Careers Service

Making Career Choices

In This Section

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

Keep an open mind; career planning is not about finding the ideal fit or the perfect job title. Instead, it's about taking the time to research and test out ideas.

On these pages, we've summarised the different steps involved in the career planning process and made suggestions on what you can do to develop your career thinking.

  • Getting started - knowing yourself and what really matters to you is a helpful starting point
  • Exploring your options - how to find out what opportunities are out there
  • Taking action - how you can gain the experience and develop the skills you need
  • Moving forward - once you've decided on your next step, find out how you can put your plan into action

Getting Started

Take some time out to think. Identify and explore your preferences, values and skills and consider what you want to be doing after university.

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

You don't necessarily need to decide on a career straight away; you could identify one or two sectors, such as healthcare or marketing, as a starting point. 

Questions to ask yourself

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

Looking back on this, which are the 3 most important features to you?

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 ideas to get you started.

5 things to do now

  • Use our Skills Audit‌ (PDF: 214KB) to get some insight into your strengths and the skills you want to develop next. See targetjobs: Skills for getting a job to help you understand the different competencies graduate employers expect.
  • Chat with your family and friends, people who know you well - their views may help.
  • Get some guidance from our careers consultants - book an online appointment or contact us via MyCareer to arrange this.
  • Try Prospects Planner as a good starting point. This is a career matching tool, which generates career titles or sectors based on your answers to online questions. All suggestions link to detailed job profiles, to help you decide if it's an idea worth considering.
  • Access career planning library books at the Philip Robinson Library. 

For researchers: Register for the Careers Service's Canvas site, Careers for Researchers. Look at the Vitae Researcher Development Framework and the Career Planning for PhDs e-book from If you're considering a career outside academia, Jobs on Toast has useful advice and articles, written by a PhD graduate.

Reassuring video on how to find fulfilling work from the School of Life.

Exploring Your Options

There are so many potential careers out there, it can sometimes seem overwhelming or confusing.

It's important to start researching which opportunities interest you. The majority of graduate jobs are open to any degree subject - it's estimated that 82% of employers don't specify a particular degree (Institute for Student Employers, 2018).

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 understand about different sectors?
  • Do I know anyone who does what I'm interested in? Could I make new contacts? How could I make these?
  • 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

Taking Action

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

Gaining experience, meeting employers and making contacts will help you to explore career options, try new things and enhance your employability.

Not sure where to start? The Careers Service is open to all students and recent graduates.

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 and 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 and expeditions, are also worth thinking about. 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, for example, to write papers, attend conferences, give presentations, teach, and have representation on committees. You can also find opportunities for personal and professional development on the Newcastle University Doctoral College site

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

Meeting employers

Engage with employers on and off-campus and find out about their opportunities at employer and recruitment events.

You’ll also find opportunities to network, such as at our annual Creative Careers and First Year Fest.

Making contacts and building your network

Make contacts in your chosen field, whether that’s through conferences and events, or online platforms such as LinkedIn. 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 also have a look at our online tutorials for Making the most of LinkedIn: Using groups and Making connections.

You can make contacts through other social media such as Twitter and find relevant accounts on our sector-specific Twitter Lists.

Joining a professional body, which represents people working in particular sectors, could help you access training and networking opportunities, as well as careers support. You may be able to join as a student member. You can find links to relevant professional bodies in Explore Occupations.

Moving Forward

You may have decided on your next step, great! No matter if your plan is to go into work, start a business, undertake further study or take some time out, think about how you can put your plan into action.

Finding and applying for jobs

Formulate a job search strategy for what you are interested in. 

  • Search relevant vacancy sites - look under the Finding Jobs tab in the relevant Explore Occupations page and also on Graduate Jobs
  • Go to the employer directly – if you have a particular organisation in mind, have a 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 on the relevant occupational page - see the About and Finding Jobs tabs for lists of professional bodies who may have member directories. Contact companies directly to ask if they have any suitable opportunities. 
  • 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 additional career workshops advertised in your 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. 

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 approximately 4.8 million people in self-employment, more and more graduates are considering 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 or contact us via MyCareer to arrange this. 
  • Attend START UP events and access market research resources to help you explore and develop an idea
  • Get involved with the START UP team by undertaking an internship, a foundership or joining a society, such as the Entrepreneurship Society
  • Use the START UP space in the Careers Service in King's Gate, working alongside fellow entrepreneurs. 

Further study

You may want to undertake further study, whether 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 via MyCareer to discuss this. 
  • Look for a course at Finding Courses
  • 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 across different universities to find out more information. 
  • Get advice and support from the Careers Service on applying for further study, including feedback on your personal statement. 

Taking time out

Taking time out, or a gap year, can be a great way to gain experience and try out new opportunities 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.