After completing your GCSEs, A-Levels or IBAC, you'll probably find yourself asking "What job should I do?" Of course, there's no easy answer to this and it can take a little bit of exploring before you know what jobs will suit your personality and ambitions.
List your skills and interests
What are you good at? What do you enjoy? These are two very important questions when considering the big question "What job should I do?". The chances are you're going to be in work for a very long time, and you're most likely to be happy if you're doing something you excel at and get pleasure out of.
Draw up a list of the things you're good at (here's one we prepared earlier to give you some ideas). This could be school subjects, hobbies or pastimes, personal qualities, or just things you know you have a knack for. Here are some examples we've broken down into categories:
- School: Problem solving, working with numbers, essay writing.
- Hobbies: Playing an instrument, drawing, spending time with pets, crafts.
- Personal qualities: Listening, offering advice.
- Stuff you can just do: Coming up with ideas, cooking.
Don't forget to take a look at our list of skills you already have from school.
'When asking "What job should I do?", start by considering your skills and interests.'
Research different industries
The next step is to research the various different industries that are out there. Having a good overview of different career sectors will help increase your awareness of different opportunities. At Success at School, we've compiled a list of the 34 most common career zones that people work in.
Start by browsing through the list and writing down any industries that sound appealing to you. You can then take the time to read through each area in more detail, and connect up how your skills and interests map on to these career areas.
Here are a few examples using some of the skills we listed above:
- Problem solving: You might make a good engineer, computer programmer.
- Essay writing: If you know how to construct an argument, you might make a good solicitor or barrister.
- Offering advice: Maybe you'd make a good counsellor or therapist.
- Cooking: A chef, maybe...
Take a career test
To help you draw up a shortlist of your 'likes' and 'dislikes' in terms of careers, we've created 7 questions in a career test style. Write down your answers to these questions and then take some time to read them over. Your answers should provide you with a list of thinking points to consider when choosing a career.
- What key skills and specialist knowledge do you have?
- Which of these skills are you keen to use in your job?
- What kind of people do you want to work with?
- What kind of environment do you find the most motivating?
- What hours are you prepared to work?
- Are you willing to spend time away from home?
- What else would be important to you in a job?
Plan out how to get where you're aiming
If you've listed your skills and interests, looked at all the career areas, done the career test and realised that it's your dream to become a vet – you're going to need to do some more work to get there.
You've answered the question "What job should I do?", but that's only half the story. A lot of jobs require qualifications, training, experience – and most likely all three. This means you'll have to invest time, and probably money, to get what you need to do your ideal job.
Use our career zones pages to find out what you need to do your idea job and decide whether you're willing and able to get that degree, do that work experience placement, or apply for that apprenticeship in order to get to where you're aiming. Then, make a list of what you need to achieve, talk to careers adviser or teacher, and use the resources on our site to find out about your next steps.
Make sure each job allows you to get closer to your ideal
You'll probably need to do a number of jobs along the way to achieving your aim. It's worth finding out what jobs can act as stepping stones to where you want to be, and making sure you have the room to step between them when you finally apply for your first job.
This infographic lists some important things to think about that will help you get where you're aiming:
Consider your self-employment options
Being self-employed may not be the first career choice that you think of at 16 years old. However, for some people, the idea of working for yourself and being your own boss is very appealing. According to the Office for National Statistics, 4.6 million people in the UK are self-employed. The most common self employed jobs are:
Whereas these jobs might not be for everyone, with the rise in internet-based startups, jobs like website design, computer programming, commercial writing, social media management and digital marketing are all on the up.
For more information on being self-employed, check out our post Being your own boss: What does it take to work for yourself.
Work experience and volunteering
One of the best things about doing a work experience placement is that you get to see what it's like working in a specific industry without committing to working there full-time. You'll have the chance to learn more about the different types of jobs in the industry and pinpoint which ones you think you'll find interesting. For more information about how you can benefit from work experience placements, check out our post on work experience ideas.
Volunteering can also be a great way to experience working in different industries and can help you develop the commercial awareness skills that employers look for. Volunteering can also give you a heap of skills and experience to talk about on your CV and during job interviews. If you're interested in finding out more about volunteering, have a read of our post how to find volunteering opportunities that will help with your career.
By now, we reckon you'll have a pretty solid answer to the question "What job should I do?" Now you know where you want to go, it's just a question of getting there. Take a look at our guide to finding your first job.