You have to make a decision about what subjects to study at college when you’re still young, with very little experience and as you are only just entering the adult world.
Some people have a clear idea of what they want to do when they leave college from a very young age and know exactly what qualifications they will need to achieve their goals.
However, for many others, the path is not as clear, and it can be hard to know which career to commit to and work toward.
If you are struggling to decide which is the best course for you, there are several considerations you need to make that will help you make a choice.
What do you want to do?
You might think this is an odd thing to ask given that the problem is not knowing what you want to do! You might not have a clear idea of the precise career you wish to pursue, but there are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you filter your choices. Do you have a preference for the kind of environment where you want to work? After all, you will generally be spending a lot of time there.
If you love the outdoors and dislike busy cities and mixing with crowds of people, then a job where you will be shut indoors every day dealing with clients probably won’t suit you. You should be looking at careers that will give you the opportunity to work outside or in the country to at least some degree if you wish to be content in your job.
In addition to this, do you have strong feelings about the kinds of work you wouldn’t want to do? For example, you may loathe the idea of working in hospitality; or the idea of dealing with numbers every day leaves you cold, in which case accountancy should probably not be your first choice. Of course, it may be that there is what you would normally consider an office-based career available that doesn’t involve being chained to your desk, and it’s always worth doing some investigating to find out if such a job exists.
What can you do?
Everyone has natural abilities in some areas and finds other tasks more difficult. To pursue a career, you don’t need to be an expert in it at this stage, but you do need to have a flair for what the work will involve. It wouldn’t be a very positive experience trying to train as an actor if you had very little talent for acting, and whatever career you choose, you need to be as close to the top of the pack as possible in order to be selected for the best jobs.
Make a list of all the areas in which you are talented, and compare this to your list of what you would like to do. You might see that although you are a skilled mathematician, your aversion to working in an office makes accountancy a poor choice for you, for example. When you’re thinking about what you are good at, don’t rush into signing up for a course based solely on your talents.
Being good at English doesn’t mean that you would be happy as an English teacher, so if you have any doubts about how satisfying you would find life working in a school, put the idea aside for now and see what other options you have. You might return to the idea of using English as a basis for a career in another form, such as publishing; or teaching in an alternative environment to a school, for example as a private tutor.
Think about all your other interests in life
Aside from your academic or career interests, you will probably have some leisure activities, hobbies, and passions that could help you decide what you would like to do. Looking at your interests gives you a real insight into the kinds of things that make you happy, and what activities absorb your attention.
Some might not be viable career options in themselves; for instance, you couldn’t become a professional basketball player just because you love spending every evening throwing hoops in the driveway. However, your passion for the sport could translate into other opportunities that you might not have considered before, such as becoming a sports therapist, nutritionist or psychologist. These are all highly qualified roles that require academic excellence, but that are based on an activity that means a great deal to you personally.
If you have a passion for playing guitar and spend all your free time in your home recording studio, you might have dreamed of making it as a performer. There is any number of reasons why that might be an unrealistic dream to have, but again it suggests possibilities for related careers such as sound recordist or studio technician, or maybe a music journalist.
Look at all the things you do or love that bring you joy to your life and see if there are ideas for career paths that relate to any of your interests. Even seemingly trivial passions could help to point you in the right direction. If you are addicted to detection and crime shows on TV, that could be an indication that a career in the criminal justice system would be worth looking into. There are far more roles related to the justice system than just cops, lawyers, and crime scene investigators, so don’t assume there wouldn’t be anything to suit you.
If you are involved with something that is more of a cause than an interest, such as charity work, human rights, animal welfare, Constitutional Law and Civil Rights or environmental movements, there are many careers associated with these causes that could use your talents and fulfill you at the same time. To find out more about the career opportunities available, you can look online for information on careers and the courses that qualify you to pursue them.
Trying ideas out in the real world
Hopefully, all your list-making has given you some ideas about prospective career choices, so once you have come up with a few possibilities, do some research to find out more details and get to know what the jobs entail. You should find plenty of information online about every job you can think of – and a lot more besides! You will need to check what qualifications are required and any other requirements for particular jobs, such as health and fitness or some level of experience.
If you can arrange it, try to get a work placement doing the kind of job you are considering, so you get a taste of what it would be like to do that type of work. If you can’t get a placement, it’s worth asking if you could have a look round so you can at least get a feel for the job. You should find that this process helps you refine your list of possible careers even further, weeding out the ones you thought were worth a look but that doesn’t inspire you in real life.
Don’t be too afraid of getting it wrong
Even the best prepared and most certain of students sometimes realize after they’ve enrolled in a course that they’ve made a mistake. If you’ve always dreamed of being a doctor, but discover you find the training isn’t as rewarding and enjoyable as you’d anticipated, do you stick it out and become an unhappy medic, or do you change career?
Being happy and fulfilled in your work is essential to enjoying your life, so if it turns out you aren’t feeling right about your choices, making a change is often the best course of action. Don’t rush into a decision, because it’s not unusual to feel out of place or overwhelmed when you first start your course.
Give yourself time to be sure of your feelings and not let the unfamiliarity of the situation give you the wrong impression. You will usually find that colleges will do what they can to help you change course if it’s possible, but even if you can’t opt out of the course you’ve started, it will all be valuable knowledge and experience that you can use in the future.
It may lead you to some career paths that wouldn’t have been immediately obvious, but if you can find a way of combining your interests or passions with your talents, that is a sound basis for a happy and successful career. Your college and the courses you take are big choices to make at a relatively young age, and it’s important that you spend time researching and discussing your options and exploring other possibilities so that you know exactly what you are signing up for.
Whatever you decide should be your best opportunity at the time, but if by any chance it doesn’t work out, you will have a second chance. It may then take you longer to get where you want to be, but everything you experience and learn is valuable to your knowledge and understanding of the world.
Image Credit: Pixabay
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