Most people have no idea what to do after university, and even if they think they do, they may find that things don’t go the way they had mapped out. It takes a long time to figure out what career path you want to follow, so don’t feel pressured to make this decision a priority on top of all the stress of university. You might want to take some time out after finishing to think about what happens next, or even just to enjoy yourself. Let’s face it, you probably deserve it!

If you’re not ready to dive into a job straight away, here are some ideas of what you could do instead:

Go travelling

Now’s the time to see the world. Once you get the career ball rolling, you may not get the chance to take a long break for travelling. Plus, once you start a family, you’ll probably have to wait until your own children go to uni before jet-setting off! I’ve had several older people tell me how much they wish they’d used the time after university to go exploring. If you have the itch to travel, now’s the time to scratch it.

Don’t have the funds to jet off? No problem, you can support yourself as you go. Some ways of making money abroad are:

  • Become a chalet girl/boy. You don’t get paid much, but with free food, accommodation, and most importantly, skiing, you won’t need much else!
  • Go Wwoofing. (‘world wide opportunities on organic farms’). With around 100 countries to visit, wwoofing opens up a lot of travel opportunities. Unfortunately, you only get paid in food and accommodation, so you may need a bit of cash saved up already.
  • Try bar work. This is convenient for culture-vultures as it frees up the day for sight-seeing. Start out at home to save up money and build up the experience which will make you an asset in any bar around the world.
  • Teach English abroad. This is something that requires a bit more commitment, as you’ll likely need to get a TEFL certificate first. But it’s a valuable certificate to have on your CV long-term, as it demonstrates key skills of communication and organisation.

Do a master’s degree

Not done with being a student? Or do you want to redirect your studies towards a course more directly related to your career?

If so, a masters might be a good option for you. With student loans of up to £10,609 now available for masters degrees, further study could be an affordable investment for your future.

Still not sure what to do after university? Stay productive 

It might feel like time is slipping by while you’re wavering about what to do after university ends. But you can use this time productively by brushing up on skills that make you more employable. Let’s face it, your undergraduate degree does not prepare you for essential life skills like using Microsoft Office, sending professional emails, and participating in meetings.

Taking internet courses can be a good way to master complex programmes like Excel, which are useful skills for a wide range of careers. Check out Udemy, an online platform offering comprehensive internet courses that you can complete at your leisure. If you see one you like the look of but it’s out of your price range, there’s no need to break the bank. Keep checking back each week, as Udemy frequently offers 90% discounts!

Prepping your CV is another valuable step to take while you’re working things out. Try to word your CV in terms of achievements rather than responsibilities. Don’t make come across as too passive – this is a chance for you to show your stuff. Formatting is important, but don’t make colour too central a part of it, as it might be printed in black and white!

There are loads of CV-checkers online, which get back to you in a few days with some helpful suggestions. You have to pay if you want a full analysis, but the initial check is usually 100% free!

Picking a career path

There’s a vast range of jobs out there, and most people don’t have the first idea of what each of them actually involves. The more you know about what goes on behind closed doors, the easier it is to pick which doors you want to open.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

Talk to people!

What I personally found helpful was talking to friends about what their parents do, then arranging a phone call with the parents to find out about what a career in that industry involves.

It sounds daunting, but most parents will be nothing but helpful towards anyone who their children like! This can also be good practice for talking to other adults in a professional capacity.

Work experience

Work experience can be a great chance to try out different things, so that you can test a few possibilities of what to do after university. Plus, it’s helpful for padding out your CV with new skills, even if you decide not to go down any of the avenues you try.

As well as applying for advertised work experience programs, don’t be afraid to take the initiative to cold-email people you’d be interested in working with.

Start your email with something like ‘I hope you don’t mind my emailing you out of the blue like this, but I see that you are in X role for X company, and I would love the opportunity to gain work experience with you’.

A cheeky trick is to title your email ‘Potential Opportunity’. This makes the recipient far more likely to click than if it’s just called ‘Request for Work Experience’.  Cold-emailing shows drive and often means you can avoid the competition of an advertised position.

Good luck!

I hope these tips make you feel a bit more relaxed about life after uni. The transition from uni to ‘real life’ is one of the most stressful times ever for most people. So be patient with yourself, and don’t expect to sort everything out straight away!

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Last updated by Robert Edwards, May 2022

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