I want to research an occupation

Before you start researching

Researching an occupation is a great way to begin to test whether that occupation could be a good fit for you or not. If you are looking into a role as a potential first job after graduation then carry out your research with some criteria in mind: does this role suit my skills? Will it motivate me? Does it focus on my interests? Will it fit with my values? Does it use knowledge I have already developed? You may decide that some or all of these factors are important to you. If this is the case reflect frequently upon them whilst you are researching. You can read about occupations, listen and talk to people about their jobs, watch people do their jobs and even go and try out the role as different ways of learning about it. Doing some of each is recommended.

Reading about occupations

  • Our career bites: introduce you to “families” of jobs and refer you to further resources.
  • Prospects types of jobs provides generic job descriptions of the most occupations including information on typical work activities, salary and conditions, entry requirements, training, career development, employers and vacancies and related jobs. This site also provides useful case studies for each of the roles they describe. There are also links to many more information sources from each of the job descriptions which you can explore.
  • Professional bodies: are another great source of information, although not every occupation has a professional body. To search for the one related to the occupation that interests you head to Business Link.

Getting started

  1. Head to the types of jobs link on Prospects.
  2. Scroll down the sectors and click on the one that interests you.
  3. Read the job description and duties.
  4. Read about the entry requirements and select a case study to review.
  5. Now sit down and reflect on what you have learned. Does the work play to your strengths? Does it match your values, interests and motivations?

Listening to information about occupations

  • You can attend careers fairs either in your department or those that run centrally in the University and talk to people doing the work that interests you.
  • You can attend employer presentations and events either on or off campus to listen to talks and ask questions.
  • You can look on recruiters’ graduate recruitment web pages and listen to employee podcasts.
  • You can use your network of contacts: your friends, your family, your course peers, course alumni, your previous employers and work colleagues, your tutors and everyone your contacts may know too.
  • You can even contact a recruiter and ask to be put in touch with someone doing the role that interests you at present. Inviting them for coffee and chat to them with your pre-prepared set of topics

Getting started

  1. Visit the Employer events pages on My Jobs Online to see which employers are coming on to campus for presentations and attending the careers and placements fair.
  2. Work out whether the roles that interest you will be represented at any of the events listed.
  3. Book or apply to attend the event.
  4. Put the event in your diary.
  5. Prepare a set of questions that you would like answered

Watching people working

Workshadowing is a unique opportunity to see people working in an occupation that interests you in their environment. Anything from one day to a couple of weeks work shadowing can really open your eyes to what the work is like. Remember that you will be seeing both the exciting and boring bits.

Doing the job yourself

If you want to research an occupation, there is nothing like having a go yourself. You can do this via voluntary work, internships, work experience and placements. Make sure you tackle the real duties involved (not just the photocopying) and ask colleagues questions whilst you are there to learn all you can.


Remember that very few people enter their first job feeling 100% sure. There comes a point at which you just have to go for it. This point can take a while to reach, however, so it is important that you keep going. Doing a small amount of research each week is a good option. If you feel you have tried lots of the suggestions above and are stuck, or feeling demotivated, then come and talk to a Careers Adviser.

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