Career Path (Act 1, Scene 1): Researching Career Prospects

Welcome to a new series of blog posts on 71 Feather Street! In Career Path, I hope to take you chronologically through how I as a History student figured out my career goals and, hopefully moving forward through the years, the steps I'll be taking to achieve them. In true theatre nerd fashion, I'm naming the sections of posts as 'acts' and Act 1 details my career-based adventures as an undergraduate.

In my first semester of second year, the department put on a series of careers-based lectures. Whilst helpful in offering advice on graduate jobs and postgraduate study it had the side-effect of stressing 10% of our year group out (i.e. that small chunk of people who muster up the motivation to attend extra lectures). Before you know it, we were all creating LinkedIn profiles and rushing to the Careers Service for a one-on-one discussion with the Careers Adviser that invariably opened with "oh golly, I don't know what I'd like to do with my life!" (Or at least that's what I did).
When I visited the Careers Adviser, I told her that I felt quite overwhelmed with all the options laid out for me as a future History graduate. We'd had talks from people in government, management, accountancy and what felt like every field under the sun. All of it sounded interesting. I asked her if there was any strategy with which to narrow things down. She pointed me to the university website's careers section which included graduate case studies from graduates of my degree, as well as websites with personality quizzes aimed at determining the sort of jobs you may be interested in. Funnily enough, these quizzes presented me with jobs that didn't appeal to me at all. So whilst the questions helpfully make you think about your skills, I'd definitely advise taking the quizzes with a pinch of salt and researching outside of them too.

The best website for research, in my opinion, is Prospects.ac.uk. But even that's exhaustible. There are plenty of things you can do with a degree that aren't listed there, and nowhere I've found has an absolutely saturated listing. Beyond general websites like Prospects, it's good to look at university websites for career information specific to your degree. I advise looking at other universities' advice for degrees similar to yours too as they'll likely have graduate case studies which, whilst not always perfectly adaptable to your own university's opportunities, certainly provide some idea of routes taken.

When I started my research I knew two things: I definitely wanted to stay within the field of History, and I did not want to go into teaching. Many would think that just leaves museums - a fate I too almost consigned myself to, too. But with further digging, I discovered roles ranging from researchers for television to archivists. My interest was piqued by both of these, but I soon discovered that television researchers often have to work freelance, contract-by-contract, with little to no opportunity to settle into one life-long job. Whilst this would not be a barrier for many people, it really rather deterred me. When researching archive work however, I found that whilst some geographical flexibility is required when seeking a promotion, this would prove less fragmented than the other job role, and there would still be opportunities to settle in one place. I found that the job market for archivists is very competitive, but really, aren't all graduate jobs competitive?
My point here is that even though a particular job may sound like a dream in terms of your basic duties, it's important to thoroughly research every aspect of it (which is usually quite helpfully set out on Prospects.ac.uk, if your desired job role is listed there). It may be a wonderful job role but if you want to settle down and live in one house all your life, a job requiring tons of geographical flexibility might not be for you. That's of course just one example of many practical considerations.


When researching the career path towards being an Archivist, I found that it's a fairly obscure choice of career and there isn't much online detailing people's personal journeys and experiences within the field. So I decided to begin this series not because it will necessarily interest everyone but because if one day a budding archivist finds this whilst frantically googling their potential career, I'd be happy to know it had been of some help.

Thanks for reading, look out for my next post on researching postgraduate study!

Paris out 💃 xxx