How to think flexibly about your future

How to think flexibly about your future

For recent graduates, it's fairly daunting deciding what you want from your career. Maybe you had everything planned but did not get onto the grad scheme you wanted. Or maybe you focussed, understandably, on completing your final year and haven’t had too much time to think about what you want to do next.

You know that an expected career path would be a 9 to 5 job - but maybe this is not the right path for you. Do not feel despondent if you do not take a traditional path, and try to broaden your thinking so you can recognise what really matters to you.

Girl looking into distance
Think creatively

You might be struggling to land a traditional job, or maybe you are in the early days at a job that does not feel quite right.

Think creatively about what might be available to you. Below are some examples of other routes which might be open to you either as a career, or as a stop-gap whilst you decide on what to do:

  • Freelance work
    Perhaps you have some skills in content writing, social media or marketing which you could charge for. Review your transferable skills and see where you could be valuable.
  • Travel or live abroad
    Schemes such as those run by the British Council help find teaching placements abroad, or you might save up some money and see the world for a few months to help you decide what you would prefer to do long term.
  • A different industry
    Whilst jobs in service and hospitality might be seen by some as somehow not good enough, work in these sectors can be hugely rewarding and nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Become an entrepreneur
    When you are young and with few responsibilities and little to lose, why not? This could range from aiming for the stars, or setting up an Etsy shop or dog walking business.
Where to get help

It is easy to feel untethered and unsupported, but there are plenty of resources and support networks out there which are in place to help you. You are entitled to this support, so do not be afraid to ask.

  • Career services
    Many universities continue to offer career advice even after graduation so reach out as they will be able to advise you. You can also find advice at the National Careers Service.
  • Friends and family
    Ask around. If you are interested in a particular path, see if someone in your network can answer some questions and give you some tips.
  • Networking and mentors
    LinkedIn can feel daunting, especially if you are already feeling despondent about your career. However, it also gives you access to people in the exact areas you might be interested in, or who have also taken a risk. Most people would be happy to answer questions if you reach out to them, or even offer informal mentoring.
Applying for jobs with an open mind

Try not to limit yourself either by your own self-doubt or by other people’s expectations.

Apply for jobs that interest you even if you do not tick every single box. Review your transferable skills, and ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance.

Equally, assess what your values are as opposed to other people’s. Are you only applying for jobs with a certain salary because all your friends have got ‘well-paid’ jobs? Are you only looking at a certain industry because that is what your parents expect? Are you only looking at jobs in London because that is where you think all the action is?

Think about what matters to you, and broaden your job search accordingly.

Be kind to yourself

Don’t be too tough on yourself if you do not land your perfect job, or you can’t work out what you want right now. It takes time to figure everything out. More and more people are changing careers and finding flexible ways to work. Be sure to practise self-compassion.



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