How to choose a career when you don’t know what to do

It can be hard to decide where you fit in the world of work and where your skills apply. But there are ways to find a fulfilling career. This advice applies to everyone from school leavers to students and career changers.  

Identify your interests and talents

Think about what you like and what you are good at – and what challenges you enjoy. Are your skills and knowledge a good fit for a particular field? 

Ask yourself what transferable skills you have. These are abilities that apply across roles and sectors. Some are hard skills, like coding, while others are called soft skills – examples include communication and teamwork. Think of times when you’ve used these skills. 

Don’t just look at what you’ve studied or where you’ve worked so far. What hobbies do you have? What do you do in your spare time?

Key questions include:

  • what did I enjoy at school or university?
  • what am I good at?
  • what are my values?
  • what do I want from a career?
  • what’s important to me?

Skills assessments can help if you find it difficult to pin down your strengths and weaknesses. 

Research careers

This is about focusing. You can look at various different fields at the National Careers Service.

Exploring different categories will show you career paths that could fit your skills and interests, and what’s required to go in that direction. 

Draw up a list of five jobs and think about the pros and cons. What do they involve? Consider: 

  • career development
  • employment prospects
  • entry requirements and qualifications required
  • job descriptions
  • pay – see market data    

Consider what training and qualifications are needed. What roles fit with your achievements so far? Do you want to study in an academic setting or earn while you learn with an apprenticeship or traineeship? How long do you want to spend training before you get a job? 

It’s important to think about what type of employer fits with your values. Are you more suited to a small business or large corporation? Public sector, private or charities? Would you rather work for yourself?

Make a decision

Now you know about yourself and about the job market. From the career ideas list, decide which has the biggest appeal – and choose a couple of alternatives in case your first choice turns out not to be ideal. 

Ask these questions:

  • will I enjoy doing the job day to day?
  • does it meet most of my requirements?
  • have I got relevant skills?
  • are there employers that share my values?
  • is the salary right?
  • is the industry growing? 

Get advice

There’s plenty of support available to help you decide: