My Future

5 Things To Do This Year If You Don’t Want To Work In Your Degree Field

It's not wasted time.

Deciding you don’t want to work in the field you’re about to become qualified in is one of the hardest parts of your last year of uni.

At best, you wonder if you’ve wasted your time. At worst, you feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and utterly unprepared for the future hurtling closer towards you.

I’ve been there. I finished my law degree in 2014 and, like more than half the population of law graduates, haven’t worked in law. Here’s what I did in the last year of my degree to prepare myself for my post-uni life.

#1 Find Examples of Your (Possible) Future Self

As I faced my final year of uni, I struggled to think of non-law career paths I’d enjoy. I liked writing – and thought my law degree vaguely relevant – so I reached out to the editor of a local lifestyle blog in my city to ask if she had any need for volunteer writers.

She replied with an enthusiastic “yes”, and as well as publishing and editing my sketchy writing over that year, acted as an informal mentor and invaluable role model. She’s a freelance writer and editor who had lived all over the world and demonstrated an example of an amazing career path I could try with my degree. Better yet, she encouraged me to have the confidence to pursue it.

#2 Intern

If your study load and finances allow it, intern in as many areas unrelated to your degree as you can to build new experience and real-world connections.

In my final year of uni, I interned at a lifestyle magazine with a life skills training program for young Indigenous people, and with a social enterprise farming program.

None of these experiences were long enough for me to do very much, but they each showed me a non-law career path I could be suited for. Most importantly, it introduced me to people who could help make it happen.

#3 Save, Travel And Relax

I felt pressure in my last two years of uni to propel myself through clerkships and into a graduate job. Even as I made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to work in law, I still decided I needed to have the next thing lined up immediately.

That unhelpful thinking prevented me from taking the time to figure out what I really liked and where I wanted to go. I’ve had a messy few years since graduating, involving travel, moving and job-switching – but ultimately, a lot more happiness and confidence than my last two years of uni contained. I just wish I had deferred my final year of uni and devoted the year to working, travelling, and feeling unsure. 

#4 Build New Skills Through Volunteering

I held a long-term volunteering role I over the last half of my degree that eventually lead to a paid part-time job with the organisation. I did fundraising communications – using precisely nothing from my law degree but a lot I’d learned about the organisation from years of volunteering with them.

This does require sacrificing valuable study hours – I graduated with an unremarkable credit average – but I have a delightfully random resume full of useful skills not just limited to legal research and writing.

#5 Go Easy On Yourself

This is easier to say than do, sure, but it’s by far the most important item on this list. You’re ultimately the one experiencing your own career, so make sure you do the best thing by yourself and take the steps you want to, not the ones you think you should.

I’m now 26 and still don’t know what I want to do for my job – but I’m happier than I’ve been in five years. I love my work, and I’m proud of the path I took to get here.

Sophie Raynor is a law graduate and freelance writer who has worked in magazine publishing, not-for-profit fundraising and development communications in pursuit of her lifelong goal of avoiding stepping foot in a law firm ever again. She tweets at @raynorsophie.