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Common Career Queries

Studying hard

How can I use my subject?

Are you wanting to use the knowledge content of your subject? (So if you study History, doing something historically related) Or the methods of work and skills gained from your subject? (Using the research and writing skills you have gained through studying History)

Here are some suggestions:

  • Use the section options with my degree to see particular ideas and links that are subject related.
  • Find out what people who have studied what you are studying do for a living. Go to what do UCT graduates do, and watch out for the networking and careers talks organised by the careers service that feature graduates talking about  what they do.
  • Many companies visit career expos on campus and you can visit their stalls and find out what work they offer and what their organisation offers.
  • Learn more about different skills that most organisations are wanting.

I don’t know what to do when I graduate

This can certainly make you feel insecure.

Remember there are various outcomes to degrees: some are clearly vocationally based, like medicine, or chartered accounting and others are broad- based, providing a general education, with no single obvious career outcome. The latter is not a weakness, by the way, just a difference. Interestingly, many graduates can (and do) work in an area that bears no resemblance to the subject matter of their degree. But be careful, some professions have specific requirements.

The point is, many don’t, and what employers require is for employees to display a broad range of skills and attributes: interpersonal skills, self-awareness, problem-solving, flexibility and teamwork to name just a few. None of these are unique to a particular subject or degree, but can be acquired through a range of study areas, as well as part time or voluntary work and extramural involvement.

Other parts of this website that will help you:

  • Look at employability skills.
  • The pamphlet I don’t know what to do
  • Options with my degree
  • Keep in touch with the various employer and career education networking events on campus Look at what is happening on MyCareer
  • Discuss your situation by seeing a career advisor

What if I don’t like the career options directly related to my degree?

There is no rule that says you have to follow the obvious outcomes of your degree. Remember that employers look for skills, and you may already have skills that can open up alternative options.

Think about your options by :

  • Looking at what you are good at and what you enjoy by reading I don’t know what to do
  • Keeping in touch with employers that visit campus and with career education events, Make sure your MyCareer profile is up to date
  • Interview people in jobs that fascinate you. This is called informational interviewing. There is a tutorial on how to do that here: http://www.quintcareers.com/informational_interviewing.html
  • Look at the skills employers look for.

What if I am not enjoying my subjects or my degree?

Start by asking yourself why you chose this course in the first place. Did you have limited access to information about your options? Did you not get into your first choice and are landed with a second choice you put down just for the sake of it? Or were you heavily influenced by your peers, a sibling, parent or teacher?

Some students even take on a course because with it they could get a bursary, and without this funding they would not be able to study. Also look carefully at whether it is your whole degree that you are unhappy with, or just one or two courses, or even a part of a course. Sometimes that can put things into perspective, and help you to identify your unhappiness. If you look back and identify that you took your degree for the wrong reasons, imagine that you were back at the beginning. Using the knowledge and experience gained, what would you study if you could choose all over again? Look thoroughly at your options, and make sure you research the course content.

Some practical steps you can take

  • See a Careers Advisor to chat through your options and get ideas.
  • Consult a curriculum advisor in your faculty to find out the possibilities of changing streams or majors .
  •  If you are looking to change to a degree in another faculty, consult a curriculum advisor in that faculty to see if you would get credits for courses you have already passed.
  • Ask other students in courses you want to move to if you can have a look at their textbooks or course outlines.
  • If you are a bursary holder, rather be honest about being unhappy and discuss options available to you, than keeping quiet, failing, and losing your bursary anyway.
  • Realise that if you are down, unmotivated and unhappy, it is very difficult to perform – you may need support from the UCT Student Wellness Service