Your degree typically paves the way to your career. As you near graduation, the pressure increases to not only complete your dissertation (which is a lot in itself) but to also decide what you want to do next. For many, this will mean following the typical career path of your course, or applying for that dream job you’ve always had your eye on.
However, it’s also normal to feel a bit lost, and questions such as ‘What shall I do next?’, ‘How do I find out what I want to do next?’ and ‘Where do I even start with my career?’ may arise. I was exactly the same. I felt nervous about jumping into the big wide world of work, yet restricted by what others expected of me, based on my degree.
I came to realise that the only way I was going to be happy was if I landed a job that I was actually interested in, rather than taking the typical career path of other graduates on my course. I know that the pressure is high, but believe me, you don’t need to have all the answers right away. I’m here, sharing a few tips that I hope will help you along the way.
I wanted to do something different
I chose to study languages at university. Why? Because that’s what I enjoyed. I thrive in international environments and have a passion for communication, so for me, languages made sense. But I was constantly asked if I wanted to be a translator or language teacher and to be honest, I didn’t want to do either of these. However, I also didn’t know exactly what I did want to do.
Explore outside the lecture theatre
It’s important to remember that learning goes beyond the classroom. I was determined to see what was out there, so I used my free time to explore. I asked myself what I was passionate about and what I enjoyed. After making numerous lists and spider diagrams, I summarised that despite having a degree in languages, I was also passionate about writing and marketing. So I took online courses and read around the topics, which gave me great insights on how to navigate these passions within my career. Not only did I now have the knowledge, but this also gave me a huge confidence boost.
Networking, networking, networking
Once you’ve done the research, it’s time to put yourself out there. In 2019/20 85% of new hires were made through networking, and with online platforms such as LinkedIn readily available for us, new connections are only a few clicks away. Don’t be scared to reach out to people, you never know where a polite ‘hello’ could lead you.
I would also strongly recommend contacting your university careers services for guidance. After all, your employment is within their interest.
You won't love every part, but that's ok
It’s important to remember that your career path can be a bit hit and miss. I have had some jobs that I loved, and others that weren’t really for me. Sometimes you have to try things out to know that they are not for you. Also, you don’t always need to have the perfect 5-year plan. Small steps are sometimes the most valuable and whilst they may not give you the biggest promotion or pay rise, they often offer you the biggest learning curve, setting you up for a better future.
Careers can vary
Seven years after graduating from my languages degree, I’ve worked at a range of companies including a global newspaper, international university and asset manager. I’ve also been fortunate enough to move abroad! As you can see, I certainly didn’t stick to the typical teacher/ translator career path, but instead used my degree as a step that contributed towards what was best for me.
If you’re feeling constrained by the typical career path of your degree, keep in mind that more often than not, there are various options out there. You just need to explore, utilise external resources and remember that it’s your career, not anyone else’s.
Written by Alisa Jordan