It’s a commonplace problem. The gap between high school curriculum and real world experience is worrying. Suddenly, after high school graduation, you find a weighted decision plopped on your lap:
What very specific field would you like to enter?
With only a few sources of information, including pamphlets, careers in your personal network and your own interests, you’re expected to decide where you fit in for the rest of your life [it’s not true – you can always change path, but that’s something they don’t tell you].
Remember: It’s an important decision, but not an irreversible one. Start with a list of your abilities and interests and see where you land.
Here are three incredibly simple, but effective ways you can determine your career path [the sooner you start, the better]:
1. Meet people.
Making connections, talking to people and learning about their professions is a great way to know about different types of careers. This doesn’t mean you chase professionals asking them to be your ‘mentor.’
Use a careful screening process – determine your interests and abilities and narrow you’re your options. Then, ask professionals in that field about their daily lives. Their experiences can teach you a lot.
Learning about different jobs is a smart way to know what each career brings with itself in terms of risk, stress, time and finances. So, it is wise to learn about their current position, how they got here and how they feel about this career.
For instance, meeting an architect and discussing why they chose the field, what they regret and how they live, can give you a clear idea of how these decisions are made.
Keep these contacts close – they may serve as references later in the job hunt.
2. Thorough research
The mighty internet – and the power of LinkedIn. You can virtually meet people and seek professional career guidance. There may also be online paid services; they help you identify interest, passions, hobbies and use those to give you a choices of careers you can pursue.
Don’t miss: 7 reasons your LinkedIn profile really matters
One often overlooked area is research about the subjects you’d be studying and your proficiency at them, and jobs and their associated lifestyles, pay etc.
3. Gain real-world experience
Internships, volunteering and short-term placements can be a great way to experience how working in reality ‘works’.
We would suggest you opt in for these instead of industry visits to get an in-depth feel for the job. For example, a training program at a news agency might help you understand the specifics of a news agency: deadlines, how to approach the editor, and the many ethical and routine dilemmas that come with being a journalist.
Summer jobs are a great way to figure out what kind of work you’re good at as well as what you do and don’t enjoy doing by doing it! By getting hands on experience you can see what type of environment you want to be working in and how to deal with people who don’t suit your personality.
A Sociology professor at UoS said,
It’s crazy how many times I have changed my mind about the careers I wanted to pursue. I had initially wanted to be an engineer but never found pleasure in doing all the physics. Gradually I learnt that I enjoy teaching people—I taught and explained things to my siblings, neighbors and anyone who needed help. So here I am teaching the society something about the society!
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We hope these were useful pointers to set you off in the right direction.
If you’re a working professional, enlighten our readers by telling us how you chose your career. Share in the comments below.