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Haven't got a clue?


If you've gone through the stages of reflecting and exploring, you should by now have a pretty good idea of your strengths and values, and you should have been researching some of the options out there that might suit you. Hopefully, you've also been making contact with people in the sectors or types of job which most appeal. Now is the time to start narrowing focus and taking some decisions.

It's not the case that you have to take the plunge and commit all of your energies to just one option. But nor is it the case that you can keep dozens of avenues open indefinitely, not least because of the sheer time commitment which that would involve. What can you rule in or out? Where do you need to revisit your reflection and exploration in order to move closer to a decision?

If you need help in assessing the research you've done and weighing up your options, then you can discuss things with a careers adviser. Alternatively, you could try using a tool like this decision-making website.

Keep in mind:

  • Know thyself. Some people prefer decisions to be meticulous, supported by lots of evidence, and gently incubated over time; others prefer to follow their gut instincts and take a spontaneous leap of faith. Each decision-making style has its merits and its downsides; neither is empirically better than the other. It's your call go with whatever feels right for you.
  • There's no such thing as the one 'correct' decision. Remember that lots of options are potentially congenial and rewarding. At the end of the day, any decision can only be what feels right for you at a given moment in time, on the basis of the information that you have available. And the worst-case scenario is that you choose a job which isn't all it's cracked up to be, you learn from it, and you move on to something more suitable.

Deciding not to decide just yet postgraduate study & gap years

Putting off your career for a while longer and taking time out to do further study or a gap year is a perfectly valid decision, and what you do during your time out will probably enhance your self-knowledge and awareness of your options. However, it's vital to consider seriously the risks in deciding not to decide just yet.

The first risk is forgetting that you have only put off the decision, not avoided it for ever. If you're going away or studying for a fixed period of time, you know that you will need to revisit your career choices when that time is up.

The second risk is more practical. Will the costs of your extra time outweigh the potential benefits? For example, Masters courses are expensive and funding for those who are not intending to stay on for a PhD is becoming scarcer. Some employers do require a specific, often vocational, Masters degree, but many do not, and you shouldn't assume that a higher degree is self-evidently an asset. If you're looking at a particular course, it's worth asking the course provider for information about what previous students have gone on to do.

Whatever you're contemplating, try to speak to people who have undertaken something similar. To do this, you may need to seek out new contacts, e.g. by using your college's alumni networks, the GradLink database, or external services like LinkedIn. You can also talk to a careers adviser if you want help in assessing the possible risks in your plans.

Top tip: for more information, visit our pages on Moving on to Postgraduate Study or Taking a Gap Year.

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