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UCL Careers


Find Your Future


Are you blinded by job stereotypes?

By UCL Careers, on 20 November 2014

Think of a job title and follow it with the descriptive word that immediately comes to mind….


Charity Fundraiser…….

Investment Banker…..

This activity often throws up stereotypical views of professions.

The problem people have when they are considering what job might suit them, is that they can be blinded by stereotypes and this can be off-putting. These stereotypes can be due to a variety of reasons. For example:

> You know someone who works in the profession and assume that everyone is like them

> You had first experience of the profession and think that typifies the entirety of their role

> You read something in the media which you assume sums up the whole of the profession

> Your friends / family have certain views on professions which you have taken on yourself

So before you decide that a career path is not for you, it is important that you consider whether you really know what the job entails or are you blinded by stereotypes? So here are some things you can do to help you make properly informed decisions about whether or not a job would suit you:

  1. Talk to people in the profession

This could be people that you know through friends or family – use these contacts. But also attend careers events and talk to company representatives to see what they do on a day-to-day basis and what they like and dislike about their job. Also, remember that the UCL Alumni Mentoring Network has hundreds of alumni from various professions that are keen to answer your questions too (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/advice/alumnimentoring). If you ask enough people, you should get a more rounded view of whether or not the role sounds like something you would like to pursue.

  1. Carry out some work experience / work shadowing

One of the best ways to find out if a job is suited to you is to ‘try before you buy’. If you can gain an internship in the field that would be great but some less formal work experience would also enable you to see what the atmosphere is like and it would give you a chance to talk to people in the field. You may be able to organise work shadowing through family or friends or via the alumni mentoring network. Or you could apply for ‘casual’ work through various sites listed on the UCL Careers website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/jobs. Even though this may not be your dream position, remember why you are doing it – go armed with your key questions and talk to as many people as you can. However, you should not do this at the expense of the actual duties you are supposed to be undertaking during your work experience(!) –you need to ensure that you have impressed the company with how well you fit in and the quality of what you do – this could then lead to other opportunities.

  1. Question stereotypes when you come across them

Some media outlets thrive on stereotypes as it is what the public want to hear – all bankers are greedy; all politicians are untrustworthy and so on. But this doesn’t make it true – it means that they have picked one example that illustrates the point they are trying to make. If friends and family also throw stereotypical statements at you, ask them why they think that way or how they know the facts they are presenting to you. If they give a credible answer – great. If not – ignore them and do your own research! A good way of finding out about what different jobs entail is through http://www.prospects.ac.uk/types_of_jobs.htm

  1. Talk to a careers consultant

If you are unsure what you would like to do you should talk to a careers professional. You will get impartial advice to help you consider what is important to you and therefore what jobs you may be suited to. If you are concerned about any of the stereotypical information you have heard, you can also discuss this in the session. Details on how to book are here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/advice . In addition, there is advice on how to consider you options here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/information/options

The most important thing when considering you future is that you think about your skills, qualifications, experience and values – what really matters to you? And go in with an open mind, rather than ignoring certain professions because of stereotypes that surround it. This will enable you to make informed decisions about your future.

Karen Barnard, Director, UCL Careers