School Leavers Careers Opportunities & Development - Advice Guidance - Information & News From Your Career Guide

A Guide to Your Career

Work - Start earning now

If you already have a job lined up for you when you leave school, great. But if not, here are just some of the ways in which to get your first foot on the career ladder.

For some, the decision to start work immediately is a no-brainer. After all, work means earning money instead of accruing student debts, as well as gaining practical experience – something that employers value highly. And it is still possible to pick up qualifications along the way. If you already have a job lined up for you when you leave school, great. But if not, here are just some of the ways in which to get your first foot on the career ladder.

Vacation jobs, volunteering and work experience

Even if you’re planning on studying for the next few years, the chances are you'll need to find short-term vacation work to tide you over. Or you may be lucky enough to be able to look for unpaid placements to gain work experience in your chosen career. Either way, help is at hand. If school or college has not yet offered you the chance to do work experience, enquire with your careers advisor or someone at your local Connexions office, who should also be able to advise on vacation work options. There are also a number of gap year organisations which provide information on a host of work opportunities at home and abroad.

For information on work, how to find it and what to expect, visit

See information on getting work experience

For information on volunteering and gap years, check out


An apprenticeship is a great way to get on-the-job training. All apprentices receive a minimum of £80 per week and a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) upon successful completion. Some also offer BTEC or City & Guilds certificates, some of which can provide a route into higher education. You can do an apprenticeship in a wide range of subjects, from sales and marketing to carpentry.
Look for and apply for apprenticeships at

Other training schemes

Employers such as the police force and the army have very specific training schemes which operate separately from apprenticeships. Neither require specific qualifications to enter, but applicants must meet certain requirements, such as physical fitness, to be eligible to apply. Applicants must be 18 for the police, and at least 16 for the army.

The websites of all of the police forces operating in the UK are listed at and each site has information on its recruitment process and how to apply. If you’re interested in army careers, visit

Starting your own business

If watching ‘Dragon’s Den’ on the TV has inspired you to start your own business, there are a number of schemes to help you. The Young Enterprise scheme helps enterprising young people get started in business while still at school or college. Its Company and Graduate programmes offer students the chance to set up and run their own actual company with the support of a volunteer mentor from business. Students learn how to do things like raise share capital, and market and finance a real product.

Look for your local Young Enterprise scheme

If it’s cash you need to get started and you’re 18 or over, the Prince's Trust’s Business Programme offers low interest loans for business ideas and a range of other support including mentoring.

Find out more about Princes Trust Business Programme at
Find help and information on starting up a business at and

Entry to Employment (E2E) and New Deal schemes

If you haven’t got a job or course lined up by the time you leave school, help is at hand. E2E is a programme designed to help young people get on to an apprenticeship, course or a job while receiving an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). New Deal for Young People is designed to help those claiming Jobseekers Allowance to find work.

Information on both of these schemes can be found at

Applying for work – hints and tips

  • Information is everything. Make sure you are aware of job vacancies in your chosen field by bookmarking all of the relevant recruitment agencies and jobs websites on your internet browser, checking them once a week. Many websites offer email alerts when new jobs are added. If there are any particular companies you would like to work for, make sure you regularly check their vacancy pages.
  • Ensure your CV is up-to-date and ready to send out. Ask someone, preferably your careers adviser, to proofread it for you.
  • Make sure you have at least one person who is willing to give you a reference – employers are likely to ask for one before hiring you.
  • Address your application to the right person, and always adhere to the application deadline.
  • It’s a good idea to follow up your application with a phone call to ensure it was received.
  • If you are invited for interview, try to be as knowledgeable as you can about your potential employer. This will make a great impression at interview.

Create your CV online at This site also contains useful information on looking for work and how to handle job interviews.

Study - Get ahead, get qualified

A qualification speaks volumes to a potential employer. It not only shows how much knowledge and skills you have in a particular subject area and to what level.

Funding your study

If you’re 16, 17 or 18 you may be entitled to an EMA worth up to £30 per week. EMA is paid directly into your bank account on a weekly basis during term time to help with your studies.

Popular career paths

Find out about the qualifications and experience required for various career paths as well as what type of salary to expect.

Degrees and further study

A degree is a standard entry into many careers – not just ‘traditional’ professions such as architecture, engineering, medicine and law, but others such as banking, finance, the civil service, recruitment, ICT and design.