Starting a career is different to a job. A job can be one off, but a career is often a long-term pursuit. It’s something you care about and want to progress in.

In exploring your options, you’ll need to learn more about different careers and industries – as well as yourself. Ask yourself the question “what do I want to do with my life?” This helps to keep you thinking of a career as a long-term pursuit. 

Remember though – people can and do change career, so just because you pick one now, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck. 

In this lesson, we’ll help you learn more about where to start. From completing a self-assessment to reviewing your progress, there’s lots to do!


  • Get to know your own career wants
  • Learn how to narrow down your options and find something that suits you
  • Use career option and research tools
  • Know how to create a career plan

Read time:

8 mins

Chapter 1

Get to know yourself 

Read time:

3 mins

Why is getting to know yourself important?

Before you start, it's important to get to know yourself better. Make sure that you think about what you like doing and what motivates you. You can perform a self-assessment of your career option or there are companies who can do this for you. Let’s start with self-assessment.



Before you start, it's important to get to know yourself better. Make sure that you think about what you like doing and what motivates you.


We’ll cover these areas of self-assessment:

Your skills

Your interests

Your values

Your needs, responsibilities and constraints

Your skills

Doing something good at can really help you to enjoy and progress in the work you do. This is why having an understanding of your skills is helpful.

Ask yourself “What am I good at?” This doesn’t need to be role based, it could revolve around a hobby or something you like to do. 

For example, if you are artistic and enjoy playing the guitar. You may like a career as a musician. You may be good at gaming at home and consider a career in digital coding.

You could either work in these areas or help others, by, for example, teaching others to play a guitar.

Activity – Create a skills list

Imagine you are talking to a friend about a hobby you have, for example, DIY. Take some time to think about some of the projects you have completed. Let’s look at the last mirror you hung on your wall. You may have researched the tools and equipment you needed and how long it was going to take you. You may also have had to take measurements to see where to hang the mirror. All these parts of the job involve researching, planning and accuracy skills.

On a piece of paper, write down the hobbies you have and the skills associated with them.

Your interests

Similarly, it matters you enjoy what you do, so do allow yourself to prioritise the things that matter to you.

Activity – Edit your list

Take a look at your list of skills from the last activity. Do you enjoy using all of them, or did you have to learn some of them. Take a note of those you enjoy doing most and be clear if there are any you don’t really enjoy.

Your values

Your values and beliefs matter. It can be hard working in a job or for an employer that doesn’t represent or share your values. If helping others is important to you, you might want to think about a more caring profession. If you care about sustainable products, you wouldn’t want to work for an employer that doesn’t value this.


Write a list of your values and beliefs. These can relate to you, your relationship, the world and your intended career. Go through this list and start to prioritise. What must you have to consider a career, and which are just nice to have?

Your needs, responsibilities and constraints

  • What do you need from a career? 
  • What restraints do you have?
  • Do you have a family commitment?
  • Can you travel to work by car?
  • How far can you travel to work?
  • Do you have other responsibilities outside of work?


Take the above example questions and use them write a list of your needs. You may have others, so let yourself think outside these questions. What would make you say no to a career option?

Once you’ve got to know yourself a bit better, you can start to explore potentials careers that will best fit you.


Career assessment tools

When you are looking at your career options, you may find companies who can help you. Some will be free, others will charge a fee, so check before you sign up to anything. 

These tools won’t guarantee you your perfect career, but they can help gain a valuable insight about yourself. This insight can then help you narrow down to options that better suit your wants and needs.

Some may ask you to complete a test based on your interests, ambitions, personality and workplace preferences.


There are other places you can go for career ideas:

  • Online courses
  • Podcasts
  • Books
  • Blogs
  • Webinars
  • Workshops 
  • Speak to a career adviser

Chapter 2

Research industry sectors and role profiles

Read time:

2 mins

How to complete your research

While you are researching, you’ll learn more about different industries, careers and trends.


Here are some examples of industries:

  • Healthcare
  • Technology 
  • Energy
  • Construction
  • Retail
  • Legal


Another consideration for you is the type of sector you want to work in. There are three sectors that all industries fall into.


These are

  • Private – Sole traders, partnerships and limited companies
  • Public – Local and national governments plus their agencies and departments
  • Not-for-profit – Often referred to as the third sector


Research what you’re interested in

There are tools you can use to help you research industries. From viewing online podcasts, to reading trade magazines. There is a great deal of choice to help you with your research.


Examples of some research tools:

  • Podcasts
  • Trade magazines
  • Books
  • Blogs
  • Career fairs
  • LinkedIn
  • Networking with people
  • Industry reports
  • Check social media
  • Trade associations website
  • Labour market trends


Once you completed your research, you can make a list of the sectors that interest you.  Make a note of your top choices. Then review the job profiles for those sectors.

You’ll find job profiles help you decide which jobs you may want to pursue.

You can find job profiles online, for example, the National Careers website. This site has many role profiles listed by category. It also has search facility to allow you to go directly to the role profile.


There are other options for reviewing job profiles:

  • Online job sites 
  • LinkedIn
  • Career, agency and company websites

Chapter 3

Making a decision

Read time:

1 min

What to think about

Now you’ve got to know yourself better and explored the sectors, you’re ready to make a decision.

From your job list, decide which career interests you the most. Have one or two others as a back-up.


To help you, here are some questions:

  • Will I enjoy doing this job every day?
  • Do I have the right skills?
  • Does the job meet my needs?
  • Does the company fit my values?
  • Is there any location, financial, logistical or constraints you need to take into account?
  • Does the job pay enough for me?


If you are finding it difficult to make a final decision, there are tools, which may help. You could list the pros and cons of each career option. Another option is you can list the strengths and weaknesses too! The tool to help you with this is called a SWOT analysis.


SWOT analysis:

  • Strengths – What you bring to the role
  • Weaknesses – What could you improve on?
  • Opportunities – What are the opportunities for you and the company?
  • Threats – Is there anything that could prevent your development?

Chapter 4

Set career goals and review progress

Read time:

2 mins

Setting career goals

Having career goals can help you plan the steps to get to them. Once you have a clear target, you can break down the steps and what you’ll need.


Here’s some questions to start you off:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve it?


Identify your short-term and long-term goals

Use the questions to write your goals.  What actions do you need to take to achieve your goals? Some goals will only take a short amount of time. Others may need a long term plan. So, try to work out which are your short-term and which are your long term goals. Think: What do you want to be doing in 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years from now?

Put steps in place

Next, try to work out the actions you will need to take. Try to break it down into simple steps. This can help each step feel easier to do.

Add timeframes

For each step towards your goal, try to add a date or timeframe so you have a goal date. This can help to keep you on track.


Review your progress

Always track your progress. This can help you to see that you’re progressing, or spot where you’re not! This will help you keep on course with your career plan.

It will also help you to see if your goals have changed. It’s okay to change your mind or your career. Goals can change and what matters to you can change over time too.

Constantly review your progress. Complete this after each short-term goal is achieved. Also consider having a back-up plan in case your situation changes.


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 23rd February 2024.