Exploring Your Options
This page will build on the basic grid from the previous page and will offer the tools to be able to do this.
In the first part you will explore and find tools for self awareness
- What kind of person you are, your likes and dislikes, are often disregarded or minimised in deciding on a career or education plan. I would argue it's one of the most important things when planning your future. After all… it's YOUR future.
- The second part we will explore opportunity awareness
It's easy to go with what people around you expect of you, or what society expects of you, and sometimes that's useful, but beware…
In my view, the ideal career or job is one where you don't feel you are going to work. It's a job that fulfills you as a person… every bit of you. If at the end of most weekends you feel the doom and gloom descending, thinking of 'having to' go back to work, it may be useful to have a good look at the whole situation and find out what is not right. If you recognise yourself in this, the quest may consist of getting as close to the ideal situation as possible.
What if you were to find a career that doesn't feel like work, but that just feels like part of life… part of what you like doing anyway…
Assessment of what you have to offer
There are a number of things you can do to make this come true, one of which is going on a real exploration of:
- your likes and dislikes
- what you want and don't want to do
- what your main personality traits are
- what skills, talents and abilities you have
While doing this it's important to open up to what comes out of your exploration, without making assumptions or going along well trodden paths. The more honest you are, the better the decisions can come out of this. This is not an easy task and it takes time…
An additional difficulty is that most of us have been taught from a very young age not to 'brag' about ourselves. Many of us live a life of relative 'dishonesty' with ourselves because of this. To overcome this we need to open up to listening to the people around us who can be more honest and tell us what we are good at. We need to listen, take this in, process this information and store it to use not only in our career planning, but also in our quest for a job from 'marketinig' ourselves in our CV and in job interviews to establishing ourselves in our jobs to achieve the things we want to achieve.
Marketing in this sense doesn't mean 'bigging ourselves up'. It's more about being honest to others about what we have to offer and how we can contribute, opening up new possibilities for developing our skills, personality and options, building on the adventure we've embarked on.
One way of taking this forward is to keep a record of all the things that make up your personality.
Over a couple of days or weeks, note down anything you can think of that fits in any of the boxes in the workfile.
Take your time and be as honest and complete as you can be.
Further build on this over time if you can to have an as complete overview of who you are as possible.
This will provide you with:
- an excellent, complete and honest tool to compare with any descriptions of career options or jobs
- a file to fall back on once you are writing or tweaking your CV
- a file to use when preparing for interviews for jobs or university
- a tool to work against our natural inhibitions and to market ourselves in a fair (to ourselves) and honest way
Another thing that can help you get more of an insight in what makes you tick is by doing a free or paid for Meyers-Briggs personality test online. You can easily look for one of these by entering 'Meyers Briggs test' in your search engine. You can find some examples here and here, but make sure you don't take the result on any of the free test for absolute gospel. The intention is to make you think and to explore what it says. I have found this website useful in reading more about different personality types, and there's a section on career choice. Of course, I am not related to or involved in any of those sites and I take no responsibility whatsoever for the outcome of any of those tests or your interpretation, but they can be useful in many cases.
First career exploration and matching exercise
Once we have put together a complete list like the one above, you could the explore career ideas by using tools available on the web.
These tools are not there to tell you what you have to do or to limit the number of careers you would be able to do. They are there to offer a starting point from where to explore possibilities, nothing more, nothing less.
If you have a good idea of what you are interested in:
One set of tools consists of job profiles for people who have some idea of careers they may be interested in.
The Prospects website offers an excellent set of tools to explore specific careers. You could explore the suggestions below to ensure you get the best out of this website.
- If you have specific jobs in mind, on the Prospects website go to 'Jobs and work experience' –> 'Types of jobs' –> 'Browse all jobs'.
- Once you have found the job entry you are interested in and you open it you will find a Job Description.
- In the column next to this called 'More in this section' you will find additional tools to make your exploration more worthwhile.
- Once you have read the information in your job profile and have made a decision on whether it suits you you will find 'Related jobs' at the bottom of the list.
- Related jobs is where you will find other careers which may either suit you better or which will help you decide to stay with your initial idea.
There are other tabs on the homepage which are worth exploring, but which will be more relevant to a course search rather than a career exploration. There may be one exception however:
Go to 'Careers advice' –> 'Options with your subject' to see what you can do with your chosen subject of study…
Other opportunities to do a similar exercise of researching careers, not just linked to higher education this time, are:
- the Adult Career Service in England: National Careers Service (in this case 'National' means 'England)
- the equivalent service for Scotland run by Skills Development Scotland offers this in 'Career A-Z'
- and Careers Wales for… yes, Wales!
Of course, the information on these individual websites is not necessarily only applicable in the respective areas in Great Britain, but most of the information will be applicable nationally, if not to some extent internationally as well.
If you are not quite sure what direction you would like to go into:
A second set of tools consists of question and answer sessions to explore your preferences after which it will match a set of careers with the answers you have provided. I would like to stress again that these won't tell you what you have to do for the rest of your life, they only offer suggestions and a starting point from which you can explore possibilities in relation to the list in the exploration in the previous section.
Again, the prospects website has a good tool, uniquely linked to higher education, which you can find here.
- You need to register but it doesn't cost anything and is very straightforward.
- If you prefer a career quiz to provide you with a starting point, fasttomato is a good option. You will be able to open a 24 hour guest account and is run by one of the most reputable organisations offering such software. Click on 'Register for guest account' near the bottom of the page.
…or knowing what is 'out there'. No need to say, this is far more difficult to do, as it depends not on you, or on some easy to find information on the internet. There are at least two dimensions to this.
- where is the job I would like to do, or the career I would like to build up, available?
- how available is what I want to do? Or what are the chances for 'making it' in your chosen career?
A third question would be: what do I need to do to get to a place where I can build up my possibilities and chances for entry into your chosen career. This is, of course, where your choice of course comes in as well as any other activities you need to undertake to increase your chances.
Where are the opportunities?
The first question of the two is easier to answer than the second. A good starting point again could be the Prospects website. If you look up your career there, as described above, you will find 'Employers and vacancy sources' in the menu on the right, where you will be able to find opportunities in your chosen direction.
The work is not over by reading this, however. It does indicate what you could look into to further your search and come to some idea of where the possibilities are:
- industry sectors in society: you could look up companies, organisations, institutions etc… in your local area, or the area where you would like to live, to find out where any possibilities are. At the same time, this will give you a very rough indication of how easy it is to get in. If there are only two or so companies, that could mean it's harder to break into your chosen career than if there are hundreds. This is only half the story, as we will see below. If you are looking for opportunities in the UK, and companies linked to these, have a look on www.yell.com, where you can see your opportunities on a map.
- job vacancies: which companies are they with and where are they? What is the pay and what are the working conditions and job description? Are there many? Or only a few? Be aware that not all career paths are regularly openly advertised in job adverts.
- Professional organisations and unions: these could provide excellent points of contact for finding out more, but they may also provide an opportunity for starting to 'embed' yourself in your (new) professional community. LinkedIn can offer even more possibilities in this respect.
How available are any opportunities?
This is more complicated to explore than the previous question. These obviously depend on the state of the economy, but also on local and regional differences, the availability and cost of resources, the success of major employers and linked to that, their position in the world market. To lesser or greater extent, even the state of international economic configurations and business as well as other occurences, natural or otherwise, all have an influence on the availability of (local) opportunities.
All this means that, whenever you make a decision based on the availability of opportunities, the tables could turn completely by the time you have completed your studies. However important availability of your chosen direction in the labour market can be in helping you make your decision, the best you can do is make an educated guess or estimate based on advise and information you find.
Sources of information for a balanced view could be:
- The national and economic press.
Labour market information can be found on the following selection of websites:
- www.prospects.ac.uk, then go to 'Jobs and work experience' –> ' Industry insights' and you will find 'Future trends' in the menu on the right. You can also find a series of tools and information here.
- www.hecsu.ac.uk: containing papers on the labour market and other publications.
- most university websites and university career services will have a section on labour market information. These may offer more local labour market information for the area the university is located in, as well as national and international labour market information.
- www.statistics.gov.uk: a government website with a range of statistics, including those for the labour market.
- www.nomisweb.co.uk: labour market information from a range of official sources.
Professional organisations may have labour market information available on their website as well.
Of course, in all but the toughest labour markets will there be opportunities for those who are determined and know how to access them. Building up a professional network and maintaining this, as well as building up extra skills that help you stand out in a positive way are important… as well as luck! You will be able to read more about these in the 'Moving on…' section on this website.