Careers: Information for Students

If you are stuck for job ideas and knowing where your skills might best be served, it is worth taking the time to come up with a career development plan.

A career plan is a strategy you will continuously develop to manage your learning and progression throughout your working life. Consisting of four stages, its purpose is to help you visualise the actions you need to take to achieve your career goals, and how to put these actions into practice.

The four stages of a career plan are:

  • identify your skills and interests
  • explore career ideas
  • make a decision
  • set achievable goals.

How to choose a career |

1. Identify your skills and interests

Choosing a career is a big deal. You will spend a significant amount of your life at work and so in order to enjoy your job, remain motivated and fulfil your potential, you need to make your career choices wisely.

You first need to know yourself. This means taking stock of your skills and assessing your interests and values.

It is important to understand your range of skills and knowledge, so you can see if they are a good fit for the job you would like to do. Being aware of the skills you have also helps to highlight any gaps that may need to be filled to achieve your goals.

Make a list of all your transferable and specialist skills, with examples of when you have demonstrated each. An honest assessment of your skills, values and interests will prove useful when narrowing down your options in the next step. You can also see where you measure up in terms of the skills employers are looking for.

Consider where you are now, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there when it comes to fulfilling your career aspirations.

If choosing a career has left you feeling lost, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What are my interests, motivations and values?
  • What do I most enjoy at school?
  • What kind of lifestyle do I want?
  • What do I want from my career?
  • What is important to me?

If you are struggling to identify your strengths, weaknesses and character traits, there are a range of tests that you can take on Unifrog that could help bring them to light. 

You could also have a go at using the skillsometer below. It can help you discover what jobs you might like to do in the future. You will be presented with a series of statements. Select the emoji that shows how you feel about each statement.

The world of work is a complicated landscape that is constantly changing, as are the individuals occupying it. Matching quizzes like above are fun to do, and can start to build your self-awareness and an appreciation for the range of opportunities available. It is important, however, not to place too much focus on the results as career planning is more complicated than this.


How to choose a career |

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2. Explore career ideas

This is all about researching the job market and career paths that interest you, and narrowing down your options. Start by considering what your ideal job sector might be and this will help you to discover more potential career paths. Browsing job profiles may introduce you to some less obvious career paths where your skills and qualifications could be useful. 

Careerometer can also be used to explore and compare key information about occupations. It provides access to a selection of UK headline data relating to pay, weekly hours of work and future employment prospects for different occupations, as well as description of the occupation.

Type in the title of the job you are interested in and the widget provides a series of options from which you can select the most relevant to you. You can then look up another occupation and compare. You can also select ‘display the UK average’ and compare the information with the occupation you have selected.


It is important to understand which roles are expanding or declining. You can do this by referring to the Labour Market Information which is available on Unifrog when you look at a job profile. You could also use Start D2N2 to find out which jobs and sectors are currently in high demand both locally and nationally. 

Compile a shortlist of around five to ten jobs, before considering the advantages and disadvantages of each in terms of:

  • career development
  • employment outlook
  • entry requirements
  • job description
  • related jobs
  • salary and conditions
  • training

You must also consider which size of employer best fits with your personality and work ethic. Are you more suited to small and medium-sized enterprises, large companies or self-employment?

This is the perfect time to consider work experience, work shadowing, and volunteering opportunities. They will help you to gain an insight into the areas you are interested in before committing yourself to a certain career path.

How to choose a career |
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3. Make a decision

Now you are ready to start making decisions. Combine what you have learned about yourself with what you have discovered about your options and the jobs market.

From your job ideas list, decide which role interests you the most and select one or two alternatives to fall back on if you are not able to pursue your first choice.

To help make a decision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will I enjoy doing the job every day?
  • Does it meet most of my preferences?
  • Do I have the right skills?
  • Does the company fit with my values?
  • Are there any location/financial/skills limitations I need to take into account?
  • Is the job realistic in terms of salary?

If you are struggling to reach a conclusion, there are a number of exercises you can try to aid the decision-making process. Listing the pros and cons of a particular job or career is often useful, as is completing a personal SWOT analysis:

  • Strengths - What skills, traits, certifications and connections would you bring to the role that nobody else could? What makes you unique?
  • Weaknesses - What areas could you improve on? Do you lack any skills holding you back from excelling in the role you would like to pursue?
  • Opportunities - Is your industry growing? Could you take advantage of your competitors' mistakes or gaps in the market?
  • Threats - Could your weaknesses slow your progression at work? Is there anything else that may stand in the way of your development, such as changes in technology?

There is plenty of support available to help you decide. Look to:

  • company websites
  • family and friends
  • newspaper articles
  • professional bodies and industry conferences
  • tutors
  • school careers service.

Keep in mind that you will probably be suited to more than one career and today's jobseekers usually change career direction more than once in their working life. The key to being employable is having the ability to adapt and learn new skills.

How to choose a career |
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4. Set achievable goals

Your career plan should outline how you will get to where you want to be, what actions are needed and when, and separated into your short, medium and long-term goals. Constantly review your progress, especially after each short-term goal is reached.

You must also establish a back-up career development plan, in case your situation changes. Map several alternative paths to your long-term goal, considering how you will overcome the types of problems you might encounter - such as training requirements - at each step.

Your first short-term goal may involve improving your CV and cover letter. Other short or medium-term targets could include gaining work experience, seeking volunteering experience, or attending careers fairs.

Make an appointment with your school's careers service to ask an adviser to check over your career plan and discuss your career choices, if you feel you need some professional reassurance.

Finally, do not forget that career planning is a continuous process. Revisit and review your aims and objectives throughout your career, and do not feel constrained by the goals you have set - the structure of a career plan should help you clearly map out the route to trying something new.

How to choose a career |

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