• Julia

Do you need NHS careers advice?

With over 350 different roles in healthcare, the choice can be overwhelming and often daunting to know how to pick the right one that suits your strengths and personality and will keep you in a career that is enjoyable and stimulating for your whole working life.

But it may be worth considering options out of the NHS also as many opportunities are available in private healthcare companies, social care or social work, charities and local authorities.

Additionally, with so many flexible working opportunities available, many roles are now offered part-time which can offer a greater work-life balance or allow you to manage a portfolio career if you prefer.

Maybe you are interested in working directly with patients and enjoy the face-to-face contact that the role brings or perhaps you prefer to be behind the scenes and involved in cutting-edge research in a laboratory environment?

Most medical and healthcare roles involve a lot of team work and working with other healthcare professionals but it’s also worth considering the range of settings which might include working within the community, labs, hospitals and clinics.

So when it comes to exploring options, where do you start? You may be wondering if the role of NHS careers advisor even exists to help you to wade through the vast amount of options? Whilst there are many people offering job mentoring within the NHS, they may not necessarily be skilled and equipped in asking the RIGHT questions in understanding your career needs fully and they may be biased in supporting you to enter their specialty or field, particularly with so many job roles remaining unfilled in many areas of healthcare.

A highly recommended website to start with is which offers a wealth of useful information and tools to begin this complex process.

It provides you with a four-step model of career planning which you can explore on your own or to create a discussion with a medical career advisor to help you self-reflect on some of your findings. The four stages include:

• self-assessment • exploring your options • decision making • applications and interviews

So, let’s look at each stage in a little more detail ….


This section is to understand what really makes you tick! It allows you to explore your strengths, weaknesses, interests, skills and values with the aim of narrowing down the type of roles that would fit as many of your personal attributes as possible.

The added bonus of going through this process is that it will help you in completing NHS application forms (used for all roles) and will start to give you an insight into NHS competency-based interview questions that you can begin preparing for.


This stage is one where it is helpful to keep an open mind towards options and do some thorough research so that you do not rule out career options without gaining a true picture and understanding of what’s involved. You should gain full knowledge of the job itself, the environment in which you will be working and the training and study that is involved.

The website has an excellent section where you can carry out this exercise through their explore role pages and compare roles tool.

Additionally, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of networking – talk to people, arrange meetings with them (tell them you’ll buy coffee!), use all your contacts to find out as much as possible about an NHS career role that interests you. You want to make a well-informed decision about your future by making the right choice early on so don’t be shy in getting out there and trying to gain as much inside knowledge as possible.

And finally, career fairs are another valuable resource for you to gain more insight to medical, healthcare or social care careers. Look on the internet to search for any that might be in or near your area and again, talk to as many people as you can, attend the free workshops that they often run and bring an up-to-date CV with you to leave with relevant people.

Another great resource is Health Education England who have provided a toolkit for colleges, schools and further education institutions to help professionals to support students to arrange work experience within the NHS. This can give young people a realistic opportunity to discover whether a role in healthcare is right for them so if your school or college is offering this, grab the opportunity to find out first-hand what it’s like to work in a particular setting that interests you.


How often do we use our gut instinct to make a decision? And how often is it right? Equally, should every decision we make be formed from purely a logical approach? Well, the research on making good career choices actually states that it’s both! We need to use our head and our hearts to inform the best decisions.

Hopefully, at this stage you have gained an idea of some potential job roles that interest you and this stage helps you to narrow down those roles further.

There isn’t a right or wrong method in this part of the process as we are all different but some of the ways you can approach it would be to think about times when you have achieved success through your decision-making style, gaining expert opinions, talking to people who know you well who can help you to self-reflect and writing ideas down either as a mind-map, creative brainstorm or a simple pros and cons list.

Using a comprehensive range of exercises from the attached link you should be able to clarify down to the last few options which career is best suited to you Find some exercises to help you with your decision making.


Within the NHS, the recruitment process is standardised to give everyone the same fair opportunity.

When writing out application forms, do make sure you read the instructions carefully and check through your completed form for typos and grammar mistakes. So many people forget to do this and many job opportunities are missed because it will deter the employer from taking your application any further if they feel you couldn’t be bothered to check your form properly! The same applies to CVs which can also be requested alongside an application form.

Always tailor your answers to demonstrate how well you meet the job criteria with specific examples of what you have achieved and accomplished. Look through the job specification thoroughly to ensure you have a full grasp of the role requirements.

By spending time on structuring good quality answers in your application form, you will save time when it comes to preparing for NHS interview questions and answers as they will often be based on examples they have already requested from you.

My advice with interview preparation is to practise, practise, and practise! The more you speak through your answers out loud and get them into muscle memory, the easier it will become on the day. And do mock interviews with others whenever you get the chance, it’s a good opportunity to get feedback and emulate how it would feel in the interview and if you can afford it, then it’s a good idea to invest a bit of money and get some specialist medical career advice to make sure you’re on track.

…. So I hope you have found this blog helpful in planning for a medical or healthcare profession and Sinclair Career Consulting can help you with each stage of this process or just a small part of it if that’s all you need.

And good luck in getting your dream role!


Copyright 2015 Sinclair Career Consulting

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