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While you’re in high school, even just graduating seems like the biggest challenge you’ll face. Once you’re finished? It’s ‘where to?’ from here. Deciding on the right career path for you is all about balance. Be too impulsive and you might not find what you’re looking for; take the advice of others to heart? You risk choosing a profession you won’t enjoy.
Achieving a university degree, college qualification or short course certification doesn’t limit your career opportunities – it opens doors to them. Within every field is a diverse range of businesses, and in every business an even broader number of positions. Walking the path that’s best for you can be tricky at the best of times, so what do you really need to do? Follow the signs.
Sign 1: What are my strengths?
The first step to a successful career pathway is to stop thinking about careers. You’re still at the start of the track, so keep your focus on the journey rather than the finish line for now. Begin by taking inventory of your strengths – are you great at writing? Do you have a photographic eye? Is teamwork really not your thing?
Write down all of these in a notebook and you will start to see a pattern emerging. Our strengths are not only the tasks that we are good at, but also that we enjoy. They give us a sense of confidence, joy and pride to complete. So, naturally, they play an important part in developing your career.
Sign 2: What are my weaknesses?
Even more important than acknowledging the things you’re good at, is what you’re not. Do you struggle to concentrate for long periods of time? Are you easily overwhelmed when working with numbers? Your weaknesses are a strong indication of a career path that won’t suit you. But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate every job that has some form of administration to it.
Our weaknesses require hard work and dedication to overcome; they give you the opportunity to face a challenge. Without this motivation, at any job, you won’t learn and grow as a professional. This can end up being a worse scenario than facing a couple of simple equations in the long run.
Sign 3: Write a short list of industries
You should now have a list of close to twenty combined strengths and weaknesses. Take a closer look at these and the broader pattern that should be formed – do you have a creative streak? Are you interested in new technology? Maybe you don’t enjoy stepping into the limelight and taking control of situations? These attributes will help you to pinpoint the industries best suited to you.
Working with computer programs and numbers has endless possibilities, from information technology to accounting. For those with creative flair, the beauty and clothing industry is a global environment that excels in most cultures. As do the theatre and fine arts sectors. This isn’t the time to limit yourself – start listing every industry that pops into your head!
Sign 4: Now divide this into jobs.
Now that you have a fair idea of the different avenues available to you, let’s get specific. This phase is arguably the most research-heavy section of your career search. You want to read more than a job title and 100-word description. Ask yourself the following questions: what will you be doing day to day? What is the salary range and the workplace culture? Which countries does your career path thrive in?
Have a look through career resources and salary calculators alongside personal blogs and opinion pieces from professionals in that specific career. Once you have a list of the jobs that sound like a potential fit for you, it’s time to head to your local career counsellor and see if they can identify any further opportunities in that area. Keep cutting your list down until you get to ten or less – that’s the sweet spot.
Sign 5: What is most important to you in a career?
What are you in it for? Does the travel appeal to you or the money? The personal reward or the glamour? In this day and age, professionals choose their pathway for any number of reasons beyond financial security. There is no wrong answer here, but where possible, you should chase after your personal happiness before anything else. If you love getting hands on and building things, then choose apprenticeship training and work a trade. Don’t head straight to the law firm for that ‘promised’ six figure salary.
You’re by no means stuck in any career path you choose, but why not pick right the first time? While you take down all of the reasons to grab that profession pamphlet at the next career fair, see how they link up with your original shortlist of positions.
Sign 6: Now speak to trusted people.
Now is the right time to collate all of your research and speak to someone you completely trust; family or friends are great places to start. Choose someone who knows you well, but won’t tell you exactly what to do. The never-ending search for a career can be overwhelming and it’s tempting sometimes to give up altogether – an outside perspective will give you a welcome refresh.
You’re so close now to reaching that happy finish line! You know the one – where all your dreams come true and you never work a day in your life. The only person who can stop you from achieving this is you. And the only person who can get you there? You guessed it.
This article was contributed by guest author Caroline Schmidt.