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Which? University – How to Find Career Inspiration in Unexpected Places
January 9, 2020

No clue about your future career yet? You might not be looking in all the right places…

If you’ve been searching for an answer in Buzzfeed quizzes and have yet to feel inspired, let’s get you thinking a bit differently.

While there are a number of reasons to choose a particular career – from earning big bucks to a desire to change the world – you need to have a few options to choose from first. So where should you look for ideas? 

Here are six places you may not have considered for a fresh dose of career inspiration:

1. What you’re watching

An easy one to begin with. Watching TV or a film could get you thinking critically about career possibilities in a way that doesn’t feel like ‘research’ or ‘work’.

Documentaries and the news are particularly good for this. Those interviewed usually have their full job title pop up on-screen, giving you a starting place to learn more. Also, a lot of fields and sectors tend to be covered in a 30 minute news broadcast.

Just be aware that the way a job is depicted in fictional TV and films may not be 100% accurate… Don’t be fooled by the ‘CSI Effect’ that might place an unrealistic shine on a less-than-glamorous career.

#CareerGoals: lawyersdoctors and playwrights talk about their jobs

2. Passions and interests

You might instinctively separate personal interests and career options as two things that should never cross over. But something you do for fun can actually have a career in it!

For example, if you’re a diehard Chelsea fan, chances are you probably won’t make the starting eleven at Stamford Bridge. But there could be a profession in the same vicinity which suits your strengths. A sports journalist, nutritionist or physiotherapist could keep you close to the action, without actually touching a ball.

Think carefully about mixing work and pleasure, though. Perhaps you’d prefer keeping that passion as something you do for fun and can always escape to?

3. Part-time job

Not feeling inspired by that Saturday job right now?

The job you’re doing now probably isn’t long-term, but use it as an opportunity to test out what sort of skills you excel in (teamwork, problem solving, customer service?), as well as what other roles there might be further up the chain if you’re working for a larger business.

On your next break, pick your manager’s brain about how they got to where they are, plus other opportunities there may be. Could they put in a good word for you at a head office to get some (corporate) work experience?

A good example might be a career as a fashion buyer, if your current part-time job is in a clothes shop. Working your way up from a shop floor and gaining an understanding of different corners of the company can work in your favour, later. 

4. Brands

Is there a brand or company which you’re fiercely loyal to or really admire? Do you know how many people are responsible for the end-product or service they put out? You might be surprised…

Browse companies’ websites for an ‘About Us’ or ‘Meet The Team’ section, and learn about the different individuals working behind-the-scenes, including their career journey. This can give you a rough blueprint of what you need to follow a similar path (and even a named contact to reach out to with questions).

Similarly, a company’s vacancies or jobs page can provide detailed insight about specific roles and what qualifications, skills and experience they look for.

Popular careers and jobs  what are they, what they involve and how to achieve them

5. Family that’s not mum or dad

Our parents or guardians are usually our primary role models growing up. But if what they do for a living doesn’t interest you, who else in the family can you ask? Aunts and uncles? Cousins? It might be worth catching up with them over email (maybe it’s time to finally accept their Facebook request…).

Do you even know what these extended family members do for a living? Are they still doing what they were doing five years ago? If they changed career direction recently, could their reasons for doing so contain some pearls of wisdom? You never know, they might be doing something really cool which you never knew about.

Family and family friend connections can also help you find work experience.

Learn more about a degree subject: including popular jobs and average graduate salary

6. New jobs

Social media manager, app designer, data analyst, community manager… These are just some of today’s careers which didn’t exist 10 years ago. 

Emerging jobs are usually down to significant technological shifts. It’s quite invigorating to think that some of the big jobs of tomorrow may not technically exist right now, or that they may sprout from existing roles.

If the traditional job roles you hear about everywhere (e.g. doctor, lawyer, police officer) don’t interest you, keep in mind that the job landscape is always evolving. You might just need to do a bit of research around the direction certain industries are moving in.

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