Career help

Preparing for your future

What stage are you at?

There are many different paths you can take for your future which can be overwhelming. We’re here to support you with your decisions. Helping you understand your options, and give you tips for when you’re ready to make your next steps.

Ages 13-15

Careers advice for teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15.

Choosing subjects

Helping you decide

Whether you have a clear idea of your future career, or no idea at all, these are the first steps you make to helping you decide. This is your opportunity to take control over what you want to study and to think about your future career.

But how do you know what subjects to pick?

  • Do what you love.
    For most people, studying the subjects they enjoy is the best bet. Don’t worry if your choices don’t ‘fit’ with a particular career or seem like a random mix. If you enjoy a subject, you’re much more likely to work hard and get lots out of it.
  • Do your research.
    Of course, there may be new subjects on offer, such as photography, or media studies, that you’ve never studied before. Your school should offer you a chance to explore these — maybe a ‘taster’ lesson — and you can also chat with subject specialists to find out more.
  • Don’t worry!
    Every subject will provide you with worthwhile skills. Creative thinking, learning and adapting, working together, relationship building, problem solving … these are all useful in the world of work. Whatever you choose to study will give you valuable skills and attributes, which you can build on later.

Extra-curricular activities

Find what works for you

Lots of people find that when they start to apply for jobs, write CVs, or apply to universities and colleges, they don’t have much to write. Here are our top tips to make sure you have a rich, interesting CV despite only being at the start of your journey.

  • Volunteer
    Doing voluntary work can show what you value and the difference you want to make in the world. It also shows that you’re responsible and trustworthy.
    Top tip: If you haven’t got any volunteering experience, why not organise a charity event at school or ask family and friends for opportunities.
  • Hobbies
    Your hobbies will help you gain valuable skills. It could be gaming, team sports or baking. Anything you like to do for fun will also give you skills, insights, and experiences that you can talk about.
    Top tip: Try and find a hobby that suits your preferences — whether you like to get creative and crafty or prefer being active or outdoors.
  • Clubs
    Clubs are a great way to learn something new. If you don’t already belong to any, you can use this as an opportunity to join a club or start your own.
    Top tip: It can be powerful and persuasive if your club matches your chosen course or profession. For example, if you’re thinking of applying for a film degree, it would be beneficial if you ran a lunchtime film club at school.
  • Responsibilities
    Prefectship, student council, team captain; any responsibilities you have in (and out of) school demonstrate qualities such as maturity, trustworthiness and leadership.
    Top tip: Ask your head of year or form tutor if there’s a role or responsibility up for grabs, and how you can apply.

Post-16 choices

Choose your path

If you’re already thinking about your post-16 choices, then check out the below! We’ve highlighted some of the paths that you could take, so you can start thinking about what’s best for you.



An apprenticeship is perfect for someone that wants to go straight into the world of work while gaining qualifications. It’s a real job where you learn, gain valuable work experience, and get paid while doing so.

There are hundreds of apprenticeships to choose from. They offer flexible but structured training, which comes in two forms: 'off-the-job' and 'on-the-job'. Most of the training (about 80%) will be on the job.

Why should I do an apprenticeship and is it right for me?

Here are some of the top reasons people choose apprenticeships:

Top jobs - companies like Google and Rolls Royce offer apprenticeships.

Real-life - as an apprentice you’ll be paid and have employee rights such as holiday pay. You are entitled to at least the minimum wage, but you should compare your options because some apprenticeships are paid much better than others.

Access to Uni - this doesn’t have to be instead of university - you could gain a degree while completing your apprenticeship.

How long does an apprenticeship take?

That depends on the job, and on the duration, you want to go. They can take anything from a year to several years.


Straight into work

You also have the option to go straight into work once you’ve finished your exams. Below we’ve outlined some of our top tips to help you get ready!

Should I go straight into work and is it right for me?

Here are some of the reasons people choose to enter work straight away:

Responsible - you feel ready to take on the responsibility of paid full-time work.

Practical - this is hands-on, real-world experience.

Paid - you can begin earning money and managing your finances.

Where should I look for a job?

Here are some good places to start:

Local recruitment agencies.

Online ‘job boards’ (websites that post up-to-date listings for job vacancies).


Start your own business

Whether you’ve got a great idea for a business or just fancy yourself as an entrepreneur, becoming your own boss might be for you!

Should I start my own business and is this right for me?

Here are some of the reasons people want to become entrepreneurs:

Independence - you love leadership and striking out on your own.

Ideas - you’re full of ideas and want to bring them to life.

Challenge - you’re not afraid to take risks and try new things.

What is an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is someone who starts their own company or business, looking to make a profit or a difference in the world, or both. They are bold and often take risks, creating or seizing new opportunities as they arise.


Vocational choices

‘Vocational’ means getting ready for the world of work, and vocational courses are practical and prepare you for particular types of jobs. 

Ages 16-18

Careers advice for teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18.

Searching for jobs

Before you start to look

It’s important to think about what your strengths, skills and motivations are so you can identify what the best path is for you.

Where should I look for a job?

  • Local
    You have the option to look locally and visit your local recruitment agencies or temping agencies. However, if you don’t have this option, the most common place to look is online.
  • Online
    There are online ‘job boards’ which are websites that constantly get updated with new listings of job vacancies every day. Examples of these sites are; Indeed, Monster, Total Jobs and Reed.
    These online job boards will ask you a few questions to decide what kind of job you’re looking for:

- Full time or part-time?
- Permanent or temporary?
- What sector or industry you’d like to work in?

They will also ask to see your CV, so it’s important to have this updated and ready to upload.

What should I look for in my employer?

  • Don’t be afraid to do your research into the companies that sound interesting to you and ask questions to those you know in the related field.
  • There are online ranking systems such as Glassdoor which could give you a better understanding in the places best to work for your career.
  • Your wellbeing is important, and the top-rated companies know this. If you’re thinking of applying for a job, check the company’s website or the literature that they send to make sure staff wellbeing and development is a priority.
  • Know your rights! It’s always good to know the hours you can be expected to work, and the rest breaks you should expect, especially when aged 16-17.
  • Below we’ve highlighted the last couple of considerations that we recommend you research or seek advice from others on to help your future career:
  • How to write a CV – learning how to write a CV, tailoring the CV to the job you are applying for, including all the experience and education you’ve gathered over your career so far.
  • Interview guides – looking into interview structures, questions and answers and useful tips to know before going in.
  • Social media – getting the most out of social media and using websites such as LinkedIn to give you a boost when on the market looking for a job.
  • First day at work – research your job, ask questions, and know what to bring with you.

Work experience and volunteering

Give yourself a head start

Work experience and volunteering are a great way to gain experience while you’re still in education. They can also give you some insight and a foot in the door of a specific industry or area of work you’re trying to get into.

Why do work experience?

  • Work experience can be a great way to find out more for an area of work, industry, or even a specific company that you’re interested in. You can do work experience for as short as one to two weeks, depending on your preference, so there’s no big commitment.
  • You’re in control, and it gives you the choice to gain experience in what you want to do for your future career.
  • If you’re finding it difficult to decide on what you want to do, this can also be an opportunity for you to try different areas or industries. Using it as an on-the-job taster experience to find out whether you enjoy the work.
  • This is a good opportunity to build up your CV to help with your future applications. You’d also gain lots of new skills and knowledge from the experience.

Why volunteer?

  • If you’ve got a cause that you’re passionate about, or something you want to change in the world. By signing up as a volunteer, you’ll build up experience that shows your commitment to the cause. It’s great for your CV or university application too!
  • It’s a great opportunity to build transferable skills and valuable knowledge and experience, all while doing something helpful.
  • You’ve got access to a local organisation or charity you can volunteer with, and you can commit to regular times over a few months or years.

Next steps

  • If you’re still at school or college, speak to your career’s adviser about work experience.
  • If you’re looking for volunteering opportunities, see if there’s a local branch of the charity or organisation you’d like to support.
  • You can contact companies directly to arrange work experience. Look at their websites and social media for details. 

Post-18 choices

Making the next big decision

If you’re aged 18 or have finished school or college and are thinking about your next steps, below is our guide to some of the main paths you can take.


An apprenticeship is perfect if you want to gain qualifications while going into work, earning at the same time as you learn. It offers you the chance to get started in the career of your choice where you’ll learn, gain valuable experience, and get paid at the same time.

Is an apprenticeship right for you?

An apprenticeship could be the best option if you’d like something:

  • Flexible – you can complete the qualification at your own pace.
  • Practical – you learn on the job, in the workplace, gaining hands-on skills and experience.
  • Paid – you’ll be paid, plus have many of the same rights and benefits as an employee.

How do you learn on an apprenticeship?

There are different types of learning for apprenticeships:

  • On-the-job training – Where you learn about the job you’ve been hired for through training and supervision by your employer or colleagues.
  • Off-the-job training – You’ll spend 20% of your time training off-the-job. That training might be online, at your place of work, or at a university or college. You might also need to take additional qualifications in English and Maths.
  • Degree apprenticeships – You can achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of an apprenticeship. Some universities offer different types of programmes which you should research to find out which is best for you.



If you have a subject that you are passionate about or have a future career in mind, then university could be for you. There is a wide choice of courses that can make you an expert in a subject you love. You could also study in a new place, meet new people, and learn to live independently.

Is university right for you?

University could be the best option if you’d like:

  • Depth – getting in-depth knowledge of a certain discipline or area of knowledge, which you’ve studied over at least three years.
  • Independence – you’ll probably live away from home. You’ll be responsible for your own progress, working without the support you’ve previously received (although support is still available if you need it, including for a disability or learning need).
  • Transferable skills – remember that every course gives you important skills such as research, critical thinking, and analysis.

How long does university take?

Most courses take three to four years, with some, like medicine, taking up to six years. You might have to pay for university, but there’s funding available and you only pay back a student loan when you start to earn above a certain amount.

Are you wanting to go university and thinking about the next steps?

Once you’ve decided you want to go to university and you’re considering courses, take your time to do some research.

  • Access programmes – offered either through organisations or direct from selected universities.
  • Courses and universities – speak to careers advisors at school or college or use a comparison website.

Start doing research into your course cost, and how you’ll fund it. Thinking about how you will budget, or if you could work part-time alongside your studies. Your government should have details of student financing.


Straight into work

For some of you, the best choice is to start working after school or college. Think about your skillset, along with what motivates you, and the type of jobs that might suit you most.

Is going straight into work right for you?

Going straight into a job could be right for you if you’d like:

  • Paid – earning a salary and managing your own finances.
  • Independent – working means you’ll be learning, taking on responsibilities and developing transferable skills.
  • Immediate – you might not know what you want to do in the long-term and want to work while you figure it out.

How do I choose a company?

Below are some of the things you should consider when deciding what kind of companies to apply to, and where you’d like to work:

  • The sector – you could consider sectors like retail, financial services, the arts, healthcare technology or tourism.
  • The type of company – big or small, global, or local, corporate, charity or public sector.
  • The company’s values – think about if you want to work for a company with a strong commitment to diversity, ethics or sustainability. Making sure your values align with the company you’ll be working for is important.

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