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The University of Southampton
Careers, Employability and Student Enterprise


Student staring at blue sky

Before you can know what you want from a career you need to know and understand yourself. This will hopefully mean you end up with a role that fully reflects your skills and that you are happy with.

There is no set deadline for when you need to do this. Some students feel confident with their choice of career from their first year but equally many still feel unsure of their direction by the end of their final year.

The Careers & Employability Service can provide 1:1 support to help you with decision making and understanding your options through our Ask the Adviser sessions. You may also wish to consult the range of resources in our Careers Library and our e-books webpage for help in planning your career. The e-book entitled The Job-Ready Guide : How to Set Yourself up for Career Success is a great place to start your career research.

The information below can also help you to know yourself and your preferences better.  There are three main areas to consider in the process of gaining a better understanding of your own wants and needs:

A skill is a particular ability you hold. This is not something that is innate, it can be developed over time, so you can improve on your team working or communication skills for example. Key to finding a job that is right for you is to understand the skills you already have and what jobs these make you well suited to.


skills audit mind map
Example skills audit

Conduct a skills audit

  1. Take your work and education experiences from the past 4 or 5 years of your life
  2. Mind map/write out the activities or tasks you completed or were involved in
  3. Add the skills you needed to complete those tasks. Page 9 of the CV guide is really useful if you are struggling to think of them! You can find this on our CV Advice page or pick up a hardcopy from the Student Hub.

For further advice on how to conduct a skills audit see our video presentation.

Developing your skills:

If you have found a job but don’t feel you have the skills they require then there are many ways that you can develop them

  • Your degree may have special courses designed to develop skills.
  • The wide range of University Clubs and Societies can give you the chance to take on some responsibilities.
  • Voluntary work in the local community is offered through community volunteering and Volunteer Centres in most towns including Southampton and Winchester. Work experience is a vital activity for your skills development and employability enhancement.
  • Take a look at our Careers library and e-books pages. We have over 400 books and e-books which will help with ideas about how you can develop a variety of skills including communication, presentation skills, networking skills and general employability skills such as time-keeping.

What are values?

Your values are what you consider to be important in the way you live and work; they give you purpose and motivate you. They determine your priorities and are likely to underpin how you assess if life is turning out the way you want it to. When the things you do match your values you're usually satisfied and content; when they don't match something feels wrong and it can be a source of unhappiness.

Values are important because they affect the type of job you would flourish in.

For example, if you value: autonomy (working on your own), creativity (the ability to do things your way, good work life balance (time away from work) would you truly be satisfied in a job where you work 12 hour shifts manufacturing a product under a strict supervisor who's insistent on adhering to a process?

How can your values help you find a job?

By identifying your values you discover what is important to you which in turn can help identify what you want from life and from a career. Try to think what factors contributed to you feeling a certain way. When were you most happy? When were you most fulfilled or satisfied? Try to reflect on your experiences and find examples from both your academic work and personal life. You may find that this quick, free values assessment from the Barrett Values Centre can assist in identifying your values

Now you have selected your top values, keep them in your mind when you are looking at the range of jobs available. One helpful thing to do is to go through the job profiles on the Prospects site, do the responsibilities sound like they match up with your values?

Useful Downloads

Your interests are topics or activities you feel passionate about. Often this love of a subject can fuel your career plans, as it can overlap with skills and values. However, in many cases people pursue a career different to their interests as they do not align with their values and skills. Only you know which is most important to you. Many people keep their interests as hobbies and still conduct fulfilling careers that match their values.

An interest could be the subject you studied at degree level. In this case please use our degree related careers page to see what careers are available.


Watch our panopto presentation for advice on how to conduct a skills audit.

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