There are a range of potential barriers that may prevent you from reaching a career decision. The overarching model promoted by the Careers Service is that you need to bring together both self-awareness about who you are and good research into the job-market.
- Our guidance on Generating Career Ideas can help you work through these stages.
- Our new app, Career Weaver has been created to provide a language and variety of short exercises to support and direct effective reflection about you work-related skills and strengths, values and work preferences and motivations.
- Our Sector and Occupations briefings provide accessible information on some 50 different fields of work and are a rich source of information to help kick-start your job-market research.
Remember that the Oxford Careers Service offers all alumni access throughout their working lives from the day of matriculation, so we are available to you whenever you choose to reach out or want to book an advice appointment.
Below are some of the more common questions we are asked - see if any of them seem familiar to you at this point.
What if I'm not 100% sure?
Remember that no decision is for ever: most Oxford graduates switch careers three or four times. Until you work in a job for a year or so, you are never going to have all the information you would like about an occupation. To some degree any decision requires a leap of faith based on what seems to be the right choice at the time. Talk to a Careers Adviser to feel more secure that you have done all you can to make a good choice.
What if I feel nervous about starting work?
The world is your oyster, and the most probably source of stress is that you have too many options. If you start a job that you don't like, you can change direction and probably only have to give one month's notice to leave. People get on to graduate schemes throughout their twenties, and you can try three or four things if you need to. Talk through your concerns with a Careers Adviser.
Calmness and confidence are attractive to recruiters, so reflect on the success in your academic career that brought you to Oxford, you are the one in ten who got in.
What if I feel applying for / taking this job is a bit risky?
If you are unsure you probably need to do more research and networking. If you are not sure how to do that talk to a Careers Adviser. If you haven't had relevant work experience, you may wish to consider this or some shorter-term work shadowing. See our work experience pages for more advice.
I don't feel confident enough to apply for / take on the job
Academic study does not necessarily prepare you to do a job, in most sectors learning is on-the-job. Relax, many have trodden the path you are on and all survived and thrived. Speak to a Careers Adviser about how you feel; they can help you think it through and perhaps give you a well-deserved boost in confidence.
Spend some time listing your positive qualities and abilities, and consciously ignore the negative feelings. If in serious doubt, then perhaps talk to someone in the job at the moment, and get some reassurance about the support on offer in your future job or organisation. There are few first jobs which expect you to hit the ground running. Every strength you now have started with a first attempt. Starting a career is like diving into a swimming pool. "I'm warm and dry, why would I want to get wet?". Toes on the edge, point your fingers, deep breath, hold it, now jump...
But if I take this job, will my whole career go wrong?
No. Nothing in life is so dramatic. Fiona Bruce graduated from Oxford with a degree in Modern Languages, she did a year in Management Consultancy that she did not like, then a couple of years in Advertising which she liked more. She then met the producer of current events TV programme, Panorama, at a wedding and convinced him to allow her to be a researcher on the programme at the BBC. A few years later she was the most famous newsreader in the country, and now she is one of the top presenters on art history TV programs. To our knowledge she has never studied media, journalism or art history academically, so her academic study and first job have had almost no influence on her impressive career.
Also, remember that the Oxford Careers Service offers all throughout your working life. Whilst the vast majority of alumni never need to contact the us, those that do get the advice and support they need to make the changes they want. Just actively manage your career; if a job is not right, take action quickly. Changing career in your twenties is relatively easy, and it continues to be possible later in life, although it may takes a little more effort later.
Will I be letting my parents down if I apply for / take this job?
The best outcome for you and the best outcome for your parents or significant other are not always the same thing. You have to live your work choice, so indulging someone else's aspirations instead of your own can be hard work. If you need to talk to someone independent about it, and want some advice about actions you can take to make those closest to you feel better about your choice, then book in for a careers discussion.
Do I know enough about the job and what I want?
Most people find making a career choice difficult, because they don't have enough information. They either need to explore the career in more depth through work experience or work shadowing, rather than just reading about it, or they need more self-knowledge about what they want, which can often be resolved in the same way.
I feel generally confused - how can I work out what to do?
Often just sitting down and talking things through with someone impartial is all it takes to bring some clarity to your thinking. Try friends and family, your tutor or a Careers Adviser.