What do students need to know when moving on from university?

University can be a defining moment in a person’s life, as it could determine where they end up in the near future and how they find and pursue opportunities. This does include:

  • Whether they finish their degree and go on to pursue a career relevant to their chosen subject
  • Whether they decide to change their course during their time at university, thus changing their career path, or
  • Whether they decide to drop out to pursue other endeavours.

But, in order to (with relative success) embark on this journey of discovery, being informed is key, and there are ways universities are putting in more effort to help university students and their graduates succeed in whatever they choose to pursue.

At the moment, I can only speak about the university that I am currently working in, but the amount of careers resources and guidance available to students is astounding. Mostly because, ironically, I never used the careers service when I was at university.

But, I  have found that there are a few things that students should do when thinking about their future plans.


What students need to know

Before thinking about what job to apply for or what companies to research, students need to know who they are and what they’re interested in. Hopefully, what they are studying will have given them some idea of what to pursue, but also getting involved in social activities (e.g. societies) and attending careers fairs/recruitment events, should help inform their decisions.

After figuring out what industry they’re attracted to and/or what job role they are interested in, students should then perform their own research.

They would need to:

  • Find out job specifications, to identify what qualities and skills they would need to have or acquire.
  • Seek out the values of the companies within the industry, the key individuals and the focus and developments within the industry. This will inform decision making, as this will help to keep up to date with what’s going on in the industry and the different companies
  • Do some networking – seek out individuals within the industry on platforms like LinkedIn or use their university’s alumni network. Through this they can gain further insight into the industry, company and roles available within their chosen area

At this stage, students should have an idea of what kinds of things they would like to do in their chosen industry. They may not necessarily know what role they would like to go into, but with guidance and further research they could get an idea. In addition, students don’t have to be in a particular year when they have reached this stage, as people progress at different times. It is just important that when they are ready to take the leap in finding their career path, they  know what they need to do.


How can the careers service help?

The careers service at the university I work for is dedicated to helping undergraduates and graduates pursue their goals. Whether it be about finding a part-time role, figuring out a plan of action or checking an application.

Having access to a careers service means that the students at this university can have help at any stage when thinking about the future. Which means that students should take advantage of the services and help on offer.

These services include:

  • providing one-to-one advice
  • conducting induction talks
  • providing online and print resources
  • organising and attending fairs and events
  • producing online courses

In addition, the careers website is designed to force people to think about where they are out of three stages. Thus, when they have identified what stage they are at, they can click on the relevant link, which then gives them a variety of things to look at associated with that stage.

For example, for those who have no idea what they want to do, there is a link that directs them to the different kinds of opportunites available to them.


Thus, whilst it is important that students perform their own research and explore their options, the careers service is available to help prepare and guide them. Therefore, students should be aware of the services that are being provided to them, in order to ensure that they are at an advantage when moving on from university.

Dedicated resources

From my time working in libraries, I know how important it is to have online resources that have been dedicated to a particular type of information. People don’t want to have to work hard to find information. This includes having to heavily filter down results and work out which resource would actually be of value.

This is why, for those seriously looking for information, normal search engines don’t work. However, I also think it’s important to not get over zealous when creating a platform for people to search for information.

Having come across quite a few library catalogues and portal sites as well as job sites and the research part of a company website, I can see that there are differences in how information is tagged and thus what aspect of a document is searchable. Too little and you can have too much information to sift through, too much and you could miss information.

Getting the right balance can be tricky and it all depends on who the audience is. What kind of information do they need? How do they search for information? What keywords would they use?

I came across a nice portal site that allows you to search with keywords and then further filter by a list of other tags associated with the results (Careers Tagged). However, it only allows the results found, to be filtered down once. The site also allowed you to view the tags associated with each result, so you can search for results within a different tag.

Its a nice portal site that doesn’t make searching for information too complicated as each result would have been curated before being added. However, depending on what is being sought, there is a particular logical order that those not trained in searching for information, may not follow.

It is key to know who the users of the site will be and understand how they think when they are searching for information. However, it is also important that the users do not fully dictate how items are tagged. Thus, training your users or having a simple guide may aid users in fully understanding how they can find information using a particular information resource.