Not Sure Where to Start? That's OK!
Sarah Andrews

I have always been quite lucky in a sense that I have known exactly what I wanted to do in the future for my career. This may not seem like the greatest achievement to brag about but I felt like this gave me a sense of ambition and satisfaction as I was growing up and it also meant that I didn’t feel lost at any point and not knowing which way to turn next.

I will always remember an open evening I had to attend at school, to consider which subjects I was going to choose to study at GCSE. The careers adviser asked me what I had hoped to do and immediately, I outlined the routes I was going to take (along with where I was going to study), all the way up until retirement. Needless to say, he sat there wide eyed and in disbelief about my plan.

For the most part, I have followed that plan but it hasn’t come without its hiccups and a slight reshuffle where necessary. If like me you have a plan, it’s important to still be flexible about executing this, as sometimes, it just may not be possible for it to work as perfectly as it may have first seemed.

Knowing what you would like to do for your future career and how you are going to get there isn’t how it usually works though, so don’t worry if you haven’t got a clue about which way you will turn next.

Through my experience as a careers adviser, many people don’t appear to plan ahead in terms of their career goals and there are also many who have no long-term career plan at all. For those who do plan their career goals, it’s likely that they take a relatively short-term approach, planning for two to three years in the future.

Whilst some people prefer to take each day as it comes, if you don’t look ahead to the future and the career you would like to work towards, you could find yourself stuck without a sense of direction, leaving you hopping from one job to another until you find something in which you feel satisfied with.

Moving around different job roles is becoming more and more common and it can sometimes have its own benefits and add to your experience. With each role and each organisation you work for, it can add tremendously to your CV and help to shape your next move. However, with retirement ages getting higher and higher, you deserve to be in a career which you are happy with and is sustainable on a long-term basis. For this reason alone, it’s important to have some structure or plan to help guide you along the way.

In my current job as a careers adviser, I tend to find that there two main groups of people when it comes to needing support in planning their career. Some people have a main goal in mind but are unsure about the routes they will need to take to achieve this. Others have an idea about what they want to study (or have already gained qualifications) and are unsure about the careers they can get into with those specific qualifications.

Planning your career with a career in mind

If you have a career in mind but are feeling unsure about which routes to take, it can sometimes help to work your way back from your end goal. To do this, it’s important to carry  research about all of the possible routes into the career you have in mind.

The National Careers Service website can be a useful resource in researching different careers and the routes you can take to work towards these goals. In this section of their website, you can find over 800 job profiles which provide you with information about the career itself, how to get into this and possible progression routes.

Other useful websites which offer similar information on various other sectors include Prospects and the 

Once you have the relevant information, you can start to consider the best route for you, ensuring you make realistic decisions. So that you are able to make a plan you can follow, try to consider your own personal circumstances and look at the routes which are going to be beneficial for you. For example, if you need to take a route which means you are unable to work as many hours as you currently do, is there a part-time study route you can take?

Planning without a specific career in mind

If you are reading this and have no idea about the career you would like, but have an idea about the sector you would like to work in, or would like to do something with the qualifications you have already gained, then stick with me. It can be confusing knowing which ways to turn – but you are not alone.

To help you get started, you will find a section of career progression maps on the NCFE website which can help you to identify different careers you could go into based upon the qualifications you have studied. The career progression maps can be a great way for you to narrow down some of the options you can consider, if you are hoping to go in a direction which is relevant to the qualifications you have. You can find these on the following link;

If you narrow down some of your career options through the maps but feel torn between a few of them, consider gaining some work experience to help you decide on which route you may enjoy the most. In some cases, you may not be able to get specific voluntary experience, as you may need to be qualified in order to practice (i.e. as a Nurse, Doctor, etc). However, you can find out about the type of skills you would need and look for paid or voluntary positions which can help you gain a further insight to this.

If volunteering is something which interests you as part of your career planning process, you can look for various opportunities through websites such as 
Do-It or vInspired. Alternatively, you could contact local employers in your area to find out if they can support you in gaining experience.

Career planning means thinking about the bigger picture while also being prepared for slow-burning development. Be patient. Whilst things may not seem so clear at first, with lots of research into the various careers along with the possibility of getting into them through different routes, it will soon start to make more sense.

Firstly, try to clarify your career objectives by identifying what you are good at and what you enjoy or even by looking at the qualifications you would like to build upon. Once you have established this, you can then build upon these points to thrive in your career.

Ask yourself what specific achievements you are proudest of, and which elements of everyday work bring you the greatest satisfaction. There are many people who find it difficult to reflect upon themselves in such a way, so don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to remind you of tasks you’ve talked about with enthusiasm. Your career objectives should ideally centre around finding a role with similarly enjoyable and interesting elements.

Choosing your future career isn’t the easiest task in the world, so make use of the wonderful resources available to you. Give yourself a chance to make a difference and to be happy with what you do. Having job satisfaction is one of the best feelings you can experience. Imagine never getting the Monday blues again. Go and grab those opportunities with both hands and inspire others to do so along the way.


Sarah Andrews is a qualified primary teacher, currently working as an apprenticeship support adviser; helping young people aged 16-24 secure apprenticeship positions. Sarah also has 8+ years of experience as a level 4 qualified careers adviser, supporting both young people and adults to make well-informed, realistic decisions to support them with their future ambitions. She is enthusiastic about all things education and empowering people to achieve things they thought were never possible.

This article was originally published by, the professional membership network for those working in Care, Health and Early Years Education.


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