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Making Career Choices

Wherever you are at in your studies or research, it's never too early to start exploring ideas for your future.

Getting started

It's important to take some time to think about your career plans. This can help you identify and explore your preferences, values and skills and consider what you want to do after university.

Visualise your ideal job or working environment. What aspects of this make it appealing?

You don't have to decide on a career straight away. You could start by identifying one or two sectors, such as healthcare or marketing.

Questions to ask yourself

  • What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing?
  • What's important to me in my working life? For example your salary, work-life balance or being challenged
  • What would be the purpose of my job? For example, to provide a service, help others, create wealth or invent a product?
  • To what extent would I want to use my expert knowledge or degree subject?
  • What kind of work environment would suit me? For example, corporate, government, charity, smaller business or your own business.

You can investigate further questions on our Explore your options sheet (PDF: 606KB).

Pulling these thoughts together is the beginning of a career plan. Finding this difficult? Here are some actions to get you started.

5 things to do now

  • Use our Skills Audit‌ (PDF: 214KB) to identify your strengths and any skills you want to develop further. See what skills employers looks for on TargetJobs.
  • Chat with your family and friends, people who know you well - their views may help.
  • Get guidance from our Careers Consultants. Book a 1-1 appointment on MyCareer.
  • Try Prospects Planner, a career matching tool that generates career titles or sectors based on your answers to questions. All suggestions link to detailed job profiles.
  • Access career planning library books at the Philip Robinson Library.

Tips for researchers

Exploring your options

There are so many different careers available that it can sometimes feel overwhelming and confusing.

Researching which opportunities interest you can help. The majority of graduate jobs are open to any degree subject.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Am I happy on my course?
  • What have graduates from my degree or subject gone on to do?
  • What do I know about different sectors?
  • Do I know anyone who does what I'm interested in? Could I make new contacts?
  • Would I like to take some time out, eg by travelling or working abroad?

From your answers, what are the current gaps in your knowledge, and how can you fill these?

5 things to do now

  • Research what can I do with my degree? Prospects gives suggestions for careers linked to your subject.
  • Look at our graduate destinations data. Don't restrict this to your specific subject; be flexible and look at similar programmes to generate ideas.
  • Visit our explore occupations pages for a overview of a wide range of roles. Or, if you're interested in working for yourself, access our START UP pages.
  • Read about and talk to people with experience working in the areas you're interested in, eg through LinkedIn and at events. How did they get into their chosen career? Our LinkedIn tutorial on Making the most of LinkedIn can help you get started.
  • Speak to an adviser who can help you find out more about roles and sectors - book a 1-1 appointment on MyCareer.

Taking action

Whether you’re in your first year or undertaking your PhD, it’s never too early to start planning your future and putting your ideas into action.

Gaining experience and making contacts will help you to explore your career options. It can also enhance your employability.

Gaining experience and developing skills

Getting work experience while you study will help you gain the skills employers are looking for. This could be anything from spending a day shadowing an employer, to internships or year-long placements.

You can also gain valuable skills, such as communication, team work and interpersonal skills, through part-time jobs and volunteering. If you're in stage two or three of your degree, you could try student tutoring. Or use your part-time job or voluntary work to gain recognised skills and academic credit through the Career development module.

Extra-curricular activities, such as joining a society or sports team, or taking part in competitions are also beneficial for your career. Get recognition for your efforts with the ncl+ Award and gain credit on your Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).

If you’re interested in exploring self-employment or developing enterprise skills, our START UP team can help. Go along to one of their events or workshops to find out more.

If you are studying a PhD, consult with your supervisor to discuss opportunities such as:

  • writing papers
  • attending conferences
  • giving presentations
  • teaching
  • having representation on committees.

You can also find opportunities for personal and professional development on the Newcastle University Doctoral College site.

If you are a researcher, Organisational Development offer employability courses for research staff. For more information, contact Sandra Hobson-Tate at the Careers Service.

Meeting employers

Engage with employers on and off-campus through employer and recruitment events.

You’ll also find opportunities to network, such as at our annual Creative Careers event.

Making contacts and building your network

Make contacts in your chosen field. LinkedIn is a great way to do this, but conferences and events are also valuable. Create a LinkedIn profile and start connecting with others. Follow employers and join groups to keep yourself up-to-date with your chosen field.

You can make contacts through Twitter - find relevant accounts on our sector-specific Twitter Lists.

Joining a professional body can give you access to training and networking opportunities, as well as careers support. You may be able to join as a student member. Find links to relevant professional bodies in explore occupations

Moving forward

Whether your plan is to go into work, start a business, undertake further study or take some time out, now is the time to put your plan into action.

Finding and applying for jobs

  • Search relevant vacancy sites - look at the 'Finding Jobs' section in the relevant Explore Occupations page and also on Graduate Jobs.
  • Go directly to the employer– if you have a particular organisation in mind, look at the careers pages on their website to see if they are recruiting.
  • Make speculative applications. Did you know that approximately 70% of jobs are never advertised? You can find companies, professional bodies and member directories on our Explore Occupations pages.
  • Start to prepare for graduate job applications, making a note of any deadlines. See our advice on applications and interviews. You could also attend a careers event. PhD students can find career workshops advertised in their Faculty Training Handbook
  • Speak to an adviser for advice and support on CVs, applications and interviews. Book an online appointment or contact us via MyCareer to arrange this.

Top tip: make a note of the recruitment process and deadline for each job. Keep a record of what you have applied for and remember to save all your job descriptions and applications for future reference.

Working for yourself

With around 4.8 million people in self-employment, more and more graduates are thinking about setting up their own businesses. Whether you want to work freelance or start your own business, START UP in the Careers Service can help you.

  • Get support, advice and guidance from the START UP team - book an online START UP appointment on MyCareer.
  • Attend START UP events and access market research resources to help you explore and develop an idea
  • Use the START UP space in the Careers Service in King's Gate to work alongside fellow entrepreneurs.

Further study

You may want to undertake further study, to pursue an academic career or to gain a necessary qualification to achieve the role you want.

  • Consider if further study is right for you and your plan. Book an online guidance appointment with a careers consultant on MyCareer to discuss this.
  • Look for a course on finding and choosing a course.
  • Research and plan how to finance your study. Check if you are eligible for funding, a loan or if you can work part-time to supplement your studies.
  • Attend open days at different universities to find out more information.
  • Get advice and support from the Careers Service on applying for further study. We can give feedback on your personal statement.

Taking time out

Taking time out can be a great way to gain experience before finding a graduate job or undertaking further study.

  • Research where you want to go: do you want to stay at home, in the UK, or go overseas?
  • Research the pros and cons of taking time out.
  • Think about how to use the time productively, see Prospects: Should I take a gap year for advice and inspiration.
  • Not sure? Have a chat with a careers consultant - book an online guidance appointment or contact us via MyCareer to arrange this.