Other sectors

We aim to focus on the career options that attract most interest and attention from current students, and we realise that our coverage can never be comprehensive. This briefing therefore offers ideas for learning about and researching opportunities in other sectors which may not have much visibility at Oxford in the core ‘on-campus’ recruitment events we run.

You may have a long-held plan to pursue a particular career that we don’t cover, or have recently stumbled across something that caught your attention. Whatever it is, the fact that something has tweaked your attention may indicate there is something inherently appealing for you in that idea, so pay attention to your intuitions – your ‘gut feelings’ – and investigate further. Intuition gets more reliable the more research you do. Unresearched first thought are normally unreliable. But how do you start to explore how to become an explorer or a travel writer, an optician or chiropodist, or an animator or stunt artist?

There are many potential strategies for researching options and roles, and there is lots of scope for the enterprising individual to create their own personal pathway too. This briefing aims to point to some of the most promising starting points and approaches to help you to make a start. We would strongly recommend to always ask “who will pay me to do that?” Our experience of talking to alumni a few years out, is that those who go into a large professional organisation as a first step, are stretched, trained, coached and developed. Conversely, many of those who join small organisations, for example, in the arts or not-for-profit sectors learn much less, and quickly find they are not using all of the talents and intellect and probably not learning very much. Larger professional organisations normally have a tradition and process for hierarchical progression, which means after a few years of this kind of experience, an individual can then move into smaller organisations at a much higher level where they can have a greater impact.

Remember, whether you are just starting out with your career planning or making applications, interviewing or even choosing between different job offers, staff at The Careers Service are here to help, advise and support you with independent and impartial advice. Current students and alumni can book a discussion with a Careers Adviser throughout the year.

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The internet is an obvious place to start your search.

Graduate Career Websites

It is no accident that graduate websites feature prominently in the External Resources highlighted in all our sector and occupations briefings. These sites can offer:

  • a wider reach across more industries and roles than a single university careers team (e.g. ProspectsTargetJobs; and Milkround);
  • a more specialist service within a limited area, but providing greater depth and information on a wider variety of roles (e.g. Inside Careers for finance and legal sectors: Gradcracker for STEM careers; Arts Jobs within the arts and cultural sector).

For example, the Prospects website run by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) is the UK’s biggest graduate careers website and provides separate briefings on over 400 job profiles that you can browse by sector or alphabetically. The other Prospects tools include a Career Planner which recommends job matches based on a personality assessment, advice on seeking work in 30 different countries, and a section around the question of “What can I do with my degree?”.

Industry Bodies and Publications

If you are interested in a particular role or sector that is not well covered by our briefings, it is likely that there is a professional body, national organisation or specialist publication that serves people working in that area. For example, anyone interested in the area of transport and logistics, or sports management or tourism and leisure can use any search engine to quickly uncover links for:

  • professional bodies;
  • government policy papers, research;
  • industry news and reports, and analysis on sectors and future scenarios;
  • trade publications.

These sites are frequently an outstanding source of sector-related information, not only providing news and information on current issues and trends but also often:

  • listings of member organisations and companies;
  • details of industry awards, including the companies and individuals singled out for excellence;
  • listings for trade shows and relevant events; and usually
  • job vacancies. For example, trade publications nearly always include vacancies sections and you will usually find full page advertisements taken out by recruitment agencies specialising in the sector.

Social Media

Organisations use social media extensively to promote themselves, their products and careers. It’s not surprising therefore that companies of all kinds are using social media to tell stories about themselves and, increasingly, to advertise positions.  As with all social media, the bigger the pool of users, the more attractive it tends to be for advertisers, so once you have a clear target area in mind, see what you can find on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn … and extend your search to other platforms if you are not finding any good leads. There is detailed information and guidance about using LinkedIn on our Networking page.

Firstly, you may find good ‘company level’ information that you can use, but more probably you can seek out individuals who share your interests or who are already involved in the career areas that you are most interested in learning about. This can be critically important, especially if your field of interest is particularly specialised because the smaller the ‘niche’ the less likely it is that there will be the umbrella organisations, magazines and websites to provide information. See the next section for advice about networking in this context.

Secondly, through interest groups or pages specifically created to support specialist interests, you can start to connect with these people, become privy to their discussions and consider joining the conversation. As above, the smaller the ‘niche’ the more valuable the internet and social media sites become in helping you to connect with like-minded people.

There are also lots of vacancies now being promoted through social media sites. Big employers use social media extensively to share information, advertise positions and allow potential applicants to learn about the company and jobs by encouraging their current staff to answer questions, post videos and share their experiences. And for the small business owner who may already be selling through social media and who has zero budget or expertise in recruitment, it makes sense for them to recruit through the channels they are already using to find and connect with their customers.

Job vacancies

Do not put all of your time into “job vacancy boards” such as Indeed or LinkedIn. Most advertised job vacancies require three to five years experience. Graduate schemes of large organisations are jobs you can get without three years of relevant experience. Many advertised job vacancies are posted by recruitment agencies, so you may not even know which organisation you would be working in. Many of the best opportunities are not advertised on job vacancy boards. We recommend to put significant effort into researching large professional organisations. Then go on to their organisational website and look at the careers or jobs page, this is where you will find the best entry level jobs and graduate schemes. As a first step out of academia, whether from an undergraduate degree, higher degree or postdoc, try to go into an organisation that is as big as possible and as commercial as possible, this is where you will find the best training to get you to the world class level.

Every job advertisement, even an old one where you’ve missed the deadline, can be a valuable source of information.

  • Firstly, it provides a job title and will list the skills and attributes sought in an ideal candidate;
  • Secondly, it may indicate necessary or desirable qualifications you could consider pursuing;
  • Thirdly, it shows that this particular organisation within that specific sector hires into that role – their competitors are also likely to offer similar roles;
  • Lastly, it may provide a named contact you could approach speculatively, both for an informal informational interview or to see if they are likely to hire again in future. See the next section for guidance on networking in this context.

If a single expired vacancy can give you a better understanding of the criteria required for a role, this approach can be used more generally as a starting point to understand potential careers and find organisations to research and contact.

As with all career research, eventually you will want to talk to someone who is actually in the career of interest to you. These are the people best positioned to give you information about their day-to-day reality as well as challenges, opportunities for career development, and lots more.

See our networking webpage for ideas of how to make, grow and maintain contacts.

Whatever your interests, it is a virtual certainty that somebody, somewhere is already working in the role or business area that you are interested in – whether it’s yoga therapy or knitwear design. People are generally willing to share their experience and give advice if others are genuinely interested, not least because it is flattering to be asked and intrinsically rewarding to help others. The more obscure their particular work, the more likely it is they will welcome an attentive and curious audience, so don’t be afraid to ask how they got to be where they are and what advice they would have for anyone interested in following a similar path.

Start by searching for alumni on LinkedIn, have a look at the companies that they work for, and see if they have any appropriate entry-level jobs advertised. You can extend this to seeking out and joining LinkedIn ‘Groups’, which may enable you to tap into active communities and ongoing discussions in the fields that interest you most. There is detailed information and guidance about using LinkedIn on our Networking page.

You can extend your networking efforts across all social media tools to find information and people. For example, search for blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of organisations and individuals. If you can’t find anything at all, perhaps get creative and consider setting up your own blog or starting an interest group and see who finds you!

When you have identified where you might want to work it can often be worthwhile to make a speculative approach if there is no position advertised. Small organisations – and sometimes even quite large ones – may not have the people or other resources to advertise and manage ‘recruitment’ but instead rely on who they know and their networks to help them attract new talent. Moreover, in some sectors you will be expected to be proactive and make the first approach to organisations that interest you. See our sector pages for more details.

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