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Careers Advice

It’s never too early to think about your career – although it’s a cliché that many young people just have no idea what they want to do when they’re older, taking time to sit down and think about what you might be interested in doing is still a good idea.

Since the government scrapped the Connexions career service in 2012, with no extra cash for schools to take on the responsibility themselves, careers advice has unfortunately become rather sparse for many pupils across the UK.

Our careers guide aims to fill this gap by providing valuable information on how teenagers can successfully identify industries and sectors where they are best suited for employment. This all starts by looking at the individual’s aptitudes, skills, interests and personality.

So whether you’re 13 or 18, we outline in four simple steps how to make a comprehensive self-assessment. We recommend you use this guide in conjunction with our Careers In 10 Minutes tool. Best of luck

#1 Interests

Although it may not be obvious at first, this is actually an extremely important factor in choosing a career you will be happy and successful in. It outweighs the impact of any qualifications you have or are about to earn, since a job takes up a significant part of your life and therefore doing something you enjoy during this time is a must.

Think about and write down which subjects you like most and are enthusiastic about – aim for at least two or three if possible. You can also include things you learn about outside of school as part of an extracurricular activity or as a hobby in your spare time.

Part of choosing the right career path and being successful in it means you actually enjoy the work you are doing, and not hating every minute of it.

Try to pinpoint exactly why you like these subjects in particular – is it:

  • The content you are covering, and are keen to gain more knowledge on it?
  • Using certain skills such as problem solving or numeracy?
  • You like the way it is taught, e.g. there is lots of group work?
  • You prefer the assessment methods compared to other subjects, e.g. there is a lot of essay writing.

Picking out these details can be extremely useful later on, as they can help you narrow down your careers list to more specific roles once you have done further investigation. It can also help you with point number two below.

#2 Aptitudes

Next, think about what you are good at and identify your strengths. To do this, make a heading for each subject you are currently studying at school or college, and jot down notes on anything you excel at for each one.

Even if you feel you are generally not very adept at the subject as a whole, that doesn’t mean there are parts of it you’re good at. For example if you are studying French, it may not be one of your better subjects, but you may always do well in the speaking part of assessment.

Consider the following aptitude examples as you write your notes:

  • Numeracy/arithmetic
  • Verbal
  • Literacy
  • Problem solving/logic
  • Data interpretation
  • Non-Verbal Reasoning
  • Vocabulary

You may also wish to include another heading for each subject, where you identify areas you are not so strong in and require further development. You can then look through these and decide whether they are the type of things you would like or need to improve on, or should be avoided.

Your lists of strengths will tell you where your talents might be valued by employers, and what aptitudes you might want to expand on either through more education or a job.

#3 Personality

This is the tough bit – looking at yourself as a person in a critical, yet constructive manner. However, the way you behave and respond to the world around you means you’ll be better suited to working in some roles and environments than others.

Fitting in at your place of employment is another key factor to embarking on a long and fulfilling career – there’s no point becoming a nurse if you don’t enjoy interacting with strangers, or have little patience.

There are lots of personality tests and quizzes out there that will help give you a more accurate picture of yourself, but essentially they all want to know if you are one of either in the following four categories:

  • Extrovert or introvert
  • Sensor or intuitive
  • Thinker or feeler
  • Judger or perceiver

Try to write down how you would describe yourself first, as this can make a good comparison to any personality test results you receive. Often, these tests will throw up some interesting observations about a person’s personality that they might have realised before.

Some places to start taking personality tests for careers advice include:

Futurewise is also a great online careers guidance package that includes a psychometric profile, although it doesn’t come cheap, with prices starting at £77. If you’re interested, an enrolment form can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.

Once you’ve taken a few online tests and got down some notes about yourself, you should have a good idea of the type of person you are. This is important if you are going to enter a career that doesn’t clash with your personality, e.g. if it turns out you’re introverted, then a role in a sales department isn’t going to be ideal.

#4 Values & Beliefs

Finally, think about any values or beliefs you hold that may prevent you from working in certain industries – for example, if you’re against animals being kept in captivity, then a career in zoology probably isn’t a great option. On the other hand, if you believe in conservation and the protection of endangered species, then you are likely to be motivated toward a career as a zoologist or ecologist.

Again, make a list on this topic, which will help you identify roles to focus on or avoid.

Hopefully these four exercises have left you with a detailed set of notes around your strengths, weaknesses, personality, interests and beliefs.

Now you can begin to explore some careers that you feel may be suited to you based on this information you’ve gathered.

Career Exploration

Now that you’ve completed your self-assessment, it’s time to start some research.

Many teenagers don’t know what they want to do with their life, but let’s face it, who really does at that age?

With so many possibilities out there to consider, on top of revising for exams, completing coursework and (still) sorting out what you do and don’t enjoy, it’s no wonder teenagers just don’t have a clue.

To help you investigate the thousands of career options available even further, we recommend using your notes in conjunction with a career exploration website. These include:

You’ll be amazed at finding some jobs you never knew existed!

At this point, spend as much time as you can researching different careers, and write down anything that catches your eye. Within a week or so you should have a hefty list of interesting options that might be right for you.

Making a shortlist

For each career you’ve written down, take a careful look at your notes about yourself, and decide whether you think:

  • It’s interesting enough
  • It matches your personality
  • It involves work you’re good at
  • It meets any personal values or beliefs, as well as any other needs such income or flexibility
  • It’s in demand.

This should help you reduce the length of potential careers you may wish to embark on.

A final decision?

Even with all this investigation and preparation, choosing a career can be difficult. Remember – there normally isn’t just one career out there for everyone, and you’ll find that multiple career paths will appeal to you. So don’t feel bad if you’re struggling to pick just one option out of your shortlist – these potential choices have all been well-researched, so it’s best to select one and see how you get on.

For many careers, you can try them out before committing long term (with the exception of those that carry years of higher education and training, such as a vet, doctor or lawyer).

At this stage in your life, it doesn’t matter if you move around into several or more different roles – trying out these things is an important skill, and one to practice if you’re going to find the best career for you.
So for now, take the plunge and just start somewhere.

Further information

For more advice on careers guidance, please visit the government’s National Careers Service.