Where do I start?

Wondering what to do next, but no idea where to start? The number of options out there can seem overwhelming – follow our tips to help you decide what’s right for you.

Uni, college, study abroad, apprenticeship, job, gap year – it can be difficult to choose when you have so many opportunities and you're still deciding on the right career. 

It might seem like your friends have it all figured out, but don’t compare yourself to them, and don’t panic – you have plenty of time to decide!   

1. What do you care about?

When choosing the career for you, start by thinking around what you’re passionate about – what do you enjoy doing, and why? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Which subjects am I good at?
  • What subjects do I most enjoy studying, and why?
  • What do I enjoy doing outside of school/college?
  • What am I doing when I feel happiest?
  • What would I like to learn more about?​

Sign up for your UCAS Hub and jot down your answers in your notepad.

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

2. Find out more about yourself

Explore subject choices and job areas you might enjoy by taking the career quiz! You’ll also find out about your strengths and how others may see you, and it’ll help you explore subject choices and job areas you might enjoy.

There are lots of qualifications for 16 – 18 year olds. It’s exciting to have so much choice, but it can also be confusing. The What qualifications are right for me? quiz will help you understand the different types of qualifications and which might suit you best.

You can then discuss your ideas with your teacher or careers adviser.

Also, think about your skills – you probably have more than you imagine! For example, how did you do in a group project – were you good at communication, time management, teamwork? Perhaps you showed good leadership skills? Many skills are useful for all courses or jobs, but if you are particularly good at something you might want to focus on a career which uses that.

Think about what subjects, courses or careers might be a good match for your personality, skills, and strengths. And then make a list in your Hub notepad.

3. Research subjects, courses, and careers that interest you

Once you’ve narrowed down what interests you, you can start exploring your options in more depth.

  • In your UCAS Hub, you can read more about the subjects you’re interested in, explore your options, discover courses and apprenticeships, and check their entry requirements. You can favourite subjects and courses, and use our handy tools to get you started on your UCAS application, when you’re ready for this.
  • Browse our careers section for all the info you need about your dream career. We’ll tell you what the job involves, the skills you need to do that job, the average salary, number of jobs in the career for the current year, and the routes into that career.
  • Chat to uni students – who better to ask about what life at uni is really like? Chat to real students to get the lowdown on the uni, course, accommodation, nightlife, and anything else you want to know – getting an insider’s view could help you decide if you think it’s the right choice for you. 

Once you’ve done some research, compare your favourites to see which are a good fit for your personality, qualifications, and skills. Which do you imagine yourself being happiest doing in five years?

4. Get some experience

After your research, hopefully you now have some idea of what you might want to do – and maybe what you don’t want to do!

Work experience or shadowing, summer jobs, placements, internships, and volunteering are all great ways to gain more insight and knowledge to help you decide if something could be right for you to pursue further.

Think around the subjects you’re interested in, especially if it’s very competitive. For example, if you’re interested in medicine, you could gain valuable experience in a care home rather than a hospital. What do you want to get out of it? Will you get the support and insight into the industry that you need?  

Talk to your careers adviser and research websites of companies in your local area to see if they have internships, work placements, or training schemes available.

Head to our volunteering and internships page to find out more about how volunteering helped other students find work, gain new skills, and get into higher education.

Getting a feel for the subject or job you’re interested in will help you make the right choice for your future.

Remember, there are different pathways to whatever you decide is your dream career. Be open to all the possibilities.

And don’t worry – you’re not going to ruin your life if you don’t have it all figured out immediately! Change is always possible, and you won’t necessarily find the right career on your first attempt.