Introduction to how to choose a career


You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Steve Jobs

Many students don't have much time to spend in career planning during their degree course. You may be too busy working to earn money to pay your way through university, or perhaps you are a mature student with a young family that you need to support. You may be too busy to regularly visit the Careers Service. These pages will allow you to do much of this career planning via the web.

First let's look at what factors go into choosing a career:


Choosing a career


Choosing a career involves 4 main stages:

Sometimes these stages will overlap and sometimes you have to return to a previous stage Be aware the cycle is not always as linear and consistent as it is presented here.

Self Awareness

The first stage of Career Choice is Self Awareness. This involves looking at your SKILLS, VALUES, INTERESTS and PERSONALITY and analysing where your strengths and weaknesses lie. This is important both in choosing the right career and also for success in applications and interviews where you will find many questions which test whether you have been through this process.

You can start with looking at your SKILLS here. You can now also look at your INTERESTS , VALUES and PERSONAL STYLES on the web.

Opportunity Awareness

Once you have done some preliminary self analysis, the next stage is to gather information on the opportunities open to you. There is a range of resources to help you here:

There is a range of general careers talks each term which are listed here

There may also be specific careers education programmes for your degree subject, usually during your second year of study.

Information on what you can do with your degree subject

A major recruiter of graduates, annoyed with the great expense of running their annual graduate recruitment programme, decided on a radical new approach to save money. When the student arrived for interview they were taken to a room with just a table and two chairs. They were then left alone for two hours for two hours, without any instructions. At the end of that time, the HR manager went back and see what the student was doing.

If they had taken the table apart, they were put in Engineering.
If they were counting the cigarette ends in the ashtray, they were assigned to Finance.
If they were waving their arms and talking out loud, they were detailed to Consulting.
If they were talking to the chairs, HR was a good location.
If they were sleeping, they were definitely top management material.
If they were writing up the experience, they were sent to the Technical Publications team.
If they didn't even look up when you enter the room, they were allocated to Security.
If they tried to tell you it's not as bad as it looks, they were assigned in Marketing.
If they were wearing green sunglasses and need a haircut, IT was their niche.
If they mentioned what a good price we got for the table and chairs, they were sent to purchasing.
If they mentioned that hardwood furniture does not come from rainforests, Public Relations would suit them well.

Many jobs are open to graduates of any degree subject, and it's important not to only focus on the jobs related to your degree, but if you are doing a vocational degree, or simply want to find out what previous Kent graduates in your subject have gone on to do, the following resources should help.


Early in your course you should look at the Work Experience open to you. As well as allowing you to earn money, they may allow you to gain relevant skills and perhaps an insight into the types of job you are interested in, putting you at the head of the queue when you eventually apply for jobs.

The Careers Information Room has a wide variety of booklets, reference files, books, DVD's and computer programmes you can use.

You may like to enter Postgraduate Study instead of directly entering a job, or it may be required for a particular career such as law or teaching. Here it may be important to apply early in your final year and to look at whether funding will be available to pay for the course.


We try to cater for all Kent students whatever their needs: Mature Students, Students with Disabilities, International Students, Ethnic Minority Students, Women Students. Sometimes this may affect your career choice - for example, mature students often enter public sector jobs and the helping careers where greater life experience may be to their advantage.


Unusual jobs entered by Kent graduates

  • Underqualified Teacher(!)
  • Bra Fitter
  • Train Dispatcher
  • Tattoo Artist
  • Slope Watcher
  • Obstacle Assistant (They meant optical!)

Making Decisions

The computer programs below allow you to put in a number of factors on what you want in a career (such as helping others, promotion prospects) and will give suggestions of possible careers which might match these. Regard these as useful suggestions rather than gospel truth, but they should bring up some possibilities that you haven't considered before.

Prospects Planner is a powerful program to help you choose a graduate career. It allows you to answer questions about your values and interests and then to relate these to a database of hundreds of occupations to get suggestions on appropriate careers.

Alternatively Careers Explorer is a quick and simple program which will also suggest graduate careers

Talk to graduates already working in your chosen career area. You can use the Kent Alumni Careers Network to contact a graduate directly. Work shadowing (spending a day with) a person in the career you are considering is the next best thing to actually doing a job, to find out what it is like. If you have done this, you will come across as much better prepared at interviews.Ostrich

Of course, the other important part in making decisions is discussing it with other people. Friends, family and tutors can all play an important part here . The Duty Careers Adviser is available every day without an appointment for a short discussion and can often help to inject reality into your ideas for example, pointing out that you may need to fund your way through a postgraduate course to enter your chosen career.

Taking Action

This is the final process of career planning. It involves:


First look at the Timeline, which gives you an idea of what you should be doing when during your time at UKC in terms of Career Planning.

Sometimes you may have to return to previous stages in the process, for example, if you are not able to get into your first choice career


I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

From Steve Jobs address to Stanford University graduates in 2005