Choosing a career path

Debbie Jacob -
Debbie Jacob -

THIS IS the time of year when students face exams that will guide their academic future. Soon, many students will choose secondary school subjects that will set their trajectory in university.

My advice is to keep your options open by taking a variety of subjects. You may like maths and science, but it’s important to recognise the benefits of taking English language and literature classes all through secondary school.

They help with analytical and communication skills that you will need no matter what career you choose, so don’t stop taking English classes when you have enough credits.

Also, don’t neglect Caribbean history. Be aware that if you bypass this subject you will face challenges to get a good grade in CAPE-level Caribbean studies.

Here are some other suggestions to help you choose a career path:

  1. Get to know yourself and your interests: It’s important to pursue interests and hobbies like dance, music, sports, hiking – anything you enjoy.
  2. Your personality can determine what career you are most suited for. A career like journalism might look exciting, but can you handle the fast pace and stress of deadlines? There are many fun tests you can take to determine your personality type. The Myers-Briggs type indicator tells you where you fit into 16 personality types. The Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation offers aptitude tests that evaluate skills and strengths in categories like inductive reasoning, structural visualisation and concept organisation. Test results generate a list of jobs that best fit your personality and skill set.
  3. If you look at the advice you get online about choosing a career, many sites will tell you to pay attention to the compliments you get. Friends, family and teachers might say you are organised, empathetic, methodical or intuitive. Those are invaluable traits that can steer you towards a career path. The CliftonStrengths Assessment can identify natural abilities, which can be developed into strengths. The test has 177 questions.
  4. When you identify your interests and strengths, look for internships or part-time jobs that will introduce you to a career you are considering. It’s cheaper to do this and see if your vision matches the reality of that career than to spend time in university studying for something you ultimately don’t like. You may like dogs and think you’d enjoy being a veterinarian, but that job is ranked as one of the most stressful careers because of the relatively short lifespan of pets. Also, speak to people who work in careers that interest you.
  5. Look for volunteer programmes: Universities abroad pay much attention to community service, but the most important reason for volunteering is that it provides opportunities for you to develop empathy and learn more about a particular community. You will test your social skills outside of the classroom and feel the joy and fulfilment that comes from community service.

Choosing a career path is important, but you must also know that it is unlikely you will do one job for your entire work life. Students should know there are more opportunities than the four careers typically pushed in this country: business, engineering, medicine and law. Parents should support their children’s choices. Don’t put pressure on children to choose a certain career path because you, as a parent, feel it is a safe and comfortable choice financially.

Money is a consideration, but not the main motivation for choosing a career. I feel if you work in a field you are passionate about, you will succeed.

Don’t pay attention to those lists that surface on the internet ranking the worst degrees to get.

Sometimes my first degree, anthropology, heads that list, but anthropology has been the foundation for my careers in journalism, teaching and writing.

At the same time, know that a university degree does not work magic. A 2010 study of US college graduates showed only 62 per cent of degree holders had a job that required a college degree, and only 27 per cent of college grads had a job that was closely related to their major.

No matter what degree you choose, you must sell yourself and your skills. You need drive, dedication, loyalty and honesty to propel you forward in the workplace.

Choose your career wisely because first and foremost you should enjoy your job. Any time you come to a point in your life where you are unhappy in your career, switch gears.

There’s nothing worse than sticking to a job because you are afraid to listen to your heart and take chances.

The career you choose should feel exciting and fulfilling.


"Choosing a career path"

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