Careers advice and planning

So what's your next step after graduation?

22 Jun 2023, 13:19

If you've left university or college and don't yet have a job lined up, here are tips on creating a graduate action plan for your next step.

Student networking

With exams done and a long summer ahead, students and graduates can take a well earned break. Graduating is a great achievement and you will have earned time to celebrate. However, the next challenge is never too far away, with many graduates either now hunting jobs or preparing themselves for starting work in September. If you’ve secured a graduate job or are a student with a definite idea of what you want to do, well done, you have just taken a major step and we hope that it’s on a career path that will be rewarding and fulfilling for you. However, there are plenty of students and graduates who don’t know what the future holds for them yet, and that’s perfectly normal, this is a time of great opportunities but very big decisions. So let’s take a look at what your options are and how you can assess what your next step should be.

Get the information you need from people who have been in your situation

This may sound vague, and indeed it is as you may not even know what questions you need to be asking in order to form an informed opinion about whether or not a certain career is right for you. But you need to start somewhere, and where better than hearing from someone who has been in your shoes, as a student or graduate, and is now working in an area that you might be interested in? Essentially, you’re looking to fill three knowledge gaps relating to any career:

  • What does the job actually involve (i.e. what will I be doing on a daily basis and would I like to do it?)
  • What skills do I need to do the job? (academic qualifications, hard skills, soft skills-do I have them and how do I get them?)
  • How do I get the job (i.e. is it through an internship? What is the application process? What do I need to know before I apply?)

When we conceived the #GradStories series for, it was in response to the demand from employers for information for students as to what exactly was required to work in a particular job and from students as to what jobs were open to them with their degree and skills. So, we have been interviewing graduate employees from over 30 sectors, in over 150 videos to find out what exactly working life is like for them and what advice they would have for students or graduates looking for a career in the area in which they work. We’ve talked to accountants, auditors, consultants, software engineers, software designers, military officers, scientists, food analysts, data analysts, business analysts, diplomats, actors, producers and directors, to name but a few.

One of the constant themes is that nothing is set in stone and that many people found a career they wanted to do by doing something else first. They also speak about the value of experience, about seeing what a particular job is really like from the inside.

Be passionate but be realistic

At a time when employers are demanding more from their graduates then ever before, it is almost ironic that one of the most commonly heard references to today’s graduates from some elements of the media are that they are ‘demanding’. The fact is that this is inaccurate, today’s graduates are, by and large, harder working and willing to accept more responsibility than many that have gone before.

Employers don’t expect their graduates to do things the way they have always been done before – if they do, they won't get the best from them – but equally graduates need to accept that things don’t change overnight, and that in some cases the new way of doing things can only work if it works in harmony with well established principles that have gone before.

You need to respect the ethos and requirements of your employers business and work to deliver for them before seeking to revolutionise. Of course, you are supposed to be aspirational and come to the workplace with great ideas, and good employers will listen, but nobody has all the answers, ever, and it’s good to realise that at the start of your career.


Over 25% of students surveyed in the gradireland Graduate Salary and Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey said that they would consider starting their own business after leaving college. If you’re one of these people, you will need a great idea, mixed with an abundance of passion, resilience and an ability to network and be persuasive.

Don't panic

The worst thing you can do is take ‘any’ job to get your career started. Even amidst the uncertainty of today's world. It could be that your career path may lie in a totally different direction to that which you have studied for your degree. That’s fine too-there’s no definite rulebook you have to follow. It’s never too late to change track with a well-chose conversion course or further relevant qualifications obtained through postgraduate study.

With most students staying between three to four years in their first job, and expecting to undergo multiple career changes in their working life, your first job is not a reliable indicator as to how your career will develop. However the job goes, it is a significant milestone, a meaningful pay packet and hopefully a step on a career path that you will find rewarding and fulfilling.

Whatever happens, never stop learning

Your degree and any other experience you have obtained through part-time work, volunteering or internships have provided you with a host of transferable skills that will stand you in good stead whatever the sector you want to work in.

You’re well on your way to becoming a well-rounded individual with the right mix of ‘employability’ skills that will make you a benefit for any employer. But you could decide that you need to take a year out and travel or that you need further study to get you to a level that you would be happy to start a career.

Whatever you decide, do it for the right reasons, not just because you can’t decide on anything else. If you travel, great, but if you’re working on your travels keep a note of any skills or experiences you have that would benefit your CV. If you’re pursuing postgraduate study, have a clear idea of what you want to do with the extra qualification as further study requires considerable financial outlay and commitment, it’s definitely not an easy option.

Whatever you decide to do, the most important thing is your own happiness and wellbeing and that you are content with the choices you have made, and that you have learned from any mistakes in the past. We’re with you every step of the way.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

People reading this also searched for roles in these areas:

Related careers advice

undefined background image

We've got you

Get the latest jobs, internships, careers advice, courses and graduate events based on what's important to you. Start connecting directly with top employers today.