Friday, June 03, 2011

Choosing your career

Options at 16+

Your options on leaving school or college
You have finished year 11 - so what is next? You are now faced with important choices that will shape your future, so you need to think about your options carefully. The more information you have, the better the decision you will make for you and the future.

What are the options?

  • Continuing your general education at school or college
  • Taking a vocational course - training for a specific job or area of work
  • Starting a work-based training course (e.g. a Modern Apprenticeship)
  • Finding a job (with or without training)
  • Self-employment
  • Voluntary work
Which option will be the best match for the kind of things you are good at and the activities you enjoy? If you already have an idea of the type of work you are interested in, you will need to think about how your interests and abilities relate to this area of work. Research the opportunities available on the internet - what are your prospects? Where could each option take you? If possible, arrange some relevant work experience or voluntary work. This will show you are interested and could give you an advantage of others applying for the job.
Making these choices can seem a daunting prospect, but getting some good careers advice will make the process a lot easier. Speak to your careers advisor at school, subject teachers, family, friends, or local careers office. If you know people who are studying /doing the job you are interested in, then ask them what it is like and get advice on getting started.

Options at 18+

Having completed your 'A' level qualifications, you could find yourself at a crossroads again. Choices at this stage are even more important to your future career, so take some time to really think about your decision. Your main options are:
  • higher education
  • vocational training
  • self-employment
  • a gap year
  • employment with or without training
Speak to your careers advisor, subject teachers, family, friends, or local careers office for information and advice to help make the right choice for you.
Higher education: Degree courses
There are lots of undergraduate degree courses available. Some degrees are academic while others take a more practical and vocational approach. If there is a subject you are passionate about this is a great chance for you to study it in more depth. However, you also need to think about what you want to do once you graduate - if you have a specific career in mind that may determine which courses you can consider. Make sure the course gives you the qualification you need and is approved by the relevant professional bodies.
  • How long will a degree course take? Most undergraduate degrees in England and Wales last for three years, though some of the vocational based courses and language degrees do take four or more, with a sandwich year to put skills into practice. Scottish degree courses generally last for four years.
  • What is a sandwich course? Some degrees include an industrial placement or a year abroad. These are called sandwich courses and tend to be in the more vocational subjects (such as Engineering) or in language subjects.
  • What are the entry requirements? Entry requirements vary for different courses at different universities and colleges - have a look on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website for more information (see Further Information).
  • How do you apply? Application is by the UCAS application form. This can be ordered over the internet or you can apply through your school or college. Deadlines for applications vary for different courses and institutions - so make sure you check on the UCAS website and send off your application in plenty of time.
There are some important benefits to going on to higher education:
  • research shows that graduates generally earn more than those who have not got a degree
  • gaining a degree qualification can improve your chances of getting the job you really want
  • you will find a wide range of activities, clubs and societies on offer at most universities and colleges - it is a great opportunity to meet new people and enjoy other hobbies while studying something you are really interested in
  • you will have much more say about the direction your learning takes than you have had before.

Foundation Degrees

Foundation degrees combine academic study with workplace learning. They are vocationally-based and you will spend some time working in business or industry. A full-time course usually takes two years and the qualification you gain is roughly equivalent to the first two years of a bachelors degree. They are offered by universities in partnership with higher education colleges and further education colleges. Taking a Foundation Degree could lead you on to higher education or straight in to a job.

Making Career Choices

Deciding on a career path and finding a suitable job can be a daunting task. You will need to ask yourself questions such as: what do I want to do? How do I know if a job is going to be right for me? Where do I start looking?
This guide will show you how to go about selecting the right career for you, where to start looking for jobs, and techniques to help you secure the job that you want.
The task of finding a career will seem a lot less overwhelming if you have a structured and methodical approach.
It might sound a bit clich├ęd, but the first step is to get to know yourself really well. You need to stand back and take a good look at yourself before making any decisions about your future.
Start by making a list of the following:
  • your achievements
  • your interests
  • your abilities

Your achievements

While your formal qualifications are important, do not overlook your other achievements. They could play a key part in determining the right type of job for you. For example, you may have certificates, such as a Duke of Edinburgh award or a driving licence, or times you have worked well in a team or under pressure, being captain of a sports team, your position or involvement in clubs or societies.

Your interests

A job does not just have to be a source of income - it can be something you genuinely find motivating and interesting. So take some time to think about what you enjoy most in life and what gives you a feeling of satisfaction. Do you enjoy socialising and being with or helping people? Do you prefer problem-solving or pulling things apart to see how they work? Are you the creative type? Do you enjoy writing stories or poetry or designing clothes? What compliments or criticism do you get from people who know you well? What are you good at? Make a list of all of these things to help structure what it is you are looking for in a job.

Your abilities

The more often you do something, the better you will become. You are more likely to do things you enjoy regularly; your interests and abilities will often overlap. Note next to your interests what skills/abilities are involved. Your list may include some of the following:
  • solving problems
  • artistic flair
  • creative imagination
  • involvement in outdoor pursuits
  • using computers
  • helping people
  • working with numbers
  • carrying out practical tasks
  • working with others in a team
  • leading a team
  • performing scientific tasks/experiments
  • listening to problems
  • responding well to competition or a challenge
The list will highlight your skills that could be useful in a job. Employers will mention required skills on job descriptions, even if they are not described in the same way that you think of them. For example:
  • good interpersonal skills - you work well with people and respond to the needs of others
  • communication skills - you express yourself clearly and concisely
  • good organisational skills
  • IT-literate - you can use a computer to carry out tasks
  • logic and reasoning skills - you are good at problem-solving
  • numerate - you can work with numbers
  • initiative - you can think through a problem independently

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