Exploring your options

Career planning by year

Introduction

We know how important it is for you to use your time at LSE to the full. There's so much on offer. Alongside your academic work, you’ll find opportunities to get involved in different activities, try out new things and develop new skills. A big part of this experience will involve learning about yourself, finding out what you enjoy doing, what matters to you and, of course, thinking about what you’d like to do after graduation. We don’t expect you to arrive at LSE with a career plan already defined – we’re here to help you along the way. We've put together some suggestions on what you might find useful during each year of your programme. 

We hope that you’ll find these ideas helpful and keep in mind that we’re not suggesting you do everything. Select what works for you and, if you’re unsure about next steps or would like to talk through things further, book a careers appointment via CareerHub.  

First year


Welcome to your first year at LSE! We understand that thinking about career planning might not be top of your list at the moment - but we think there are things you can do, even small steps during this first year, that can lay useful groundwork now and really help you later on.  

First year is all about settling into university life, enjoying and getting the most out of your academic studies, and starting to understand more about who you are and who you want to be. At this stage it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities – or to take on too much. Focus on what works for you and, as you contemplate the range of possibilities on offer, remember that there are only so many hours in the day. 

As you immerse yourself in your new degree programme, you might find yourself rethinking plans you had once been set on. You might find yourself surrounded by people who already have a ten-year plan mapped out. This can be very unsettling, particularly if you hadn’t yet really started thinking of your career and wanted to focus first on your degree. Try not to worry - most students don’t really know what they want at this stage (and the most successful careers involve a willingness to adapt and change). Just remember, you’re at the start of something new – interests grow and change over time, so it’s highly likely that your experiences at LSE will introduce ideas for the future that you couldn’t possible have thought about yet. Now is the time for exploration, for trying things out, for constantly challenging yourself and reflecting on what you’re discovering – and having the courage to change your mind.  


First things first

Get to know LSE Careers, our Volunteer Centre and the kinds of activities, events and resources we offer by:  

  • watching the LSE Careers and Volunteer Centre inductions to learn about the resources available to you
  • exploring our website
  • checking that your LSE CareerHub account is up and running. This is a great first step, as you can then review our events and book careers appointments.

Get involved in university life

Joining societies and clubs is a great way of meeting new people, taking up a new activity, learning new things as well as just spending time doing things you enjoy and giving you a break from your studies. Over time, you might decide to get more involved in the running of the society or organising events. Whatever your level of involvement, you’ll be able to draw on these experiences when you talk to employers about how you used your time at university, as evidence of your interest in certain areas and to provide examples of how you’ve developed and used specific skills.  

Check out what's going on within your department too and take advantage of opportunities to meet with students in the years above you as well as alumni. What would you like to ask someone studying in a year above you, or who recently graduated? 

Build in some time for reflection

It’s a good idea to set aside some time to spend reflecting about what you’re discovering – about yourself, your interests and how they might be changing or developing. Think about what you are enjoying about university so far, the subjects that have proved most interesting and where you’ve done best. What are the implications of what you are learning?  

Ask yourself questions like What do I enjoy doing most? What are the subjects I’m really good at? What have I really enjoyed learning about? What causes am I passionate about? Are you surprised, perhaps to find yourself doing very well in unexpected courses? 

It might also be worth thinking about past work experience and what you enjoyed most – and least – about it. What elements would you like to include in a future job? Keep a record of your thoughts.  

Attend some careers events

This is a great time to start finding out about different sectors and opportunities, so identify some events and sessions that look interesting and just go along. This will help you start getting some ideas on things that sound interesting – or not. If a sector or job catches your attention, you can then spend some time finding out a bit more about it; doing some online research, chatting to people working in that area. If nothing catches your attention at a particular session, think about why that might be. What does this tell you about your own priorities, motivations and goals?

Get some work experience

All work experience is useful, whether that’s a part-time job, vacation work, an experience shadowing someone in a sector you’re interested in, an online internship. Don’t underestimate the value of what you can gain from any experience and how interested in it a potential employer will be – whether that’s because you’ve developed a directly relevant skill, it’s shown your capacity for hard work or provided clear evidence of your motivation and interest in their sector.  

CareerHub is a useful source for ideas and vacancies. Prospects also has a great guide to different types of work experience.

Think about volunteering

Everything you do while at LSE will help you develop skills that will be relevant to your future career. But employers are also interested in the kind of person you are – do you make good use of your time? Do you talk enthusiastically about what you’ve done? Are you someone who gives back to society and helps others perhaps less privileged than you are? Getting involved in volunteering will help you feel part of the community around you, bring you a great deal of personal satisfaction and undoubtedly help you share more enthusiastically with others what your time as a student has meant to you. 

Find out more about volunteering at LSE.

Get digital

This could be a great time to develop your computer and digital skills. Check out what’s on offer from LSE’s Digital Skills Lab. Whatever the sector and area of specialisation, more and more jobs rely on these skills, so now is the perfect opportunity to start building them. 

Learn a language

Evidence of a willingness to engage with others, a desire to understand others better, an ability to communicate in another language will offer a huge advantage in many careers – and could be enough to tip the balance between two otherwise very similar candidates. Take advantage of the courses run by LSE’s Language centre.

What comes next

Think carefully about module choices for your second year. As well as talking over your options with your academic tutor, you might find it helpful to explore your ideas and discuss things with a Careers Consultant.  

Last but not least

At any point in the year, take advantage of the possibility to book a careers appointment with LSE Careers. We'll be happy to chat with you about any careers related query, whether that’s thinking about what to do during your first year, ideas to explore, how to put together your CV or what you could do with your summer vacation. 

And finally

In your first year, follow your curiosity and choose the things you are genuinely enthusiastic about. Be guided by what you want to do, rather than what you feel you ‘ought’ to do! 

Second year


As you settle into your course and life at LSE, your second year is a chance to explore career ideas further and identify what skills you might need to develop to achieve your developing goals. 

You’ll have undoubtedly realised by now you have lots of options, perhaps more than expected, and many of them will not have been planned or predicted. It’s worth being open to the unexpected; attending a talk, a chance meeting at a career event, a conversation with an LSE alum or any number of other things can be the springboard to an interesting idea and possible next step. Welcome such opportunities and try not to be too daunted by the fact that career decisions can sometimes feel hard to make.    

Below we offer some suggestions for how you can explore options and gain the experience you need to move forward in your career planning. If you’re just getting started, take a bit of time to get to know how LSE Careers can help, familiarise yourself with our events programme, review some of the suggestions we made for last year, and remember you can book an appointment with a Careers Consultant who’ll be very happy to chat with you generally about how to approach the coming year.  


Where am I heading?

This is a great time to develop and refine an idea of where you’d like to be after you graduate and start planning towards it. Start focusing on the options. Do you have a particular career in mind? Are you interested in a structured graduate scheme? Would you like to take a year out? What about the possibility of pursuing graduate studies?  

Continue to ask yourself the important questions: What have I enjoyed about my course so far? Was there a particular work experience or job that I found rewarding or not – and most importantly, why? What might I like to do more of in my second year? What new things could I try? What do I need to find out now to move myself forward? 

Research your ideas and options

Your starting point might have been to consider jobs that relate directly to your degree, but it’s worth remembering that the majority of graduate jobs do not require a specific degree subject. Certain options will require further study, whether that’s a master’s degree, or additional professional qualification and training. 

Explore our sector pages for more information on different sectors and entry requirements. Prospects and TargetJobs can also be helpful.  

It’s worth looking at what graduates from your course or similar programmes have gone on to do. Connecting with alumni via your department, careers events or LinkedIn can offer a great way to learn more about different career paths. Why not reach out and connect with people doing things that interest you. 

Now could also be a good time to ensure that you have an up-to-date LinkedIn page – check out our resources and events on building your personal brand!

Our sector themed Meet our Alum series offers a perfect way to meet LSE graduates working in different fields. Think about the questions you’d like to ask someone doing a role that you’re interested in. What are your main responsibilities? What is a typical day (or week) like for you? What do you like most? What do you think you need to succeed in your field? What skills should I focus on developing during the rest of my time at LSE? 

Think about other ways you can find out about different job sectors. Are any of your friends, family or neighbours working in an industry that you are curious about?  

Some people find it useful to generate ideas by completing a career matching exercise –after answering a set of questions about your interests and preferences, you’ll be offered a list of possible careers to consider.

Sign up for events and talks

But be selective! Attending career fairs and events can be a great way to meet employers and get a feel for what it would be like to work at their organisation. There are lots of events on campus and beyond so select those that most appeal and feel most relevant to you and your interests.

Get experience

Looking ahead, employers will expect to see more on your CV than just your degree and academic achievements. Some will consider it important that you already have practical experience working in their sector, some will be happy with more general work experience, others will be interested in your broader experience and want to see that you have been developing relevant skills across a range of areas whether that’s through internships, part-time work, volunteering or extra-curricular activities. From your own point of view, work experience can help you test the water in different industries and give you a good general understanding of the world of work. As you clarify your interests it’s important to spend some time familiarising yourself with the expectations of different sectors and employers. 

For some industries and employers, internship programmes for second or penultimate year students are an important element in how they recruit for their graduate programmes; if you’re looking to secure an internship with, for example, a bank, a consulting firm, or large corporate keep an eye out for early deadlines in Michaelmas Term. 

For smaller organisations and other sectors, recruitment for summer work will tend to take place later. While many organisations will advertise specific internship opportunities over the course of the year, it can be useful to reach out directly to show your interest in a particular organisation and see if there is the possibility of work with them. 

Thinking of starting your own business?

We know that more and more students are interested in the idea of starting their own business or working for a start-up. LSE Generate is the School’s home for entrepreneurship. With a particular focus on supporting students and alumni in the creation of socially responsible businesses they run a programme of events, funding opportunities and courses which will help you on your way.

Skills, skills, skills

Whatever you decide to do, any employer is going to be interested in the whole you, so it can be really useful to start pulling together a picture of all the skills you’ve been developing through the different things you’ve been involved in: part time work,  extra-curricular activities, your studies.  

It’s not going to be enough to tell them ‘I have great communication skills’; they’re going to expect you to be able to give them evidence – describe specific examples of where you’ve used that particular skill, really breaking things down into specific steps.  

Spending some time doing a skills audit can be really helpful – it’s a great way of thinking again about what you can do, realising where there may be some gaps that you could aim to fill over the coming months, and will really help when it comes time to preparing your CV and putting together job applications.  

Employers are increasingly interested in learning about your strengths – not just the things that you’re good at, maybe because you’ve spent time developing them, but the things that come naturally to you, that you tend to want to do first, that you know (it’s okay to admit it!) you seem to do better or more easily than others.

Is your CV ready to go?

How is your CV looking? Perhaps you had a version you used for volunteering or a part-time job in your first year that could do with an update. We have lots of resources to help you get started and ensure you reflect what employers will be looking for in a graduate CV. 

A great starting point is our online tool Careerset which will guide you through the process of creating a CV and offer direct feedback. Then, once you’ve got it into shape, make an appointment with a Careers Consultant who’ll help you refine it further and get it ready to send off.  

Further resources for second year students

Final year


One minute you're arriving at university and the next you're throwing a cap in the air as a graduate and wondering where all the time went!   

Some of you will arrive at this stage with a clear idea of what you are going or hope to do afterwards, which is great. If you’re still unclear on what you want to do, that’s fine too. Now is a great moment to take stock, assess where you are, think about all the things you’ve done and you’ve learned, then plan and take action.   

It’s always worth taking a few moments to reflect on where you are; it’s possible your initial goals will have changed over the course of your degree, after all, three years is a long time and you will have had many different experiences during that time. Perhaps the internship or work experience you’ve just completed over the summer didn’t live up to expectations and you’re starting to realise you’d like to consider alternatives.   

For many of you, this year is going to be about preparing and submitting applications, attending interviews and assessment centres. Before you start, make sure you have a good understanding of what employers are going to expect of you, take advantage of all the information we make available to you to ensure you prepare thoroughly, make use of the opportunities for feedback and the skills workshops and seminars we organise.   

Contemplating the busy year ahead and the prospect of graduating can, of course, be pretty daunting in itself – so do make use of the support we can offer. We’ll be happy to chat through any concerns you might have, brainstorm ideas with you, help you organise your thoughts and define that action plan.    


Create a goal

Having an end goal in sight and a timeline that you’re working towards can help you maintain motivation. Creating specific steps relevant to you will help drive your plans forward. This could be putting together a clear schedule of the applications you want to complete. If you’re interested in graduate schemes or applying for further study, you’ll find many have early deadlines.  

It could mean creating a list of events you want to attend in order to get some inspiration or clarify your thoughts. It could mean identifying potential contacts on LinkedIn and starting to reach out to them. 

If that overall goal still feels a bit elusive, talking through your ideas with a Careers Consultant might be useful.  

What events interest you?

Spending some time checking the events listed on CareerHub and planning which you would like to attend could be a great first step! 

The early application deadlines for many sectors mean that there are a lot of events in Michaelmas Term. Attending careers fairs, whether in person or online, can give you a good overview of particular industries and employers, provide practical information about recruitment processes and timelines, and allow you to speak directly to employees to get their personal insights.   

As you start to get a sense of what you’re interested in, a series of smaller, more informal events organised with employers and alumni will help clarify your thoughts. Skills seminars and workshop will help you prepare for upcoming applications processes.   

If you can't attend a specific event, you'll find that many are recorded and can be accessed at a later date when you have time. 

Job boards and alerts

As well as checking CareerHub regularly, make sure you sign up to receive job alerts to ensure you are notified of any new opportunities in your area of interest. Keep an eye on an employer’s own website, LinkedIn and any specialist sites that could be useful.

Read more information and advice on how to find work.

Is further study for you?

Certain career paths will require further study or qualifications, or you might just be drawn to spending some more time studying a topic that fascinates you. If you think this could indeed be the right choice for you, it’s worth checking out our information on thinking about further study and applying for further study

Implementing your plans

Your CV

Even if you worked on your CV last year when applying for summer jobs and internships, it will need to be updated and tweaked for current applications – make use of CareerSet to get some immediate feedback before showing it to a careers consultant for some final advice.  

Preparing for Interview 

The thought of interviewing can be daunting, and it’s not an experience that many people enjoy, but happily it’s something that you can prepare for effectively and improve with practice. We have lots of information to help you with your preparation and you can attend workshops to start honing your skills. Book a careers appointment if you’d like some general advice and guidance about interviewing, and, once you have a specific interview lined up, take advantage of the opportunity to book a practice interview.  

Build a professional online presence 

LinkedIn is a great resource to help you identify and contact people in your chosen area, and you can also use it to promote your skills and achievements, so it’s probably time to create your Linkedin profile if you haven’t done so already. The key to using LinkedIn effectively is to make sure you're 'discoverable' to employers and agencies —  and to ensure you’re using those all-important connections to your advantage. Have a look at our information on LinkedIn

If you use other social media, remember that you might want to make a clear distinction between your private and professional personas. Perhaps it’s time to change your privacy settings and check out what can be accessed across all platforms. Many employers conduct background research online and some can take a fairly inflexible view, so it’s important to be sure there’s nothing embarrassing out there.  

 

Maintain your health and wellbeing

This is a busy and demanding time and it’s really important to look after yourself. Creating a good routine, building in some ‘you’ time and maintaining a healthy balance will help you cope with all the challenges – happily this is something that more and more employers recognise too. Remember that if things start to get on top of you, LSE offers a wide range of wellbeing support.   

Talking about any career concerns can help too, especially if you are worrying about deadlines, so don’t hesitate to book a careers appointment at any point. 

A final thought...

Don't compare yourself to others! 

As you know by now, LSE is a challenging environment and it can be very tempting to look at what others are doing and feel they’re managing much better than you are. Focus instead on working out what you want, setting your own goals and making your own plan, the one that’s right for you.  

Further resources for final year students

Listen to our short videos on:  

 

Related pages

Navigating your career

Career planning by year

Career planning

Career planning