily knowing what they want to do next but are happy to work “any old job” and travel for now.
The message here is that whatever you are feeling on this spectrum is fine! If you are feeling anxious, taking small steps towards exploring careers can help. In this section we look in more depth at this developing focus on life after university, and the small next steps you can take to help you with this, including a step-by-step guide [hyperlink to that guide] to the Careers Service which is easy to access both in person and online.
- It is okay if you don’t know what you want to do yet. People take different paths. Some know exactly what they are doing after graduation, while others take their time deciding afterwards.
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. It is tempting to put your head in the sand if you’re feeling anxious, but taking small steps in exploring careers can help relieve the anxiety.
- The Careers Service is an excellent, free resource that is easy to access. You don’t have to wait until you know what you want to do; arrange to have a chat with them soon.
- There are online resources you can use on the Careers Service website.
Thinking about the future: anxiety, knowing and not knowing
Almost all the current students we interviewed said they had started thinking about their next steps. In stage 2 this tended to be a more individual concern or perhaps discussed with good friends. By stage 3 this was a major preoccupation among friends and course mates:
“I would say like last year [stage 2] nobody talked about it at all. But now that we are leaving, everybody is getting quite worried about what they are going to do…I would say that is one of the biggest topics of conversation now. But I think my friends are 50-50. Some of them know exactly what they are doing, and others have absolutely no idea.”
Participants in stage 3 reported feeling anxious about graduating. While friends were an important source of support and information, comparison with others in a different position regarding life after study could amplify anxiety.
Some people have a concrete plan for after graduation, for example a job lined up or a place on a course for training in a specific career:
“I know some people that have always wanted to be a teacher, or they have always wanted to be a nurse. And they are just going for it. I think when you know you are so lucky, because the majority of people don’t.”
Some people feel unsure about what they wanted to do, and for some this was a source of worry:
“So hearing lots of people applying for grad schemes, that is quite scary, or applying for follow up degrees and courses, kind of makes me think that I should probably be having something prepared ready for summer…But I just don’t know what I want to do, that kind of makes you feel a bit rushed to choose.”
Some people do not know what they want to do, but felt quite relaxed about it. Deciding on a career path was something they did not want to rush into. People in this group often mentioned taking the opportunity to travel, before making a decision:
“I think I might just take a gap year, or just like earn a little bit of money working in a restaurant or something. I am not entirely sure what I want to get into, and I don’t want to rush into anything…I think it is spoken about a lot, but there is actually quite a lot of people in the same boat as me, so I am not feeling stressed about it.”
Getting your toes wet - guide to Careers Service
Looking for jobs can be daunting and scary, but taking small steps to start thinking about and researching possible careers can help ease the anxiety. All our participants who had used the Careers Service spoke very positively about them:
“I went to Kings Gate with my personal statement, and they were so helpful. And they also have talks and stuff, they were really helpful in how to apply for teaching and the interviews, which was so useful.”
Things to know about the Career Service in Kings Gate:
- You don’t need to make an appointment, you can just drop-in to the Careers Service.
- They are open all through the summer as well as during term-time.
- You can access the Careers Service for free up to three years after graduation.
- You don’t need to know what you want to do in order to use the Careers Service, they can help you identify your strengths and skills
- They can help you write your CV, cover letters or personal statements. They can help you with LinkedIn.
- They can offer mock interviews or assessment centres.
- They have a data based on businesses and available jobs.
- They can help you find an internship, placement or work experience.
- They can give you information about placement years. All undergraduates can now take a placement year as part of their degree.
Things you can do right now
Launch the Career Compass. It’s been designed to help you find information and advice tailored specifically to you; it can help you get direction and find your next steps http://www.ncl.ac.uk/careers/planning/compass/.
Do some quizzes on https://www.prospects.ac.uk/. It’s a career website specifically designed for university students.
Look at your timetable for tomorrow and decide a time to go to the Careers Service.