How To Choose a Career Path in a World That Is Constantly Changing
Credit: Danielle Maclnnes
Deciding on a career you want to pursue has never been a naive task. In a world that is expanding and shrinking at a mad pace due to globalization, the decision becomes even more difficult to make.
The work environment isn’t what it was a couple of decades ago. While this has had positive outcomes, such as more liberty to change your career at any time, it’s also created new challenges. Your job, once you land it, is never as secure or final as it was for your parents or grandparents.
Despite these changes in the work environment, you are still supposed to choose a career path at one point, and the sooner you do it, the better.
If you’ve worked as an intern and had the opportunity to translate your skills from the classroom into the real world, an idea of what you want to do might have started to form in your mind. If not, this article will guide you through the process of choosing your career as well as give you tips on how to go after it.
Does Your Education Teach You How To Pick Your Career?
You may feel that the world expects you already know what occupation you want to take up when you approach the senior year of high school and that you’re supposed to pursue it without delay—either by seeking employment right away or getting a higher education degree in that field. But how much does your high school education help you decide on your career—if it does at all?
The chances are your adolescent years consist of sitting at a school desk, receiving a lot of input on a wide range of subjects, and then studying for and passing tests on them. Your reward is a piece of paper—your GPA—that is meant to represent the assessment of your knowledge. Unfortunately, your GPA is likely to affect how you perceive yourself as an individual too—and to a harmful extent.
When students measure their worth according to the grades they receive, high school turns into a rat race for an ever-higher GPA score instead of helping young individuals form their personality and carve the path to their futures.
A major personality growth occurs during adolescence. It is the time when you are most curious about the world, most prone to gain and nurture new interests, and most likely to have the desire to stand out from others. High schools need to recognize this and do their best to promote creativity and encourage students to use their voices effectively and without fear.
It is high time education was re-invented in a way that would put the primary focus on enabling students to use the skills they learn in theory and give them the tools to go into the world prepared for and unafraid of its challenges.
STEAM Fields—The Future of Education
STEAM—which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics—is a novel way of teaching. Its creation stemmed from the technological advances that changed the nature of jobs and made the majority of them automated. On the other end of the spectrum, the change resulted in numerous new jobs that are on demand today and for which high schools that still use the traditional approach to teaching do not prepare students adequately.
STEAM education prepares students for the future of work and equips them the ability to innovate and think critically.
Your first step towards choosing a career path is recognizing this change and using it to your benefit. The fourth industrial revolution brought about many STEAM careers that will only continue to develop and grow in number as we head deeper into the 21st century.
How To Pick the Right Career—The Self-Assessment Part
Credit: David Travis
Once you come to terms with the fact that the world is no longer what it used to be—even though your high school education might not be preparing you for it properly—you can start exploring your options and searching for an answer to the question of what career path to pursue.
Since you’ll need to dig deep into yourself to learn what career fits your personality perfectly, a dose of self-reflection should be the first task on your to-do list.
You’ll want to consider your:
- High school and college experience
- Wants and values
- Idea of success
Review Your High School and College Experience
Depending on your age and circumstances, you should start from your high school or college days—or both. As basic as the idea sounds, the subjects you enjoy studying or the lectures you love attending can be the key to finding the answer on what you want to devote your adult life to.
For example, you might be exceptional at math. Ask yourself this—do I just get how math works or am I relishing the hours I spend doing my math homework? If the latter is the case, you can start by finding out what aspects of the subject you enjoy so much.
You can apply this type of thinking to any subject you like in school or the course you enjoy in college.
Pay Special Attention to What You Like To Do at Leisure
The idea of turning your hobby into a career and ending up never having to work a day in your life is gaining more and more popularity nowadays. People have recognized that what you do contributes to your overall sense of accomplishment and happiness much more than the paycheck you get in the end. Fortunately, now more than ever, we have the freedom and the tools to turn an enjoyable activity into a business venture.
Think of a hobby that you can spend hours on end doing. You should ask yourself whether you can turn it into a paid job that can lead to a successful career.
Determine Your Wants and Needs
Other crucial aspects to consider when deciding on your career path is what you want out of your work environment as well as what your work values are.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you think of a desk and computer when imagining your perfect workspace?
- Are you someone who craves a regular change of scenery in your work environment?
- Are you comfortable with fixed working hours?
- Would you like to be the one determining when and how much you work in a day?
- Do you thrive in teamwork where you and your colleagues can bounce ideas off each other and come up with creative solutions together?
- Are you more comfortable being the one holding the reins and making decisions on your own?
When you have a clearer image of the type of workspace you would thrive in, you must also know what you value in a work environment. Here’s a table to help you with this step:
|Work Values||What They Mean|
|Trustworthiness||You appreciate it when you can count on your co-workers and superiors, and you strive to be reliable yourself.|
|Discipline||You have a strong work ethic and thrive in a neatly managed environment in which everyone performs their tasks in due time and order.|
|Collaboration||You need teamwork to reach creative solutions.|
|Independence||You like to be the one making decisions and can feel oppressed when you don’t have a say in important matters or are constantly being supervised.|
|Creativity||You need a sufficient outlet for your creativity and enjoy coming up with new ideas.|
|Accountability||You appreciate the environment in which everyone is held responsible for their actions.|
|Influence||You want the work that you do to have clear positive outcomes and visible effects on important matters.|
Keep in mind that these are only some of the most common work values out there. You are bound to recognize yourself in at least several of them, and as soon as you know which ones, you will have a clearer idea of what you want out of your career.
Identify What Success Means to You
When you know which career path to take, it is only natural you will want to be successful in paving it. Indeed, success and career are the terms that go together almost inevitably.
Even though society teaches us that success is synonymous with financial prosperity, that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s always good to remember that success is abstract.
If you feel that a hefty salary and a luxurious lifestyle are measurements of success, you will probably seek the jobs that can give it to you. Alternatively, you might believe you’re successful when you’re doing what you love and what you believe in.
Whichever the case, your perspective on success will influence your career choices consciously or subconsciously, so you might as well know what your standing on the term is.
How To Pick a Career—The Practical Part
Credit: Andrew Neel
Thinking can only go so far—but nothing can beat discovering what you excel at and making a living out of it. It’s why you should not waste time and start looking for a job as soon as you recognize which ones appeal to you.
Wait, you might be saying, I still don’t know what career I want to take.
Don’t worry—if you couldn’t decide what career is perfect for you with all the self-assessment we’ve just guided you through, experiencing real-life work is bound to give you ideas.
Not necessarily in this order, you need to:
- Gain some experience
- Make a career plan
Learn How To Choose the Right Career From Experience
There are numerous ways in which you can seek work experience to help you decide on your career path, like:
- Doing volunteer work
- Getting an internship
- Applying for a job
- Starting your own business
We know all these can be scary, but the experience you’re bound to gain if you go for them can only help you realize what you want from your future career.
Here’s a table that explains the different types of work experience you can seek and why it matters that you do:
|Work Experience||How It Can Help You|
|The mere non-binding nature of volunteer work is perfect if you can’t decide what career to pursue. You can look for volunteer opportunities and try some of them out with all the freedom to step away whenever you want. At the end of the day, you’ll at least know what you value in a work environment.|
|Though people usually go into internships with an already formed career goal in mind and the need and desire to gain experience in it, you can seek an internship opportunity with the aim to find the career of your choice, too. The experience will be short but invaluable, and you might just land the job of your dreams.|
|If it’s time you started making money and cannot afford to volunteer or apply for an internship, you can start looking for a regular job. Find the ones you have the skills for, if not the passion, and apply for them. The experience you’ll gain will help you determine what else you want in your professional life.|
|Why not? Perhaps the sole reason why you cannot find the career of your dreams is because you need to create it yourself. Today, the only starting tool for forming a business venture is a working laptop and a stable internet connection.
If you believe there is a hidden entrepreneur inside you, you better invite them out to play. This type of work experience is especially valuable if you’re among those who would like to make money out of their hobbies.
Make a Plan for How To Go After the Career You Choose
When you know what career is right for you, whether it be something as unconventional as a poetry or prose writer, you’ll want to make a tangible plan to pursue it. Whether you’re into bullet journaling or prefer a more technological approach to putting your goals into visible timelines, there are countless ways you can format your career plan.
What you do need to include in your plan, regardless of its design or the tool you use to create it, is your:
- Ultimate goal and how you plan to achieve it
- Skillset and the ways you’ll improve it further
- Short-term goals and the time frame in which you’ll accomplish them
The crucial aspect of having a career plan is self-evaluation, so make it a habit to keep track of your progress and make changes to your plan whenever needed.
How To Decide What Career You Want—Our Final Piece of Advice
In all your thinking, planning, and action-taking, you cannot overlook one simple truth—finding out your calling is not the destination, but a starting point. While it means a great deal to know what you expect from your career and makes it easier to achieve your goals, no path in life will ever be linear or without challenges.
Maybe you’ll land a job you thought was ideal for you but will find you need to change it to pursue your dreams. In that case, you’ll need to:
- Learn how to quit a job
- Move on to the next best thing
At one point, you’ll see that even the career of your choice comes with its dangers. It might be something that you’ll need to work on for years or that your friends and colleagues don’t support you in. If it comes to that, so long as you know you’re pursuing your passion, every obstacle will be just another lesson to learn and a step to take to grow and make a real impact.
Your Take on How To Choose Career Paths
If you have an opinion on choosing a career or a trick or two up your sleeve for how to go about the business—do share. What is it that our schools can do to help you and other students across the country learn how to choose a career?
Join our community of like-minded people who are determined to reinvent high schools and turn them into places that breed successful individuals, regardless of their race, gender, or ZIP code.
If you believe someone could benefit from the story you can tell, why not contribute? We’ll be more than happy to hear what you have to say and share your thoughts with our readers.
Let’s rethink high schools together!