"What the hell am I going to do now?"

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"So, what are you going to do now?" This is a question that strikes fear into the hearts of many graduates and soon-to-be graduates. What am I actually going to do now? You've done your degree and you're now facing the prospect of having to get a "real job". But you don't know what kind. You've got limited experience and a half decent degree from a decent enough university, but you don't have a clue what you want to do.

There are thousands of websites devoted to interview tips and crafting the perfect CV, but the question remains, what the hell are you going to do now?

What can I get?

During the last few years, you might have noticed, the graduate job market is not the easiest nut to crack nor the most fruitful. Competition for certain places and positions is tough and graduates cannot be half-arsed in their approach to finding a respectable and decently paid job. But what do you do if you don't know where to start?

Having a good understanding of what you can offer any employer, what your strengths and weaknesses are and if you have any specialist skills is the first place to start. At the peril of sounding cliché, graduate employers have the luxury of not having to force square pegs into round holes. Often there are many links between your degree and positions in the working world, but they are not limited to those fields and graduates have an intelligent base to make their endeavours versatile.

To avoid sounding patronising and spending enternity listing all the posibilities that could be open to you and people from your discipline, it could be that English graduates could find work in Media, Advertising, Consultancy, Marketing, Retail and I could go on. Maths graduates could be very successful in finding work in sectors like Sales, Management, Accounting or Banking and so on and so on and so on.

3 Questions to ask yourself

  1. Why did I study that subject?
  2. What has it taught me?
  3. Where does it usually point graduates from my discipline?

One thing that graduates and students should be aware of is that graduate employers are rarely concerned about the subject you have studied. Unless the role is a technical position, in something like Engineering or Computing, employers mainly want to see graduates that are degree educated, and only rarely distinguish between humanities, arts or sciences.

Where do you want to go?

Some graduates have an idea of where they might like to be eventually but are not 100% sure about either how to get there or if it is exactly what they want to do. If you have a long term position in sight, then go for it. However, if you're aiming high, you might have to take baby steps to get there.

Knowing how to get there is the tricky bit. Graduates need to understand what is required to get to their final aim. One way I would recommend doing it is finding someone's job you want and email them asking how they got it.

Try this tactic, it worked for me: After moving to university to start my English and History degree, I started shooting off a few emails to Editors at magazines I was fond of. Eventually I managed to persuade one Editor to meet me for a beer, so we could talk over how you get started on a career path. This led to an internship, which gave me the leverage to get more internships at different places. You will be surprised how helpful people can be, especially when you offer them a pint.

3 Questions to ask yourself

  1. Whose job do I want?
  2. How did they get it?
  3. How can I apply that to myself?

You don't even need to physically meet them, if they have a spare 5 minutes for a phone call you can enquire and find out straight from the horse's mouth what a career or position is really like. This is often the best way to find out if a career is for you. People in the working world are readily prepared to tell you what it's like, warts and all, rather than an enticing job description.

Chase your passions

Working out what the hell you're going to do after university is a difficult decision to make. So if you're still unsure about what to do, follow your passions. Think about what you enjoy then think how people make/earn money for doing exactly that. You can then work backwards to your position and plan it that way. This is an important point no matter how wild and wonderful your dream job is.

If graduates are just going to take a job to keep them ticking over, the novelty will soon wear off. Any job that pays should not be sneered at but it is easy for graduates to get stuck in a rut and fall into something they never intended on. And this does happen. Not to demean the noble teaching profession, but we have all had one teacher that wanted to make it a certain profession but didn't. So they took those skills to teaching about the subject. Mine was a teacher who thought himself the next Mark Kermode, but taught media studies instead. People fall into careers all the time and you will hear them say 'Well I always wanted to be a…' with a sense of disappointment and regret.

3 Questions to ask yourself

  1. What could I never get bored of doing?
  2. How do people make money doing that?
  3. Would I regret not giving it ago?

By all means chancing your career on something you're unsure about could turn out to be worthwhile and give you great fulfilment. However, I'd argue, and recommend, that you might regret it later in life if you didn't at least give it a go. You'll have to work very hard, but it's there if you want it enough.

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