Guide to Making Career Decisions

Career decisions can be a very scary thing to a student. If you’re not careful, it can go back and bite you – 5 or 10 years after. You’ll be stuck in a career that makes you unhappy, everyday seems like grinding, and you won’t find anything to motivate you. Just the thought of being stuck in a 9-5 job that seems like going nowhere is enough to make students do a second thought on their current major and maybe even prompt them to keep switching it. Here’s what you can do to make career decisions less stressful for you.

Learn about Yourself

Of course, the best career will be the one that fits your interests thus bringing you satisfaction. Even when you’re at an entry-level position, as long as you are interested then you won’t mind doing it repetitively and you’ll soak up new skills easily. The key for this is to make a list of your interests, abilities, skills, and values. After that, you can compare some careers that require some or all of the traits you have.

One thing that students struggle at this point is naming their interests. You might think that it has something to do with careers like ‘holding meetings’ or ‘managing projects’. The simple truth is that interests are closely tied with your hobbies. Your hobbies could include tinkering around with gadgets, developing programs, surfing the web, cooking, or even playing with puzzles. It might not seem to be a serious career at first, but these hobbies can translate to a career as a programmer, a chef, or a game designer. It’s not hard to picture out that careers which are closely linked to your interests are personally rewarding.

Difference between Abilities and Skills

It can be confusing to differentiate between these two areas since many people think that skills are already some form of abilities and vice versa. However, knowing your abilities and also knowing your skills can help you make important career decisions in the future. Some careers list some skills set that they need and you might think it’s in your abilities set, so you can easily do it. Aside from being disappointed, you could end up burnt out easily in this scenario.

To put it simply, abilities are physical and mental activities that you seem to do easily. For instance, you might have a knack for drawing portraits using any medium or providing advice to people in any type of situation. As you can see, these abilities can translate to careers in arts or in counseling.

For skills, these are developed through education or training. For example, you can increase your math skills by going to school or improve your critical care skills by attending a conference or through an internship. Each type of job will have different skill requirements and knowing what skills you currently have, including what skills you are willing to develop in the future, will help influence your career decisions. Keep in mind that your skills will continue to increase over your lifetime as you pursue a career in a specific field.

Explore Your Options

Now that you have a good list of your interests, abilities, and skills, it’s a good time to think which careers would seem natural or enjoyable for you. Once you browse a career, also include your long term career options. Like, would pursuing a higher degree be beneficial for you in this field? Or would you be able to live comfortably on your paycheck with this kind of career? These questions might seem not important as compared to your interests, but keep in mind that you’ll be doing this job for a long time and your future family will also depend on this career.

A common mistake that students make at this point is to clearly define their career path. They think that after within 3 years of graduation, they would already be in this field, and after a few more years they’ll already start their post graduate studies or something like that. Keep in mind that careers develop over time. Key factors like economy or employment might change in the next few years. In addition, your feeling could also change during this period. A good way to find out if you’re really cut out for the job is to explore different jobs and getting the right ‘feel’ after. Most companies have certain programs like apprenticeship, internships, or even job shadowing which you can apply for. This will give you a very good idea about the job you are eyeing.

First Job is Not Final

Thinking that your first job will be the only job or it will determine the types of jobs you will have in the future will create undue stress on your part. It might even cause hesitation to the point of paralysis on your part and cause you to avoid important job experiences. Remember the part about career exploration? This is a good way to jumpstart it, by trying something new and after you finish your contract, you can move on to the next job which piques your interest.

Get Information

Family and friends are good resources for information about careers or about yourself. Your parents or adult friends can tell you about their job or work experiences in a casual setting. They can share with you their ups and downs, the mistakes they made and what they wish they could do again. School counselors and other community members are also available for your questions.

Speaking about good sources of information, there are many different sources which you can tap into. For example, libraries have good materials, or you can always check the internet for recent updates about employment or the career of your choice. You can even check the classified ads for job listings to give you an idea what kind of career is in demand right now and which careers pay very well.

Your Own Mind

Even if you notice a current trend in a major or a career, you don’t have to follow it if you aren’t that interested in it. For example, thinking “Since all my friends are majoring in IT, I will too.” This is not only a bad idea, but a huge waste of your resources like time and money. If you’re in it just for your friends, chances are you’ll have trouble with the lectures and the projects. Once you decide to transfer to a major course which you like, you would have already wasted a few years and thousands of dollars in the process. Instead, try to stick to what you like doing. You’ll invest your time wisely, and you will have room for specialized courses or additional workshops that will work in your favor.

To sum up this guide for career decisions, the career options you have are constantly changing. Today’s list of ideal careers might look completely different the following year. In addition, your career needs or points of view will constantly change.