I’ve finished school, now what do I do?

Finished secondary school and feeling a little lost? Or unsure how to adapt to the different opportunities available? Or do you have family members who are in this position currently? I have been working a lot over the past year with school and college leavers seeking their first job.

Here are some observations around the key decisions and how to make them.

The consensus seems to be that University is the natural progression. But, what if it’s just not for you?

Thankfully, there are OTHER options available, despite uni sometimes feeling drilled into you. It’s good to consider each option, identifying what your key strengths are and how these could be suited to that particular route.

Various routes into work

Apprenticeships, traineeships and school leavers programmes are just a few examples. It’s good to know how each of these work so you can weigh up your options. It’s important you never feel pressured to take one route over another. These decisions are too important not to be made freely and independently. Don’t be pressured by anyone else’s opinion. They are not the ones who have to do the work or study that follows. And there’s nothing worse than doing something you hate.

Remember, this next step could be the basis for the rest of your career, so it’s worth getting right. BUT it’s important not to overstate the permanence of the choice you make. Careers can develop organically. All experience is worth having. There is no such thing as useless knowledge. And you will never know more than a fraction of what there is to know! So don’t hold out waiting for the perfect job at the expense of gaining some experience.

How to choose

Learning and earning should be fun, so you have to try to make the right choice for YOU. If necessary, just take one step at a time. Whilst it’s nice to have a 50 year career mapped out ahead of you, it is irrational to expect everyone to have this, when they don’t have the experience to judge.

I worked as a recruitment consultant for three years. Great experience / highly useful for what I do now. But I’d never want to do that forever. And the reality of the job was different from the outside perception.

So, what’s next?

Well, firstly you need to know the ins and outs of your options. You could research them yourself, or speak to a careers advisor who will be able to explain everything you need to know impartially, as well as put you in touch with the right people.

Additional information

After weighing up your options, have a conversation with your parents / family, or someone who really knows you like a teacher perhaps. Because they know you, your interests and your skillset. They may tell you things about yourself that you hadn’t considered.

I’m not saying take their advice as gospel, but they might be able to offer some guidance on things you’re unsure of or things they have experienced, so that you can make an informed decision.

Then, most importantly, have a conversation with yourself. Think, ‘what do I enjoy’ ‘what are my key strengths/ weaknesses’ and ‘what would I realistically like to be doing in 3 years’. Perhaps write a list, and then you can match these with similar courses/ programmes / jobs based on your interests.

The most important thing to remember is not to rush into something you could later regret. So don’t place too much emphasis on the opinion of others. Good things take time, and a good start to your career will set you in good stead for your future. It’s better to be moving in the right direction than waiting to begin.



Written by

CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.