7 top tips for helping students choose the right career

Susan Burke

Susan is currently Head of Careers in a high achieving, independent school in Merseyside.

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Website: www.susanburkecareers.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As it's National Careers Week, I would like to share some of my top tips that will help students choose the right career.

1. Make it fun and widen your choices

Using online resources is a great way to explore your options. Planning your future should be fun. You could be working abroad or working in a profession yet to be invented - the world is your oyster. What can be more exciting than thinking about where you could be in five years time? Don’t forget to research careers you have not heard of before. For example, you may enjoyed maths, and the obvious choice might be an Accountant, but what about an Actuary or Quantity Surveyor, to name but two alternatives?

2. Get involved

Get involved in events in and outside of school. This could be the school play, football team, debating society, french exchange trip or the school magazine, or it could be a residential course about engineering. This adds to your CV and is a great way to showcase your skills, demonstrating to employers in the future that you are able to work in a team, that you are committed and hardworking, etc.

3. Be commercially aware

I call it the ‘Granny Rule’. If you would think twice about showing your grandmother pictures of yourself on any social media site such as Facebook, take them down! Change your account from public to private, and beware of what pictures you are tagged in! You don’t want what you did when you were younger coming back to haunt you when you are applying for a job or university course. Yes, people can and do check - regularly!

4. You don’t need to know what you want to do

A lot of people feel they need to know exactly what they want to do at school. I disagree. Sure, some of you will need to work out whether you enjoy STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) - most people can work this out very quickly. What you may not be aware of is the right subjects or combination of subjects needed. Research universities online or use the guide from the Russell Group Universities which points out subjects they value. If you fall into the Humanities sphere, you don’t need specific subjects, though it is worth reviewing the Russell Guide Informed Choices to check which subjects some universities value more than others.

5. Don’t rely on assumptions

Sometimes what we think is correct, is in reality nothing more than assumption rather than fact. How many of you were convinced that you wanted to be a forensic scientist by watching CSI but never once considered the job market i.e. are there actually any jobs in this area?

A classic example is that many people have been put off university education due to the fees without considering how much they would actually have to pay. Remember, what you pay will differ from your friend, cousin or the boy in the next town because it is based on household income.

6. Be realistic

I agree you should think big. However, speak to your teachers and take some account of what they say. If you want to work as a doctor, all universities will require A/A* grades; if you’re likely to achieve B/C grades at A Level, I'm afraid it won’t happen. Better to know now than later.

7. Find support

Discuss predicted grades and speak to your careers advisor at school who can help you work out a plan of action for what you need to do. You can also speak to the National Careers Service for free who will be able to signpost you in the right direction.

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