Making The Transition From School To University- (3) Career Progression

Sixth Form Careers

In the third of our articles about making the transition from school to university, our Careers Department offers advice on how students may advance their career aspirations.

Once again, the advice offered by Bablake former pupils has been awesome! Also, the impressive range of fulfilling final outcomes reached by so many of our Old Wheats makes it clear that every current pupil really can afford to dream the dream because, with the right attitude and ability, anything really is possible.


  • Be aware of the competition! Hit the ground running! Stand out!

One of our current Upper Sixth already has Credit Suisse, Deloitte, JP Morgan and Nomura on his CV, as well as good grades and proof of team activity and leadership. Of course, he is not the only pupil in this position, so many of you are already well on the way to dynamic future careers.

For a lot of professions – especially finance and the professional services - for the last couple of years, the trendy phrase in HE Careers speak has been: ‘The first year is the new final year.’

Bablake students should not panic. We have been advising for some time that at university, you should do one thing for yourself, one thing for your course ( e.g. extension study, involvement with the linked society or taking a related placement) and one thing for your future, as soon as possible… or at least once the first month is over, when not only has the gloss of life as a fresher dulled, but even the horrors of freshers’ flu are over.

  • Get involved! Take the opportunities! Be well-rounded!

The vast array of opportunities available during your time at university will help your appeal to employers and in turn the transition into a first job. With the right balance of good time management and impressive use of initiative, anything is possible. Again, university will flash by, so don’t look back and have any regrets about missed opportunities or avoiding new avenues. Have a go, as very often what you find you don’t enjoy, is as important as finding out what you do enjoy.

Most employers look for well-rounded individuals who are keen to succeed and passionate about their career or subject. If you are a proactive, positive student, this spirit will go a long way at interview.

  • Network

We cannot state just how important your network will be. A LinkedIn profile is a must for professional networking and then, depending on your career path, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or Vimeo, Facebook and other social media platforms are a phenomenal resource for you to advertise your ability, learn from others and expand your network. You don’t need to be active on all platforms, but it is canny to know which suits your path best.

Challenge yourself not just to engage professionally with your own peer group, but relate to those older, wiser, more experienced and established.

  • Where do you want to be?

Even if your career intentions aren't clear while you are at university, you probably will develop at least an idea of where you'd like to live – that is a good start! Just as when you chose your university, do you want the international, urban or rural experience? Do you have interests and abilities that need a particular location?

  • Timing

Progressing in your career is not always about years of service, nor is it a rite of passage now. If you believe you have the ability to progress, do your prep and then apply for the job. Equally do not set yourself up for a fall by convincing yourself you are ready and have the skills to progress when you need more time and experience first.

  • Make Your Own Luck!

We are firm believers that you can control your own good fortune or luck. Some may call this being savvy, thinking ahead, being prepared and being tactical.  Sometimes a smaller firm will give you more responsibility and invest more time in you; a larger company may have more flexibility, so grabbing a temporary role in another department would allow you to network your way to another area later.

  • Create a Plan

The best advice for most is to make either a short-term, 5 year or 10 year plan and constantly reassess this direction. Start the plan that suits you today! As most people will probably be looking at nearly 50 years until they reach retirement age, concentrating on what will help your career in the short-term, may be the best plan. You don't necessarily need to commit to a multi-decade career in your late teens or early 20s. After all, your job may not even exist yet, as those over 40 know all too well if their working lives are now dependent upon wifi and a tablet or laptop.

  • Find out what you really want to do

Make sure you find out what you're studying really is what you want to do. Lots of students love their course and find it interesting, however when they take up placements for their CV, they realise it doesn’t float their boat. This is the best thing possible before committing to that path long-term and finding out much later.

  • Test it out!

Listen to your university’s Careers department. Follow up its emails, listen to the student ambassadors, go to Careers Fairs, apply for summer internships, go to insight days, talk to your faculty careers adviser. A summer job as a temp will expose you to different working environments, people and jobs; it will expand your life experience and CV, as well as earn you money… not just for beer and kebabs!?

Placements may be the last thing on your mind in Freshers’ Week, but you will thank yourself for making the effort in the first term.

  • Don’t slip up academically!

Just a reminder that first year results in every single module must be disclosed when applying for work experience and most graduate employers expect a 2.1 or better. A 2.2 is not disastrous, so stay positive and talk to your Careers service. 

  • Stay calm!

This may all seem bewildering. We are not saying you have to decide what your career is now. Keep it at the back of your mind, enjoy your degree, join a few societies, do some studying and it may reveal itself. If it doesn't, don't panic! Many don’t decide a career path until their final year.

  • It’s Not a Race!

Don’t be afraid to take a gap year or a 4 year degree and MA or MSc after. Entering the workplace at 25, you are not 3 or 4 years behind those who graduate at 21. You will be more certain of doing what you want to do.

  • Know what you like, as well as what you don’t!

Remember that the clues for the future may lie in the past. In my case, an interest in writing, editing, photography and working with small groups of people and a strong work ethic have quietly let me to my current roles.

  • Take up a new skill or position of responsibility! Learn a language!  Volunteer!

Employers want the person first, whatever your degree is. Positions of responsibility, taking up a new skill, adding a new language and volunteering all prove you have initiative and drive. The experiences gained offer real proof to employers about your determination and time management.

  • Is University vital?

If you have chosen an institution with the best industry links or placements for you, you are in a good place, but there are some enviable schemes offered by impressive employers that do not insist on a degree at 18 or even at all. This is a separate article in itself of course, but if the vibe is not there at the moment, don’t feel you have to go to university now. Not going could be the best decision you ever make.

This month, the BBC reported here that leading accountancy firm Ernst and Young had announced the removal of all academic and education details from its trainee application process. A break from education after A Levels does not stop your lifelong learning and will definitely give you the necessary life experience and maturity employers look for.



We know all our students have a fantastic future ahead of them, whatever happens on Results Day, and look forward to hearing about the Class of 2008's journey beyond Bablake. Remember to stay ahead of the rest and stand out in a crowd, just as you have in your time with us!



Thank you to Rebecca Brook, Heather Bruck, Sarah Brown, Michael Douglas, Vicki Hoare, Bethany Hushon, Naveen Jaspal, Colin Littlewood, Nathan Marshall, Geoff Palmer, Sarah Potter, Abi Rewhorn, Clare Reynolds, Andy Sephton, Naomi Smith, Karanveer Sukhija and Robin Trewinnard-Boyle for their excellent contribution to this discussion.



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