How to decide what to do after school

How to decide what to do after leaving school

When you started school, decisions were made for you. You were told where to sit, what to wear and when to take a break.  But now you are entering the adult world and, as exciting as that is, it also brings a new challenge that’s a key skill, crucial to the workplace – (drum roll) making decisions.

So, what are some of the options?

1. Go to sixth form or college

Sixth Form is still part of a school, whereas a college is not. Both offer further education (colleges generally offer a greater range of courses such as NVQs, City and Guilds, Higher National Diplomas. BTECs and A-Levels) and you can gain qualifications this way. If you’re not sure which college or sixth form is right for you, check them out at open days and evenings, to get a feel for the place and the courses they offer. These qualifications can then make you eligible for further education such as university.

2. Do an apprenticeship or a traineeship

These help you learn new skills and set you up for the working world. They’re good if you don’t want to give up learning, but have had enough of traditional school*. Do some research on how to get an apprenticeship or traineeship, and which ones are best for the sorts of careers that might interest you. The national apprenticeships website is a great place to start.

3. Get a job

You can get a proper wage and your first taste of working life. Jobs are advertised in lots of places: try looking at recruitment sites, LinkedIn, social media, local newspapers and by asking people you know and trust. Once you’ve found some you want to apply for check out our CV Builder to give yourself the best chance at getting there.

How do you decide?

1. Do your research

So, you’ve thought about what you like doing. Now, think about careers and how to get there. Find a job ad for your chosen field and look at what they want. If they’re after experience, how can you get it? If they want a degree, what are the entry requirements? By working backwards, you can map out your course of action.

2. Don’t worry

A lot of people think choosing a career path at age 16 is the only decision they’ll ever make. It’s not. If you change your mind, you can change your career. You can always go back to school, change your degree or job, do another apprenticeship, or even re-train. 

Think about where you’d like to be in two, five, even ten years time. Sit down and create a plan of how you might get there. Why not take inspiration from people you admire. How did they get to where they are? Remember, every journey is different so focus on what feels right for you.  Mentors can be really useful in helping you discover and decide on your next steps. Find out about them here.

*Click here to find out about school leaving ages and minimum ages for jobs in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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