The Graduate Career Guidebook

2nd Edition

by Steve Rook

Chapter 2: Career planning

Career stories

I loved Geography at school and university but had no idea what job this would lead to. I imagined I’d become a geography teacher and did some work experience in a school and even signed up for a local PGCE course. However, what I didn’t do was ask myself if I wanted to do it!

At Christmas, my uncle (who’s an accountant) asked me why I didn’t want to work in his profession. I felt awkward because I didn’t know I could become an accountant with a geography degree, and my mum helpfully pointed out that I didn’t seem to know much about what I could do.

Fair play: I looked into a wider range of possible career options and was surprised that there were so many possible paths. I learned that accountancy didn’t sound like me, but I came up with being a solicitor working within environmental regulation. This sounded great.

I got some work experience, arranged a training contract and now I’m using my geography degree in all sorts of interesting ways.
- Geography graduate, now a solicitor.
I love music and always imagined I’d become a musician, until my degree came to an end and I didn’t know what to do. I looked into joining a professional orchestra and it seemed far too daunting and risky! I would have to live in a hovel for years while I trained and prayed that everything would go my way, and frankly I wasn’t so sure I was good enough.

This was a worrying time because I thought I’d made a big mistake in choosing to do a music degree as it seemed so irrelevant to proper jobs. However, a careers adviser at university put me straight. She pointed out that employers often focus more on transferrable skills than knowledge and I would have developed a number of attractive qualities during my studies.

One skill I identified was a technical awareness of patterns and order. This led me to consider a career in accountancy. Later that year, with help from the careers service, I was able to convince employers in the field that I had the skills they needed and I had a choice of job offers.

I am now very happy as I have found a niche in the music industry and continued with my music in my spare time.
- Music graduate, now a chartered accountant
I studied medicine because I did well at school and my parents wanted me to go into a well-respected career. My dad helped me make contacts and apply for courses, and before I knew it I was a student doctor.

Training was hard work, but I got by and made some good friends. As time went by, I started to despise the role and my parents for forcing me into it. However, I just didn’t have the guts to stand up to them and break their hearts by dropping out. Therefore, I decided to stay on the course and graduate come what may!

As the years passed, I became increasingly interested in gaming during my spare time – anything to blot out my day-to-day drudgery. I got into this more and more, and even started to develop new games.

More by accident than planning, I decided to write my own games when I graduated from university for a while. Five years later, I’m still doing it and am now developing games to train surgeons – who knew!
Medicine graduate, now an entrepreneur

What’s the secret to getting the perfect job?


Example routes into some popular careers

There are numerous routes into most careers, for example:

  • To become a solicitor you could undertake a law degree or a non-law degree and a graduate diploma in law (GDL). There are also two-year masters courses for non-law graduates. You can then study for a legal practice course (LPC). However, you could also become a legal executive and transfer to become a solicitor. Furthermore, you could get involved with some work-based training or qualify overseas and transfer.
  • To get into teaching you could undertake a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), school based training or a number of alternative paths for special groups (see www.tda.co.uk).
  • To become a chartered accountant you could undertake a training contract at firms of accountants, public businesses, private sector organisations or charities. You can also become an accounting technician and gradually upgrade your qualifications.

Further resources

www.targetjobs.co.uk – Lots of information on getting into specific careers, across a range of sectors.

www.prospects.ac.uk – Comprehensive information on getting into a number of careers, including entry requirements, training and career development.

www.careers.govt.nz – Tools to help you with careers ideas, study options and crafting a CV, plus a jobs board with vacancies (filter by industry or vocational pathway).

www.graduatejobpodcast.com/careerplanning/ - Listen to Steve Rook, author of The Graduate Career Guidebook, discuss career planning on Graduate Job Podcast.