Don’t decide now!

Is it realistic to choose your ‘forever career’ while you’re still at school? Find out how NOT making fixed choices might be the right choice for you.

Keep your career options open – and don’t panic

You might be feeling under pressure to make huge life choices right now… nailing down those subject choices for GCSE or A levels, or deciding on an entire career path and the qualifications you’ll need to get you there. But you don’t have to go all-in – not unless you have your heart set on a career that requires very specific qualifications, like being a doctor or a translator. In fact, feeling like you have to narrow down your choices to a certain sector, role or job type may harm your chances of being happy in your future career. It’s totally okay at this stage not to know exactly what you want to do. 

At Where do I start? you’ll find lots of inspiration for exploring your options. The UCAS Hub is also a great place to favourite careers, courses, and subjects that interest you.

What’s the UCAS Hub?

It’s your space to help you plan your next steps. Share some basic info with us and tell us what interests you (it doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what you want to do yet). You’ll then have access to all our handy tools to help you explore and shortlist your options.

Create your Hub

Be flexible and adaptable 

The modern career rarely means a ‘job for life’. Technology is constantly evolving, industries change, new roles emerge, and existing roles fade away. And you’ll change too – what you love doing in your 20s may not be what you want to do when you’re in your 40s. In fact, having no career plan may be the best plan of all! The key is being able to flex and be adaptable, so you can turn your hand to lots of different roles and industries. 

How it works 

Having a career that doesn’t follow a straight line is sometimes called a ‘non-linear’ career – it just means that you don’t follow a single path from A to B, instead trying various different roles and job types as you go. 

Visit BBC Bitesize to read about two very different ‘squiggly’ careers and hear from motivational speaker Lizzie Hodgson about how a ‘jigsaw career’ was her route to success. 

It’s all about the skills 

The key is building up a set of what’s known as ‘transferable skills’, which you can use across many different types of job. For example, you may really enjoy maths at school, which gives you great numeracy skills – useful for careers in industries such as engineering or scientific research, but also essential for teaching, marketing, banking, retail, and lots of other fields.

And what about that supermarket job at the weekend? You’re developing listening, time management, and teamwork skills there. 

Find out more about transferable skills and why they can really boost your employability. You can use your Hub notepad to jot down which transferable skills you have and which ones you’d like to work towards achieving. 

Exploring different roles and industries 

When you first start out in a non-linear career you might start out working in sales, for example. Then you might move over to the hotel industry, or maybe into financial services, then make a jump into retail, before setting up your own consultancy business.

Along the way, you’re using skills you’ve learned in the previous role, and building and learning more in the next role. You’re creating your own personal portfolio of skills and experience while you explore your options and find out what you love (and don’t love!) to do. And the more skills you have, the more employable you are. What’s more, trying new things, even if they are out of your usual comfort zone, means you’re always learning, growing, and building your confidence and ambition. 

Explore careers and favourite the roles that you find interesting in the UCAS Hub.  

What should I do right now? 

The main thing to remember is that it isn’t essential to make those massive life decisions before you leave school. What’s important is that you explore your options, think about what you enjoy and the skills you have, and take it one step at a time… like a recipe, you just have to start with the first ingredient on the list, not the finished cake.  

Take a look at Where do I start? for our tips and advice on exploring subjects, careers, apprenticeships, college and uni options, and how getting experience through a gap year, work experience or internship can help to inform your next steps.