Career advice for people still undecided about their future


Whether you’re currently enjoying university life, have gone back to college in an attempt to broaden your horizons, or you’ve chosen to step away from education for the time being, deciding on what you want to do for the rest of your life can be difficult. In fact, it may seem almost impossible at times. The great news is that there are more career opportunities open to the academic, and not so academic, among you than ever before – be undecided no more.

Academia vs. non-academia

There’s no getting away from the fact that some employers will prioritise those with relevant qualifications over those who may have left formal education a little earlier in their lives. However, to set things straight, there are also jobs available for those with work experience who may not have graduated with honours; it all comes down to the skills you possess, and the direction in which you’re hoping to travel. For example, positions in teaching, the medical profession, web development, and many entry level government roles would require a relevant degree or foundation course; whether you’re able to head straight into a career, or into a low-level job would depend upon your academic background. Meanwhile an increase in apprenticeships and onsite training is encouraging those who may have left academia behind to reach much further than they could have imagined; IT positions, electrical engineering, and mechanic-related jobs won’t necessarily require a degree. Just think of the possibilities open to you – does that do anything to inspire you?

Contracting: an alternative you may not have considered

Of course, these days career advice isn’t simply black and white; deciding upon your future isn’t merely a case of choosing a field of expertise or a company to work for, and there are more opportunities available than ever before. Have you considered freelance work or contracting, for example? Regardless of whether you’ve narrowed that career down yet or not, attaching your current skills and work experience to such a task could be the most rewarding thing you ever do. Do you consider yourself a creative type? Can you write, illustrate, turn your hand to web development, or solve IT issues? Perhaps you have experience of nursing, or government work, but would like to work for yourself; the great thing about contracting is that you spend your time how you’d like, work wherever you choose, and, to a certain extent, set your own rates.

If you have a particular passion, or skill, and have yet to choose a career path it is well worth thinking about freelancing and contracting. However, as with many career choices, there are a few things you should bear in mind, namely keeping things legal.

As a freelancer or contractor you must ensure you are registered with HMRC as a limited company or sole trader, as well as filling in the relevant paperwork that accompanies your new profession. The legalities of working for yourself are something of a minefield, and the prospect of approaching companies to ply your trade, and handle invoices, can be somewhat daunting. Speaking to an umbrella company as you get started could be a saving grace; they will liaise between a client company and yourself, handle much of the legal side of proceedings, and offer advice regarding IR35, tax, national insurance, and how to handle yourself as a contractor. In fact, if you had never previously heard of IR35 we strongly recommend that you make contact with such an advisor sooner, rather than later.

Leaving college, or university, and heading out into the big, wide world can be daunting, particularly if you’re graduating with little, or no idea as to what you’ll do next. It’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with being undecided about your future career prospects; the late Alan Rickman didn’t begin acting until he was 28 years old, after all. The most productive thing that you can do is to think about what you’ve learned during your time in education, draw upon previous work experience, and, most importantly, consider what you’re good at – and what you enjoy doing. You’re likely to be working for the next 40 to 50 years, so be sure to choose a career that you’re passionate about.

Good luck, we can’t wait to hear of your successes.

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