Choosing a career is not a simple decision. In fact, it’s an ongoing process that changes as you learn more about yourself, the world of work, and the new skills you gain—even while you’re in the workforce. While you can expect your plans to evolve throughout time, there are four steps you can take right now to get you started on the right foot: assess, explore, research, and plan.
Thinking about the future can be intimidating, but a great way to start narrowing down your focus is to think about your personal interests and preferences. What are your passions and curiosities? Are you passionate about social justice? Are you curious about how the body works? Are you interested in how video games are made? Identifying these interests will help you find a career that will continue to motivate and inspire you. Next, think about how you want your day-to-day to look. Do you want to work in an office, or would you prefer to remotely and/or travel? A fulfilling career is not only about the field in which you work, but also the daily schedule that comes with it.
There are a lot of free tools for students to help identify professional fields that pair well with specific values, interests, personalities, and skills. Check out a couple of resources:
Remember, no test can tell you what to do with your life, but they can help you think about fields you previously may not have considered. You’re more likely to find the right career for you when you have a clear idea of all your options!
Now it’s time to explore the areas that reflect your interests and skills. If you are interested in the world of medicine, for instance, you could take a health sciences class. Likewise, a physics class would be a nice introduction to a future in engineering. Beyond academics, you could learn so much about a topic by getting involved with volunteer organizations that do work related to your field of interest.
Talk to your parents, teachers, and counselors about other ways to explore. Just like the tools mentioned above, these people can help you think outside the box and make the most of your exploration.
Once you have settled on one or more fields of interest, conduct some research. This process will give you an idea of what you need to do to get to where you want to be.
Talk to an adult working in your potential field and ask them about what they do and don’t like about their career. How do you feel about both the perks and drawbacks they describe? Then pick their brain about the process it took to get them where they are. They can help you figure out the education and training you will need to get a similar job.
Not sure who to talk to? If you’re interested in a career with a specific job title, look it up on LinkedIn. You can find professionals working in your field and get an idea of how their education and experience brought them to their current position. Keep in mind that most professions lack an exact formula to get a job, so never feel the need to follow a professional’s life story. Instead, figure out what’s similar about those who succeeded.
Once you’ve settled on a few different career options, it’s wise to think about the general plan for how to head in the right direction. Establish a tentative timeline to give you an idea of how long it will take to achieve your goals. Also consider the time and financial commitments you will need to make. You can even get that timeline started today by enrolling in relevant courses during your junior and senior years of high school.
Your career and life will inevitably be intertwined, so it is important to consider how they will impact one another both during your career as well as throughout your journey to get there. Think about what you want your life to look like: What kind of house do you want to live in? Do you want to have a family? Is traveling important to you?
It’s crucial to ensure that your career can support your lifestyle goals while providing the security and financial freedom you want. This brings us to one more step in the process—