Exploring career options

Once you have a career in mind, the next step is to research the specific skills and qualifications you need for that career and then decide how you are going to turn your career plan into reality.

Consider your options

This step involves comparing your options, narrowing down your choices and thinking about what suits you best at this particular point in time.

Among the things you need to ask yourself are:

  • what skills do I need?
  • what are my best work/training options?
  • how do they match with my skills, interests and values?
  • how do my options fit with the current job market?
  • what are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • is there anything which could help or hinder me in achieving my goals?

Careers A-Z tool

The Careers A-Z tool is an invaluable resource for exploring your chosen career options. You can choose a career from the A to Z list of all careers, or you can use the multi-selector tool to search for careers by industry, type of work or qualification level.

You can also match the subjects (A-Level, GCSE, or vocational) you study to the careers they can be useful for. As well as this, you can also view information on higher education courses and access general information articles on education and employment related issues.

Career profiles

In the Careers A-Z tool you can view career profiles for your chosen career options which include details of:

  • normal work activities
  • the personal qualities and skills required
  • pay and opportunities
  • entry routes and training
  • qualifications required
  • adult opportunities

Transferable skills

To be successful, you need to convince an employer that you have the relevant qualifications and skills for the job. It is likely that you will experience different jobs and working environments throughout your lifetime. It pays to be flexible and adaptable, especially if you're looking at a change in career.

A good way to start is by recognising your transferable skills. Transferable skills are abilities, aptitudes and qualities that can be transferred from one job or activity to another. 

Skills employers look for

As well as IT, numeracy and good communication skills, these are some of the common skills employers want their staff to have:

  • problem solving
  • organising
  • working to deadlines
  • management and leadership
  • motivating people
  • flexibility and ability to adapt
  • teamworking
  • decision making
  • research skills

In your job applications and interviews, employers will be really impressed if you can provide examples of when you used these skills in different jobs. This shows that you're adaptable and can bring useful skills to a job straight away.

Taking a gap year can boost your skills

Even if getting a job seems a long way off, taking a gap year can also look good on your CV.  Potential employers see that you have spent time broadening your horizons and learning new skills.

Getting a qualification

Qualifications show an employer what skills and knowledge you have in certain areas. Don’t worry if you haven’t studied for a while. Many people return to learning after a break, and really enjoy the experience.

You can study in a variety of different ways, including at home. Work experience or volunteering are other ways of showing what skills you have developed.

Vocational qualifications

Vocational qualifications are work-related qualifications. They are designed to allow you to learn in a way that suits you, and give you the skills that employers are looking for. To find out more go to:


Whatever stage you are at in your career you can always benefit from gaining extra skills, knowledge and experience particularly when competition for jobs is great. So now is the time to retrain and up-skill in order to increase your options.

There are various different training routes available and your own circumstances will influence what programmes are the most suitable for you.

To find out more about training options go to:

Help with career planning

The Careers Service provides an impartial, all-age careers information, advice and guidance service throughout Northern Ireland. Talking to one of their Careers Advisers may help you focus on what you are looking for and also to work out how to get where you want to be.

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