At 18 during my interview for Mechanical Engineering I quite confidently stated that I intended to pursue a career in consultancy engineering and eventually become a Chartered Engineer. And the basis for this? About 2 weeks shadowing at a consultancy company and thinking that it might be what the interviewer wanted to hear.
Ultimately, the reality is that when you are applying to university, or even during your degree, you may not have a concrete idea on what career path to pursue. There probably is that one person who knows exactly what they were going to be at 5 years old and is on it from Day 1, but rest assured you have time and resources to decide your vocation.
The decision on which career to choose is dependent on a multitude of factors that are individual, interest, money, and opportunity. The importance of each is clearly subjective but will work to guide your applications. A great resource to test the waters on these factors is the Imperial Careers website, where you can wade through hundreds of job and internship opportunities. These can be filtered to fields and pay grades that you may be interested in, and the website itself is complemented by the many workshops run (and relentlessly advertised) by the Careers Service, so you have plenty of opportunity to have a taster in industries you may never have heard of before, like Management Consultancy. If after this, you’re still confused, you can always book an appointment with an advisor who would be best suited in pointing you towards industries of interest. If at first you start in a career you find you don’t enjoy, you can still reach out as a graduate of 2 years to the Careers Service and access the same resources.
Indeed consultancy is one of many fields where the degree subject is not subject to stringent scrutiny. You may think that with pursuing a purely vocational degree, like Engineering or Medicine, you would be pigeonholed into a certain career path. That could not be further from the truth – there are many opportunities to work in a range of industries where STEM degree skills are highly valued beyond just their direct content correlation, from Finance to the Civil Service.
On top of university wide resources, you will likely find that your department (and the society affiliated with it) will run events providing career inspiration.
In the Mechanical Engineering department, Industry Talks from alumni/professionals happen almost every two weeks. These provide an opportunity to learn about a niche field you likely wouldn’t see in a Google quiz of ‘What career should I do?’ and to engage with professionals to start building your network. The department also liaises with the Careers Service to ensure all students are delivered talks on careers so that you aren’t caught out of the blue even in first year.
The student-run department society (MechSoc) also frequently run events to help with careers, from arranging free headshot pictures for CVs to running networking events with recruiting professionals from large companies such as Shell.
Additionally, there is always more informal support available. This is in the form of personal tutors and academics with whom you can discuss general career aspirations and who can give concrete ideas on where to apply for relevant opportunities.
To summarise, as a prospective (or current) student at Imperial, you don’t need to have your professional life mapped out in Freshers Week. You will have plenty of support to capitalise around you to not only gain insight into careers to pursue, but also in how to get there with CV and application process help.