Choosing a career is one of those momentous decisions that can change the course of your life. Such an important decision deserves considerable time and introspection. Ample information and self-examination can help you choose a satisfying career that you will enjoy for years to come.
However, finding your perfect career won’t happen overnight, and it may take time to find the right trajectory for you. You might even be thinking, “How do I even know what the right career is?”
Luckily, we are here to help!
If you’re feeling stuck, unsure, or confused, don’t worry. Here are five steps you can take toward discovering the career that will truly satisfy you.
1. Assess Yourself: Before you can choose the right career, you must learn about yourself- your values, interests, soft skills, and aptitudes, in combination with your personality type make some occupations a good fit for you and others completely inappropriate.
You'll spend a considerable amount of your life at work, so it's important that you enjoy what you do in order to remain motivated and work to your full potential. Thus, the first step towards making a wise career choice is knowing yourself.
As you’re reflecting, you may want to write down your notes. These can be helpful references when evaluating job descriptions in the future. You may start by asking yourself the following questions-
2. Take career assessments: Remember being given career personality tests in high school that would tell you what you should be when you grow up? They may have seemed silly, but career assessments can be an incredibly useful tool in discovering your path, especially if you aren’t sure where to start.
Use career assessment tools and career tests to gather information about your traits and generate a list of occupations that are a good fit based on them. Some people seek help from a career counselor or other career development professionals to navigate this process.
One key tip to remember- a career assessment isn’t a shortcut but a tool. It’s up to you to use it.
3. Explore career ideas: You probably have multiple lists of occupations in front of you at this point—one generated by each of the assessment tools you used. To keep yourself organized, you should combine them into one master list. Now, find any occupations on your lists that appeal to you. They may be careers you know a bit about and want to explore further or those about which you don't know much.
Now you can get some basic information about each of the occupations on your list. Find details like job descriptions and educational, training, and licensing requirements in published sources. Use government-produced labor market information to get data about earnings and job outlook. While researching your options, review the educational and professional requirements, consider work-life balance, assess the potential for job satisfaction, and most importantly, think about your short-term and long-term goals.
4. Make a decision: Finally, after doing all your research, you're ready to start making decisions. Combine what you've learned about yourself with what you've discovered about your options and the graduate jobs market to make a career choice.
From your list, decide which role interests you the most and select one or two alternatives to fall back on if you're not able to pursue your first choice.
If you're struggling to reach a conclusion, there are numerous exercises you can try to aid the decision-making process. Listing the pros and cons of a particular career is often useful, as is completing a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threat) analysis.
Realize that you are allowed do-overs if you change your mind about your choice at any point in your life.
5. Consult a Mentor or Career Counselor: Never underestimate the value and power of a good mentor! There are many different types of mentors- those you pay to be mentored, those that have been there, done that, or even those that can advocate for you at work. The right mentor, no matter what type, will guide you and help boost your career.
A career counselor or coach can help you figure out what you enjoy and what your strengths are, then help pair you with careers that make sense. Having a conversation with one of these experts can help you discover careers you might never have considered (or even knew existed) on your own. Amid COVID-19, many online career counseling options have also been made available to support students during the crisis. You may make use of the opportunity for one-on-one consultations.
Career counselors often help you spruce up your resume, brush up your interviewing skills, practice negotiating, and steer you toward skills and training you need to work in your desired field.
Finding the right career is a process, not an event.
So, be patient throughout the process, set goals, and follow a plan to achieve them.
Your career plan should outline how you'll get to where you want to be, what actions are needed and when, along with your short, medium, and long-term goals. Constantly review your progress, especially after each short-term goal is reached.
You must also establish a backup career development plan, in case your situation changes.
As a high school student, your first short-term goal may involve improving your CV and cover letter. Other short or medium-term targets could include undertaking relevant internships, gaining volunteering experience, or attending careers fairs.