What can I do with my degree?
Written by Emma Butler
Date posted: November 3, 2011
This coaching guide is designed to help you in identifying the choices open to you after you graduate and key issues for you to consider. If you are very unclear about what you would like to do after graduation you may wish to see the coaching guide, Working out what you want do. (http://www.reading.ac.uk/blogs/careers/2011/10/working-out-what-you-want-to-do/)
Many students are keen to use their knowledge gained from their degree in a future career and most degrees will link to at least one or two career areas. This could be very directly relevant eg a chemist working in a lab, or closely relevant e.g. the same chemist writing scientific articles for specialist journals. A question to ask yourself is “Do you know what careers link with your degree?” To find out what is available to you with your subject and what you might need to have to enter your chosen career follow the advice in the Where to start box. The Prospects website also has case studies of graduates working in a wide range of areas. This section will also reveal if relevant experience or postgraduate study would be required. Careers that may seem closed to you, could open up by gaining either relevant experience and/or training. Professional bodies are also an excellent source of career information relevant to specific subjects e.g. Institute of Mathematics (www.ima.org.uk/careers.cfm), British Psychological Society (www.bps.org.uk/careers-education-training/how-become-psychologist/types-psychologists/types-psychologists), etc. Full list of professional bodies (www.bis.gov.uk/policies/higher-education/access-to-professions/professional-bodies).
Many students assume that most career areas are looking for a related degree; e.g. management for business careers, politics for the Civil Service or a humanities degree to work in creative industries such as advertising. Actually the reality is that approx 45% of graduate vacancies are open to any discipline. This is particularly helpful for all those students who are studying not obviously relevant degrees but who develop excellent skills in critical analysis, communication skills, etc and wish to apply these in a graduate level position. Job titles that meet this criteria, (but not always) could include Graduate Management Trainee, Graduate Marketing Officer, Human Resources Graduate Trainee etc. Often students assume that employers will have a preference for candidates who have studied a relevant subject but employers like to have a mix in their teams, for example a philosophy student may look quite differently at a problem compared with a history graduate; neither of these approaches may be wrong but it is refreshing for an employer to get different perspectives. This is why employers are looking for a range of “competencies” when recruiting to ensure that their graduates have the potential to do the job and then provide further training on the job role. Check the graduate vacancies to see which employers are looking for “any discipline” good sites to start with include: Careers Centre job vacancies (accessible via My Jobs Online (www.reading.ac.uk/careers/myjobsonline/), Prospects (www.prospects.ac.uk/links/jobvacs) and Targetjobs (http://targetjobs.co.uk/).
It may seem obvious, but other options include taking “time out”. For some graduates this means taking a Gap year and travelling (see Coaching sheet on Time Out), but for the majority it can involve a combination of trying different careers on for size. Figures show that graduates tend to go through five to seven different jobs in their working lives; contrary to previous generations which was more about a job for life. The comforting news from this is that students don’t have to worry about making a wrong choice, that means no experience is wasted it all helps to shape us and define our longer term goals. Some students find it useful to see what past Reading students have gone on to do and there are reports on the Careers Centre website that give a snapshot of what Reading graduates are doing 6 months after graduation.
Only a very small percentage of students get a place on an official “Graduate Training Scheme” the majority work for a range of employers and organisations, some big some small, applying their skills and learning everyday and their careers progress just as well. Some of these jobs might not specify a graduate in the person specification but the reality is it is likely to go to a graduate. In fact some graduates prefer to work for a smaller employer where you can often get involved in all areas of the business rather than specialising in just one. After a couple of years many move on to larger organisations.
- If you want to use your degree analyse what aspects really interest you
- Research how these relate to careers and what they would require
- Identify any potential gaps and see a placement officer at the Careers Centre for ideas on where to find work experience
- If you plan to take a year out come and see a Careers Adviser for advice on how to make it count
Students who can offer a range of skills AND some relevant experience often seem to have a better chance of getting a place on a graduate training scheme , this may be because they can articulate to an employer why they want to work in that area and what they can offer. For example an Arts student who wants to get a place on a competitive HR management training scheme with a large employer would have a better chance if they had spent some time whilst studying working (paid or unpaid) in an HR department. If they were unsuccessful they could choose whether to study towards a professional qualification in their own time or take a year out getting some relevant experience maybe working as a HR Admin assistant, or work shadowing an HR professional (unpaid), ideally they might do both! One thing that is clear though, is that by getting this experience students can really decide whether this is the right career option for them and this self-knowledge will impress at interview.