Factors that confuse grads when choosing a career path

Choosing a career is a daunting task. You've just graduated, and you're expected to know what you want to do with the rest of your life. No pressure, right?

But with so many factors to consider during a job search, it's no wonder graduates often find themselves scratching their heads. Plus, there’s an overwhelming amount of information on entry-level jobs, so it’s difficult to know where to start.

85,000 hours

First and foremost, it's important to remember that you will spend around 85,000 hours of your life working. That’s a long time… especially if you don’t like your job!

So, the most important factor to consider when choosing (and building) your career is what you love to spend your time doing. To be fair, I’d imagine it’s pretty rare to love everything about your job. But, the things you love doing at work should make the things you don't love doing worthwhile.

The things you love doing at work should make the things you don't love doing worthwhile

How to find work that you love

Simply, find work where you enjoy the tasks on your to-do list.

It’s so easy to overcomplicate your job search to try and find graduate jobs that tick all of your boxes. But no matter what, if you don’t find enough joy in your day-to-day tasks, you will eventually be miserable.

Think about your hobbies, interests, work experience, education, and anywhere else you’ve found joy. Ask yourself ‘why?’, ‘what brought you joy?’.

Just because you love martial arts, doesn't mean you have to be fighting in the UFC. Maybe you enjoyed understanding the mechanics of each move and putting them into practice.

Just because you love gaming, doesn’t mean you have to be a streamer. Maybe you enjoyed the collaboration and strategy required to achieve a goal as a team.

Just because you love drawing, doesn’t mean you have to be an artist. Maybe you enjoy the creative process and transforming ideas into reality.

Once you delve into the ‘why’ of your hobbies and interests, you can start identifying careers that enable you to find the same joy.

GradSmart is here to help with this by helping you identify industries and careers that your interests translate into.

The GradSmart Career Quiz is a free career test that helps profile your interests across six categories:

The Creator

The Organiser

The Persuader

The Problem Solver

The Builder

The Supporter

Once you’ve completed the quiz, you can complete your profile by uploading your CV. From there, you will be matched to live graduate jobs based on your interests, skills and preference.

Factors that confuse graduates during a job search

Before we get into the list, it’s important to mention that some of these are still important motivators. But none can truly replace enjoyment for the work that you do.

Peer pressure

Your friends, family, influencers, and even teachers may all have opinions on what you should do with your life. But at the end of the day, it's your life, not theirs. It’s invaluable to learn from the experiences of others but remember, only you can really know what you want to spend your life doing.

Parental pressure

Alright, yes… this is a form of peer pressure but it’s important in its own right! There are countless examples of people building a career to follow in their parent’s footsteps or pursue a career that they believe is stable or lucrative; only to regret it in the long run.

Field of study

Just because you studied a particular topic doesn't mean you have to pursue a career in that field. Your degree is not a life sentence. It’s simply a starting point; a foundation that provides you with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in a variety of fields.

How many people do you think make the “correct” decision about their career when choosing their degree? I would argue that it is essential to keep an open mind, try new things and see where your interests and passions take you.

Lack of self-belief

Let's face it, self-doubt is something that we all experience from time to time, especially when it comes to choosing a career path. But don't let it hold you back! The key is to focus on pursuing work that you feel passionate about, even if it seems scary or uncertain.

Fear of failure

Spoiler alert, you’re going to fail! It's something that everyone experiences at some point, but that doesn't mean it's the end of the world. In fact, failure can be one of the best teachers out there! Don't be afraid to take risks and try new things, even if you're not sure you'll succeed.

Embrace the possibility of failure and use it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. Remember, every successful person out there has failed at something along the way. The key is to keep pushing forward, learn from your mistakes, and use them to your advantage.

Short-term financial gain

We all know how tempting it can be to jump at the first high-paying job that comes your way, even if it's not your dream career. But hold up, while a well-paying job can definitely help, it's important to remember that it's not everything.

So before you search “high-paying jobs no experience”, remember, you're just starting out. Gaining experience in a field that you're passionate about will pay off in the long run. So, take your time and explore your options. You'll be surprised at what kind of opportunities come your way when you stay true to your passions and values. Trust me, your bank account and your happiness will thank you in the long run!

Too focused on long-term goals

As a grad trying to decide what career path to follow; it’s easy to be jealous of those who seem to have it all figured out. They know what they want to do, where they want to work, and what their job title is going to be in 10 years' time!

But that’s not always a good thing!

Being too laser-focused on your goals can actually hurt you. Especially if your goals are influenced by insecurities or external factors like impressing your friends & family.

It's important to remember that career paths are rarely linear, and sometimes unexpected opportunities arise that can take you in a different direction. Being too rigid in your thinking can mean that you miss out on these opportunities and limit your potential.

Being too goal-orientated can be a double-edged sword, so it's important to find a balance between having a clear vision for your career and being open to new opportunities and experiences.

Status of job

Don't get too caught up in the prestige game. Life's too short to do something that doesn't fulfil you, no matter what job title is listed on your business card. Focus on finding a career path that aligns with your passions and values, and the job title will take care of itself.

Speed of progression

It's easy to get impatient and want to climb the career ladder as quickly as possible, but let's talk about something important - success takes time. Don't rush things, and don't get discouraged if things don't happen as quickly as you'd like. Remember, success is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the process, learn from your experiences, and continue recalibrating goals. With hard work and dedication, you'll get where you want to be. So take a deep breath, slow down, and enjoy the climb.


When it comes to job opportunities, it's easy to get caught up in the idea of staying close to home. But sometimes, you need to look further afield to find suitable and exciting opportunities. Don't be afraid to take a chance and explore new places. Yes, it can be tough to leave behind friends and family, but remember, there's plenty of time to enjoy their company in the future. And who knows? You might find that your new location leads you to an exciting chapter of your life.

Lack of skills and experience

It's easy to get hung up on your current skill set, but employers aren't just buying your current skills, they're investing in your potential. As someone early in their career, you have plenty of time to develop new skills and grow professionally. So don't let a lack of experience or knowledge hold you back. Embrace the skill gaps and see them as opportunities to learn and develop.

Unaware of career options

Nobody can have a true understanding of all the different jobs that are out there! It’s like doing online shopping but not knowing what you want to buy… where do you start?

The simple (but annoying) truth is that you just need to research different options. Important note: remember to keep an open mind when trying to discover career paths that may interest you.

Google is your best friend, and LinkedIn is your wingman. Look up different industries, job titles, and companies that interest you.

If you want something more direct, GradSmart is your map! The GradSmart Career Quiz will help you identify industries and careers that your interests translate into.

Next, talk to people! Reach out to friends, family, or even strangers on LinkedIn who work in fields that pique your interest. Ask them about their experience, what they love about their job, and any advice they may have.

Lastly, don't be afraid to try new things. Apply for entry-level positions, internships, or volunteer opportunities to get your foot in the door. At the very least, you’ll find out what jobs you’re not interested in… which is one step closer to finding something you love.

You never know what may spark your passion or where it may lead you.

Perception of jobs

You might have a certain perception of what a graduate job entails, but let me tell you, reality can be a whole other ball game. Don't get me wrong, you might be pleasantly surprised and find yourself loving every second of your entry-level job.

On the other hand, you might be left feeling disappointed and frustrated if your expectations don't quite match up with the reality of the job.

After all, your perception of a job is usually built on incomplete information or other people's opinions.

So, keep an open mind when considering your options.

Perceived difficulty

Did you know that up to 10,000 people in the UK search for “easy well paid jobs” on Google every month? Are you one of them?

That’s fine if you are… I get it!

But in most cases, the money you earn is proportional to the value you bring. And early in your career, whilst you bring a fresh perspective and new ideas, you’re still developing your skills.

Having said that, even if you did find an easy well paid job, how fulfilling would that be in the long term?

To feel truly fulfilled, it’s important to find something that you’re willing to work hard towards!

Work-life balance

“Work-life balance” is a buzz term we really don’t agree with!

Compared to working, the only thing you spend more of your life doing is sleeping. But we don’t talk about “sleep-life” balance. We do however talk about getting enough quality sleep and dedicating enough time to sleep.

As we said, you’re going to spend 85,000 hours of your life working. So even if you save a few hours here and there, it’s still a huge chunk of your life!

Work is going to fill a large portion of your life no matter what, so it’s important to feel passionate and fulfilled.

Yes, balance is important. But not “work-life balance”. Just balance in your life.

Personal values

As a fresh graduate, you may be brimming with excitement to embark on a career that aligns with your personal values. You may have a strong desire to make a positive impact in the world and want your job to reflect that. However, finding an entry-level job that meets your expectations can be challenging. It's not always easy to determine what company or career has a culture with values that match yours until you actually start working there.

It's important to keep in mind that early in your career, your focus should be on learning and development. As you gain more experience and get a better idea of what resonates with you, you can start seeking out companies and job opportunities that align with your personal values.

Don't get too caught up in finding the perfect job right away – the job search process is a journey, not a destination. Keep an open mind and be willing to explore different opportunities, and you'll eventually find a job that allows you to make a positive impact and grow as a professional.

Cultural expectations

When it comes to career choices, cultural expectations can play a huge role in shaping one's decisions. For graduates, this can mean feeling pressure to pursue certain professions that are highly valued within their cultural community.

While this can be a positive thing, as it can give individuals a sense of purpose and direction, it can also be limiting. It's important for graduates to remember that there are many entry-level positions and graduate jobs out there that can lead to fulfilling careers, even if they don't align with their cultural expectations.

When embarking on a job search, it's important to consider your own interests and passions and not let cultural norms hold you back from exploring new possibilities. After all, the most important thing is finding a career that brings you joy and fulfilment.

Where to start on your road to a purpose

When it comes to finding your purpose and starting on the path to a fulfilling career, it's important to start with love and passion. Starting with passion helps to ensure that you are pursuing something that you are genuinely interested in, which will give you the drive and motivation to succeed.

We love this graphic from Thrive Global is a great visual representation of a path to purpose


Exploring your interests and passions can help to guide you towards a career that you enjoy, as well as being great at it! You'll be able to learn about different professions and industries and figure out what pays well. As you gain experience and develop a sense of mission and purpose, you'll be able to refine your career path and pursue opportunities that align with your goals.

It's important to remember that choosing a career is not a one-time decision; it's a journey that will likely have twists and turns along the way. Don't stress too much about finding the "perfect" career right away. Instead, focus on pursuing your passions and interests, and the rest will fall into place.

Final Thoughts

It can seem like an impossible task to figure out how your interests and passions translate into different career paths.

The GradSmart Career Quiz will help you understand your “career personality” and even match you to live graduate jobs based on your interests.

You can also use the results to help inform your job search and research career paths that you may not have considered… or even know existed.

Sign-up today!

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