Thinking about your career
The choices you make and the experiences you build up during your GCSE years may have a real impact on where you might end up in the future – even if you're not sure what you want to do yet!
Here are five easy things you can do now to make sure your future options stay as wide as possible. If you’re not sure which GCSEs to take yet, read 'How to choose your GCSEs'If you would like to understand the impact your GCSE’s have, read this page from The Uni Guide, 'GCSE Choices and University'.
While you don’t necessarily need certain GCSE subjects to get into a particular career, most jobs expect you to have minimum grade 4 or 5 (formerly a C) in GCSE English language and literature, maths and science.
If you’re thinking of studying A-levels or BTECs (or an equivalent qualification), it's important to think carefully about what subjects you really enjoy doing and could commit to for another two years. You should also think about how good you are at the subject – could you cope with studying the subject at a more advanced level?
While there’s a lot more to consider when making your choices at 16, ultimately you need to have a real interest in the subject to achieve your full potential.
Get some hands-on experience
You’ll usually get the chance to do some work experience as part of your school curriculum. This will normally involve spending one or two weeks at an employer’s workplace, shadowing people as they go about their day-to-day activities and speaking to different people about what their roles entail.
Think about what sort of work experience interests you – what types of jobs are you interested in? What kind of environment would you like to work in? For inspiration, watch video interviews and listen to podcasts of people in different roles and industries. There are loads to look at via our Resource library, Careers Centre, The Parent Perspective or iCould
It can be tricky to secure some work experience, so here are our tips:
- use your contacts: ask your careers advisers, teachers and family members if they know anybody working in roles or organisations that interest you and see if they can put you in touch.
- be flexible: it’s unlikely you’ll get work experience in your dream job straight away, so be prepared to start out smaller. If you hope to be a top-notch barrister one day, get in touch with local legal firms to see if you can spend some time shadowing them.
- be proactive: look online, write lots of letters, make lots of phone calls, visit organisations if possible with your CV – do everything you can to identify potential placements.
- play the numbers game: the more opportunities you apply for, the more likely it is you’ll secure some experience!
Get involved in extra-curricular activitiesTrying out different extra-curricular activities is not only a good way to build up skills for your CV (eg. communication skills in the debating society, teamwork skills as part of a sports club - the list goes on!), you also get the chance to meet new people and work out what you most enjoy doing.
If you love the arts or theatre, you might want to think about pursuing a creative career, either in something directly using your artistic or acting skills, or in a creative industry more generally. If you're into sports, maybe a career in the leisure or health industries might be an option?
Even if you enjoy spending your spare time on Facebook or Instagram, you could be getting yourself set for a future career in the digital world.
What about volunteering?Volunteering can be a great way to develop new skills or contribute to a cause you care about, as well as giving you valuable experience in an area related to a possible future job.
If you’re thinking about teaching, you’ll find that there are loads of opportunities to work with children and other young people – helping out at youth clubs or arranging activities for younger year groups at school, for instance. Likewise, if you’re considering a career in healthcare, volunteering in a nursing home or disability centre could give you a real insight into some of the challenges of the career and help you decide if it’s right for you.
Committing to a volunteering placement – even if it’s only every couple of weeks – should not only be rewarding but will demonstrate a genuine enthusiasm that will impress employers and university admissions tutors alike.