Sometimes you may feel pressured to know what kind of profession you want before starting university or at least during studying. But it’s not always a bad thing to be uncertain, as long as you keep an open mind and you’re proactive in searching; you may discover a whole new career that you never knew existed!
I studied Psychology at uni, but not necessarily to become a psychologist. In fact I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time. Like many students, I chose my degree because it was interesting and would give me plenty of transferable skills to choose from a variety of industries.
After graduating I was faced with the puzzle of deciding what to do with my life, there were a few options available:
- I could go for a traditional career path of clinical psychology, of which I had gained relevant experience in during my placement year. However from what I had learned from others, I knew this path was tough and did not guarantee success. I didn’t really feel passionate enough about it to endure the process.
- The other option was to go for a generic graduate scheme that accept psychology graduates, such as HR or marketing, although this didn’t really get me super excited either.
- Something different, I don’t know what just yet!
I didn’t want to jump into something that I wasn’t passionate about and I was very much open to trying something different. To start this journey of discovery, I needed to understand myself a bit more and I tried a somewhat structured approach in analysing and identifying my interests, skills and ambitions. This helped to rule out some ideas too, which was just as useful.
Tip: Understand yourself:
- Make a list of the kind of areas that interest you, and the skills you already have, whether you want to do more formal studying, the kind of environment you want to be working in and the lifestyle you aspire to. Afterwards, think broad – list the types of industries, activities and professions that may relate to those (don’t get too hung up on specific jobs to start off with).
- If you find certain professions attractive, break it down and identify exactly what it is about it that appeals to you, and what other professions may fulfil those needs in a different way.
- Although obviously you should go for something you are passionate about, unfortunately some interests do not make for a smart career choice and it is important to take into account things like job prospects, career progression, and how the industry may change in the future. Therefore consider which of your needs and interests could more appropriate as a hobby or something you could fulfil through a side project/volunteering rather than making it into a career (e.g. if you love painting, it is more realistic to keep that as a hobby than aiming to become a professional artist).
- Get help from those who know you best – ask your family and friends about what they think your shining traits are.
Through this, I realised that I wanted to make use of my skills in research and understanding human behaviour, but to apply this in an industry that was thriving and that involved doing creative work, such as technology or business. The next step was to research heavily; my goal was to find such a connection between psychology and technology. After lots of web browsing, talking to other people including an Aston careers advisor, I was introduced to the field of User Experience (UX). I did my reading and went to a couple of UX meet ups to find out more about it.
Tip: Research and networking:
- Do your research; read blogs and articles. Join relevant pages on LinkedIn and social media. Take part in forums and discussions.
- Networking isn’t just for finding jobs; talking to people who work in the industry is one of the best ways to learn about it and get advice. Go to meet-up groups, find out what people love and hate doing in that job. Don’t be shy if you don’t know much about it, people love talking about things they are passionate about and will appreciate your eagerness to learn!
Although I hadn’t had direct experience in UX, my background and interests lent itself well to the field. Moreover I felt an enthusiasm towards this that I had not experienced before and my gut instinct was that this was something that I was ready to pursue. I had been told that doing a MSc in Human Computer Interaction would give me a good step into the industry; the thought of doing a master’s degree seemed daunting at first, but I went for it and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. Since graduating I am now working as a User Experience Consultant in a large UX agency in London, and loving it.
It’s amazing how when you think outside of the common realms, you can end up in a place that feels so right for you. It just takes being proactive and persistent, and getting the balance with not settling for something you’re not happy with, but willing to give things a try. Often you learn the most about your strengths and interests from doing stuff rather than just from thinking about it, so don’t hesitate to throw yourself in the deep end and give things a try, take a bit of risk and trust your instincts – you may just surprise yourself by discovering a new passion!
Misha Patel, BSc Psychology
Please see below for links to resources on the Aston careers website, which cover some of the career development topics covered in this blog article: