Finding Your Career Path

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life
Confucius

For some people, they already knew what they wanted to be when they were 5 years old, however, some of us are not so lucky and can go through life never really knowing exactly what we want to do.

It might be nearing the time when you need to start making some decisions about what career choices you should make, as the courses you take at A-level (or equivalent) and similarly at university, or the apprenticeships that you take, will have an impact on what is available to you. Below, are some tips to help set you in the right direction and maybe make this decision a little easier.

1. Know yourself

This is by far the most important aspect to consider when thinking about what career suits you. Why? Because this is about you and finding a job that suits you. No one can make your decision for you, it ultimately comes down to your decision and what you think is best for yourself.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How would I describe myself?

What makes up your personality, what abilities and skills do you have, what qualities do you possess? This is important because many jobs require certain skills and abilities, and we want to find something for you that you’d be comfortable doing, or at least enjoy. For example, if you wanted to be a lawyer, do you enjoy public speaking? Have good analytical and interpersonal skills?

Tip: If you find it hard to describe yourself, you can always ask your friends or family what they think too – but no one knows you as well as you do.

  • What do I want to achieve?

 What is your ultimate goal or objective? Do you want a job that will make you the most money? Or one that allows you to help people and involve life-long learning? Perhaps you want to put your writing skills to work?

  • What do I hate?

Sometimes, it’s easier to rule out the things that you definitely don’t want to be, for example, if looking at peoples’ teeth really does not appeal to you then dentistry is not for you. One of the ways to choose a career is to work backwards: print out a long list of possible careers out there and then cross out the ones that you are definite you don’t want to do. With the remainder, research more into them: what are the requirements, what does a typical day involve etc; then at least you have a clearer idea of what you want to be.

2. Subjects that you enjoy

Are you still completely oblivious? Don’t worry, the next step is to think about the subjects that you are good at, and the subjects that you enjoy. There is a difference between being good at something and enjoying something, because without enjoyment it can be hard to stay committed and motivated at something that you could be potentially doing for a long time.

The subjects should give you an insight into the overall area of work that you should enter, for example, a flair in chemistry, maths and physics might suggest engineering as a possibility for you or it might tell you that you definitely don’t want to go into languages because you never particularly enjoyed learning French or something. In this way, looking at GCSE results and AS grades can be beneficial, and help you with your decision making.

3. Talking and asking questions

Talking to your teachers, family and friends and especially your career advisors can be really helpful. Career advisors have a wealth of knowledge and resources at their fingertips, and they’ll gladly help you through making your choices. But don’t stop there.

Talk to the people you meet, people who you admire, ask them about thier jobs, what is it like? What does their typical day involve? What do you have to do to get there? What are the highs and lows of their careers? What qualities are necessary? Ask yourself, is this something that I can imagine myself doing? Do I want to be in their shoes?

4. University websites and prospectuses

If you are in GCSE year, you might think it’s too early to start having a look at university websites and prospectuses, however, it can prove to be a really useful tool, and ideally you should have a look in year 8/9 before you make your GCSE choices. This is because some courses have specific subject requirements and you can check that the GCSEs you take allow you to apply for the courses that you want to.

Ordering university prospectuses can be quite exciting, alternatively career offices should have a copy of the latest ones or you can view them online on the university websites. They always come with a description of the course and what is involved and you can decide for yourself if that seems appealing to you. Also, many of them, if not in the prospectus due to limited space, but on the website, tell you what the degree can lead to career wise, and some universities have videos to show you what is available.

Tip: YouTube can be really useful because there are videos showing a day in the life of… or something similar that could give you an insight into what is involved. Also when applying to university, check that you meet the minimum requirements, subject wise and grade wise, you don’t want to waste an application for such a simple reason.

Caution: Do note though that the media portrayal of certain jobs can be far from realistic!

5. University Open Days and Taster Courses

Universities host open days every year usually in the summer: July/August and again in September. Going to university open days can be very beneficial to you, as there are information stands, professors and students that you can talk to and consult, giving you the opportunity to ask as many questions as you possibly can. Universities have lectures and presentations for specific courses, and this will give you more detailed information about what you could be doing.

Tip: Talk to university students, ask them why they chose their courses and anything and everything that you want to know. If you can, get an email address so that you can always ask a question later if you think of some more.

Taster courses are like open days in a way except that they are specifically focusing on one subject, for example, the University of Lancaster often hosts taster days about Law and Medicine, so if you’re interested in that, keep an eye out for that.

Tip: Some university open days require you to register, and specific subject talks may require you to book, this is very important because sometimes you will need receipt of a booking to be able to attend the talk, therefore some advanced planning would do well.

6. UCAS

If in doubt turn to UCAS. UCAS offers a wealth of information about courses, and their books are extremely useful, so look out for: THE UCAS Guide to …. as they contain case studies of what people have said when they had applied to a certain job and what they think about their courses etc. They also provide a lot of useful links to places where you can find more information.

7. Further Reading

Further reading means reading books that talk about possible career choices, for example, there are a lot of books to do with Medicine e.g. Getting into Medical School, The Essential Guide to becoming a Doctor etc. These can help depict a more realistic view of the demands of a career, and can either cement your wishes to become whatever or completely deter you from it. Many books also offer alternative careers that you might consider, for example, if you like the science of human biology more than meeting, diagnosing and treating  people, you could be more suited to a degree in biochemistry. Researching into a career is vital if you are going to make a fully informed decision. You don’t have to read loads about it, but getting a clear idea of what you’re getting into would be a good step forward.

8. Work experience

Even if you don’t know what career you want to go into, work experience can be very useful to you. You can see what it is like to enter the working world, whether that means you’ve worked in a restaurant or helped at a school for disabled children. These will give you more experiences and help you develop as a person, they can help widen your perspective on things and give you a more realistic insight, a true view into what it is like to work as a teacher or a journalist etc.

A polite email or phone call can go a long way, and forward planning can prove helpful, especially for competitive work placements and/or placements that require contact with vulnerable people as you might be required to have a CRB check done which can take some time.

9. But ultimately: follow your heart

At the end of the day, no matter what anybody else says you should do or shouldn’t, it is your life and so it’s your decision to make. So follow your heart, do what you were born to do. If you were meant to be a writer, write; if you were meant to be a dancer, dance. Don’t let anybody stand in your way, and don’t fret over this decision by yourself, there is help at hand. If you are still struggling, you can leave a comment below, Ask Anonymous, or send me a message if you really need someone to ask.

I wish you the best of luck with finding your career path and don’t forget…

[10. If all else fails, take this career quiz:]

 http://www.ucas.com/students/choosingcourses/choosingcourse/stamfordtest

(I would also recommend looking at the Student Room.)

Work is not man’s punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.
~*~
If this has been helpful to you, or you have any suggestions to add: leave a comment below. 
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