Top tips on deciding what to do next

Introspective young brazilian guy student contemplates while holding a notebook and wearing a blue hoodie outdoors

Finishing school can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.  One day you are in classes with teachers giving instructions on learning and homework, and the next you’re trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life.

Knowing what to do, where to look and how to present yourself in the most attractive way possible so that you stand out from the crowd and succeed in getting that dream first job can be mystifying. 

There is no right or wrong way to take that first step on the career ladder. Nowadays, there are lots of options available and not all of them focus on continuing along the educational route.

College and University

The further education route is popular and life as a student definitely comes with some perks. Freshers Week is always entertaining, for example, and let’s not ignore the joy of student discounts.  Further education is very different from school, there is less discipline and structured studying; attending lectures and submitting coursework lies completely within your own control.

Modern Apprenticeships

Continuing with education, is not for everyone. The Modern Apprenticeship route is increasingly popular and has the ability to match interests and skills with potential employers allowing apprentices to take that first step on their career ladder more quickly.  Learning on the job, whilst also allowing for some future learning off site, can be very appealing to young people particularly in helping to build confidence and relationship building skills.

Finding paid work

Sometimes, finding a job which will provide you with income is most important. Preparation and research are key. Make sure training and support will be provided to you to help you flourish and develop over time. Check out the opportunities for growth so you know what is available. 

Here are some top tips to help you shine and succeed in whichever route you choose.


Do your research

  • Spend time researching your options whether that be universities, colleges, courses or potential employers.
  • Know what you’re getting yourself into, check locations and costs of travel etc.
  • Look at reviews, they help build a picture of what life’s like but do not let them put you off. Anonymous reviews can paint a misleading picture.


Tailor your CV and covering letter

  • Highlight your relevant skills and experiences that match the job description.
  • Keep your CV clean, concise and easy to read. Do not be tempted to use fancy templates. Two pages is the absolute maximum.
  • Offer references and the contact details of your referees [make sure they have agreed in advance to be a referee and are happy for you to share their details].
  • Quantify your achievements with outcomes and/or impact.
  • Proof read, proof read and proof read – make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in you CV and covering letter. Get someone else to read them.
  • Sometimes an employer


Work your network

  • It is often said that in life, ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’. Don’t be afraid to network and reach out to people you know who are working in or have connections to your desired field.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and you are connected to professionals, relevant groups and companies of interest.

Ensure you have a voice – share your news, opinions and engage with your connections.


Social media footprint

  • Potential employers will not only consider your LinkedIn profile when shortlisting candidates, so make sure your social profile is cleaned up and represents you at your best.


Prepare for Interviews

  • Do your homework. You need to spend time researching the company – check out its mission, values, products and recent news.
  • Practice makes perfect. Prepare answers for common interview and behavioural questions. Be prepared to say why you want the job.
  • Prepare your questions. Show your interest by asking insightful questions about the role and company culture.
  • It might sound obvious, but make sure you know the date, time and location of your interview. Consider how you are going to get there and how long the journey is going to take. Do a dummy run, so you are not panicking on the day of your interview – or late for your appointment!
  • Alternatively, if the interview is on screen, test out your IT and make sure everything works in advance.


Showcase Transferable Skills

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of highlighting soft skills such as communications, teamwork, problem solving and adaptability.
  • Use examples from your work experience, voluntary work, school or university projects or hobbies that demonstrate your soft skills.


Show enthusiasm

  • It’s natural to be nervous but don’t let that shadow your enthusiasm and passion for the job. Being prepared will help you shine.
  • Send a thank you email after your interview and if you haven’t heard back within a specified timeframe, follow up with a phone call – this will set you apart from the flock.


Don’t take rejection personally

  • You are not going to get every job you apply for, so don’t be downhearted. Use it as a learning opportunity to improve your future applications by seeking feedback when possible.


Stay motivated and be flexible

  • Be persistent and positive – job seeking can be challenging but by maintaining a positive mindset and not giving up at the first hurdle, you will reap success.
  • Fill your time between job applications by working part-time or volunteering in order to help develop your skills and gain valuable experience.
  • Consider enhancing your skills through online courses or taking fresh qualifications.
  • Be open and flexible to entry-level positions that offer growth opportunities.

Considered applying for a role at Zonal?  You can find our latest job roles here.

And if you liked this blog then you might also like to read our top tips on preparing for a job interview.

If you are interested in a career at Zonal please click here.

Picture of Catriona Dick

Catriona Dick

Head of Human Resources