Looking for work

How to research careers


Research is invaluable in helping you generate ideas about what you might like to do when you’ve completed your studies. It will ensure you find out as much as you can about what it’s really like to do a particular job or work in a particular sector.  

It’s also an essential part of application and interview preparation. Potential employers will expect you to demonstrate a good understanding and awareness of their organisation and the broader sector in which it operates.  

Wherever you are in your career thinking, whatever stage in our career development cycle, putting time aside to do thorough research will help you identify potential options, assess opportunities and strengthen your applications.  

What to research

Where you are in your own job search process will affect the type of research that will be most helpful, and the questions it will be useful to focus on.  

 Defining options

Conducting research is a valuable way of broadening and clarifying options, aligning career goals with market realities and matching them to your personal values, interests and skills.  

In the early stages you will be interested in learning more about: 

  • labour market information and trends
  • geographical locations
  • sector knowledge.

Questions you might be looking to answer include:

  • what’s out there?
  • how can I best use the knowledge gained in my degree?
  • how can I get into a particular sector?

 Building your knowledge

Researching particular roles, career paths and their associated skills is a powerful way to build on and extend your existing knowledge. 

You may be keen to learn more about: 

  • market leaders/new entrants in a certain sector 
  • hiring patterns and recruitment practices 
  • specific skills in demand now and anticipated ones in the future. 

Examples of questions to ask at this stage include:

  • what type of roles exist in this sector? 
  • how are these roles recruited for?  
  • what skills can I be learning right now to make myself an appealing candidate? 

Testing through research

Research at this stage is an important way to demonstrate commitment, motivation and interest to an employer. It’s key to formulating insightful questions to ask at interview and can ensure that you stand out as a candidate.

You could focus your research on identifying:  

  • what the company does (products or services) 
  • its position in the marketplace 
  • stage of company growth 
  • who its key competitors are and how it differentiates itself 
  • broader contextual and environmental changes – eg; regulatory, governance, impacts of the economy, structural. 

Examples of questions to ask at this stage include:

  • what are the company/organisational unique features? 
  • what are the key challenges facing your organisation?  
  • what external factors are having/do you anticipate having the greatest strategic impact?

Research methods

You’ll find it useful to draw on a range of qualitative and quantitative data to support you in your career decision making. Some industries and sectors have more visible options for graduate opportunities (banking, finance and consulting, for example) and so your research methods will reflect this.  

Research techniques can be divided into those that are desk based, those that are social, learning from others through your network, and experiential. Personal preference and style may determine your focus but generally all are useful in combination and will provide you with the most in-depth overview. 

 Desk based research

Draw on a range of sources to build up the most comprehensive view of a sector or organisation that you can. Company websites, press releases, financial and market reports will all be useful as well as keeping up with stories in the news. Following companies on LinkedIn and Twitter will also alert you to new developments. 


Connections through events such as careers fairs, coffee mornings with employers, our Meet our alum programme and departmental alumni networking sessions all offer valuable opportunities to grow your connections and conduct research in a one to one or small group environment. LinkedIn is a very useful tool to develop your network and conduct research in the online space.  


An additional way to conduct research is ‘on the ground’, through trying out different roles. There are lots of ways to do this – work shadowing (where you spend time, anything up to a few days, observing someone as they go about their work), internships, virtual experience and volunteering will all give you the opportunity to ask questions, further your knowledge and extend your network of connections.  


Here is a selection of useful resources which will support your research.

Industry/sector insights

Destinations: what do graduates do?

Company and job research

  • Explore company websites and social media channels. Sign up for company alerts to ensure you’re up-to-date with news and information. 
  • Job descriptions: searching on a site as such Indeed or looking on LinkedIn Jobs can quickly give you an overview of a myriad of different roles and requirements 
  • View profiles on LinkedIn to understand career starting points and trajectories. 
  • Join small group discussions via our Meet our Alum programme.
  • Attend careers fairs, employer presentations and coffee mornings.
  • Talk to your network — start with family and friends.


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