What next after your degree?



by Jennie James, Careers Adviser

It’s coming up to that time – graduation! After years of hard work, study and a little bit of fun you receive your degree certificate, but what next? There are plenty of options available, even if you have not yet started to think about your next steps.

Postgraduate Study
Postgraduate study has become an increasingly popular option for undergraduates, and for some it can be the best option, particularly if you’re looking to gain additional skills to really focus on a specific career sector. However, before you start deciding ask yourself a few questions…

  • Are you passionate about your subject area?
  • Are you keen to transfer to a new subject area?
  • Have you looked at the full range of courses and options available?
  • Do you have the academic skills to cope with a step up to postgraduate study?
  • Will this qualification boost your long term employability prospects?
  • How will you fund your studies?

If you’re thinking of choosing postgraduate study because you are unsure what you would like to do, really consider if this is the best option for you right now.

Postgraduate study is something you can come back to later on during your career.
If you feel that this is the best option for you right now, start attending postgraduate open days, researching courses, investigating funding and submitting your applications.

Graduate Schemes / Jobs
Whilst it is true that graduate schemes in some of the biggest recruiters (think Times Top 100) might have closed, this rule doesn’t apply to all employers and there are plenty of opportunities still up for grabs for the right candidates.

Although the format of graduate schemes depends very much on the individual employer, a graduate scheme is a great way to jump-start your career as you can gain skills and insight into a variety of roles across an organisation. In some instances an employer might offer the opportunity to gain further qualifications as part of your role.

If this is an option you would like to explore, start researching now using the Job Hunting resources on the Swansea Employability Academy MyUni pages under the “Postgraduate study” tab at myuni.swan.ac.uk/employability.

Internships and voluntary work
If you are unsure of your career ideas, internships and voluntary work can provide a great introduction to a sector, whilst developing transferrable skills and giving you additional valuable work experience to include your LinkedIn profile or CV. For some careers such as teaching, social work, nursing etc. relevant work experience will form part of the application, and can really help you decide if this would be a career you would like to focus on in the long term.

Internships can be a more formal period of work experience, usually over a set period of time, and can allow you to focus on a particular project within an organisation.

The contacts that you generate whilst undertaking an internship or voluntary work can prove invaluable, and you gain first-hand experience of working in a sector or an organisation. Don’t forget that this first-hand experience can generate future employment opportunities!

Gap year
A gap year can be a great option for those who feel that they want to take a break before they enter the world of work. Gap years can be a great option provided you are able to do something productive with your time! Consider an interview scenario, “Can you tell you more about your gap year? What did you do?”; an employer is probably not going to be too interested by you stating that you marathon-watched all of the Breaking Bad series in record time. However, they would be interested in finding out about paid or voluntary work you have undertaken; this could be fundraising, charity work, travelling around Europe – the list goes on! The transferable skills you can gain from a productive gap year will be highly valuable in future job interviews and can help you find more about yourself. The secret to a great gap year? Planning! Consider how you are going to use your time; set yourself deadlines to move from Plan A to Plan B if you find that progress is not as you hoped.

Action Plan!
If you sit down and talk to a few people, you’ll soon discover that you are not alone in being unsure of your choices. Everyone is different; some of your friends and course mates will have a clear idea, some will have a vague idea of a sector they are interested in, whilst others have not yet started to think about their next steps. It is important that you do not compare yourself to others, and make plans that are the best option for you at this point in time.

Don’t panic if you have not started putting plans in place. It is important to not let things drift and indulge in a box-set binge. Keep calm and put a plan in place with a focus on your immediate next steps such as attending SEA Your Future events (from week commencing 6th June 2016), updating your CV, developing your LinkedIn profile and booking an appointment with a Careers Adviser.

Bear in mind that your career will develop over time: you are not being asked to decide what you want to do with your life, but to focus and plan on the next few years.

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