What career you choose determines what major you study while in college. It influences what life you can afford and what you spend so much of your time doing each week of your life until retirement.
Choosing a career is a big decision to make and high school seniors each year are stressing out about how to go about deciding their future. But deciding a career path doesn’t need to be too stressful. Finding your passion is largely about self-awareness and researching all your options. By following the suggestions below you can decide your future career with ease.
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Becoming more self-aware can be especially difficult for younger, high school students who are still figuring out so much about who they are. But this journey into self-exploration can be fun and eye opening too! You want to discover and record your skills, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and passions.
Start exploring the things you love right now. This is the first part of the journey that leads you to a career you’ll love. You also want to know your values, or what you will and won’t do in a job.
This is where learning more about your personality type will come in handy. For instance, if you are more introverted, then working with customers may be on your list of things you don’t want in a job. If you love being up on your feet then having a more hands-on job might be on your list of things you do want in a job.
Taking the Myers Briggs Personality Test might help you better understand key aspects of your personality.
If you have trouble finding these personal answers within yourself, there are some things you can do to find the answers.
Ask Yourself Questions
Giving yourself an introspective interview can really help learn more about yourself. Questions are good because they help you analyze yourself and what you do and don’t like. It also helps you look at yourself more realistically. You may like the idea of being a lawyer, but you have to ask yourself if you are willing to do all that is necessary to become a lawyer, and if you’ll really be happy with the required daily tasks of a lawyer.
Questions help you see patterns and become more self-aware, which is paramount to finding a career path for you. They also help you to know what you would like in a job (so you can accumulate a list of options) and what you wouldn’t like in a job (so you can cancel certain options out).
To conduct your introspective interview you can ask yourself the following questions, or you can have someone else ask them while you respond and talk about your answers together.
- If I could choose one friend to trade jobs with, I’d choose __, because __.
- I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do __. It’s interesting to me because __.
- If I had the right education or skill set, I’d definitely try __, because __.
- If I had to go back to school tomorrow, I’d major in __, because __.
- My co-workers and friends always say I’m great at __, because __.
- The thing I love most about my current job is __, because __.
- If my boss would let me, I’d do more of __, because __.
- If I had a free Saturday that had to be spent “working” on something, I’d choose __, because __.
- When I retire, I want to be known for __, because __.
Take an Aptitude Test
There are lots of online career tests you can take. A career quiz will give you ideas about what fields and jobs that might be right for you.
You’ll be asked questions to determine your skills and interests. Then the test will pair your results with careers that best fit your answers. You can then weigh these different options and research them to help you pick one. Below are two free tests you can take right now:
After you have some options in mind you can learn about your choices in order to make an informed final decision. Don’t only research specific jobs though. This can be really helpful, but think about broader fields of work as well.
There are fields of work and then there are jobs in those fields. Sometimes deciding a field of work first will help you find the specific job you’re looking for.
Types of Careers
- Arts and Communication
- Law and Government
- Social Services
Once you’ve decided on a career field, you can narrow your search down to a specific job in that field. Deciding which job to pick is easier if you read the requirements or the responsibilities for each job, and see if they interest you. You can search actual job openings to find the most common real-world requirements involved. Indeed and ZipRecruiter are two popular job search websites where you can see real postings for the careers you’re interested in.
You can research other important aspects of the career by visiting PayScale.com. This website has surveys about almost every profession imaginable, and can tell you things like average salary, what people on the high end of the job get paid vs the lower end. You can even search by your location and experience to assess how much you can expect to get paid.
They also list the skills that are most important to the field, the tasks and requirements involved, how people review the job, gender percentages in the field, and the health benefits you generally get. It’ll even show you related jobs and jobs in your area and it’s all shown to you in pretty, simple graphics.
Do Internships and Job Shadowing
Internships and job shadowing can be a great way to get some hands-on experience with the careers you’re interested in. Often your school advisers can help you find internships and job shadowing opportunities near you.
Conduct an Informational Interview
If you don’t have the time for internships and job shadowing, you can conduct an informational interview. It’s like a reversed job interview. You visit with someone who has the job you’re interested in, and you ask them a series of questions to get a feel for their job, what they did to get where they are, and any other insights or advice they might have for you. Here are some example questions you could ask from the Berkeley University of California:
- What are your main responsibilities as a…?
- What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
- What do you like most about your work?
- What do you like least about your work?
- What kinds of problems do you deal with?
- What kinds of decisions do you make?
- How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
- How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
- What current issues and trends in the field should I know about/be aware of?
- What are some common career paths in this field?
- What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued and rewarded in this field?
- What related fields do you think I should consider looking into?
- How did you become interested in this field?
- How did you begin your career?
- How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
- What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
- How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?
- What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?
- What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
- What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level?
- What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
- Can you recommend trade journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for my professional development?
- If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?
- I’ve read that the entry-level salary range for this field is usually in the range of ______? Does this fit with what you’ve seen? (Don’t ask about the person’s actual salary.)
- What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
- Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?
Now that you have a couple choices in mind, and have done your due diligence learning all about each one, you have to make a final decision. When making this final decision about your future, it’s important that you keep certain things in mind.
Think about the future, retirement, the family life you want. Think about what you would like your life to be known for and any other long-term goals you may have for your life. Will this career choice help you reach those goals?
Make sure you take priority over what you want to do over any societal expectations pressed upon you. After all, you are the one who’s going to live with this career.
Make a Plan
If you’re graduating high school and starting college soon, then you’ll want to not only pick a college but a major, and possibly minor, that will be useful for the field you want to go into. You can also start taking advantage of high school and college advisers and mentors if your school has a program like that. These counselors can act as career coaches to help you map out your career path.
In your research and studies you should figure out the steps, milestones, and requirements that people in your field must go through. Then you can plan these steps out in your own life. Record these plans in a place or a calendar that you can easily revisit and adjust as needed. Plan is a great website that can connect to your gmail or outlook account to help you plan your future effectively in one easy to use space. If you need some help planning financially, a Check City Personal Loan may be able to help you as well.
Whether you are a college freshman looking to decide on a career path for the first time, or a seasoned career veteran looking for your dream job, the process is going to look about the same. By following this guidance you can learn more about yourself and discover what career path is the best for you, and find happiness and success in your professional life.
Check out “How to Change Careers in 3 Simple Steps” to learn some other steps to changing careers.
Read “11 Important Qualities to Have When Changing Careers” to see what skills almost all professions are looking for today.