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Choosing the right career path is a tough decision and is something that everyone experiences. For much of your school life you get by without having to think about it too much, and then during GCSEs, out of nowhere, you’re suddenly expected to have it as a bigger focus. No wonder you’re feeling confused and overwhelmed!
It’s important to give this good thought but it isn’t always an easy decision to make. The good news is there are things you can do to help you choose a career path that's right for you...
Think About Whether You’d Be Happy Day-to-Day
When you’re thinking about your career choice, you need to consider whether you’d be happy doing the job day in, day out and if you’d be able to take the good with the bad.
For example, if you like the idea of being a GP, think about whether you could spend a significant amount of time in an office setting seeing what may feel like a never-ending cycle of patients. Some people love the variety in this but if you’re an outdoor type person, this would probably become frustrating.
The reality for some professions is, only the idea of what you think you will be doing sounds great rather than actually what you do. So, it’s important to research what the job entails on a day to day basis and whether you can see yourself doing this over the long run.
Look up job descriptions or ask friends and family that work in the field you’re interested in and see what they really think about the job. It’s good to understand the good and bad points as you want to establish a realistic view of the profession.
If you don’t know anyone close to home in your dream career, a quick Google or Twitter search will find you people working in the field and email them just to pick their brains.
Not everyone will reply but you’ll be surprised how many people will actually spare a few moments to answer your questions and help you.
Know Your Strengths (and Weaknesses)
Everyone is capable of doing well in life but you need to know where your strengths are and how they could translate into a career.
For example, some people are great communicators and have a flair for persuasion which could work well in careers like sales or marketing. Other people are fantastic at art with a keen eye for detail and perhaps more suited for somewhere in the design industry.
If you’re actually physically incredibly fit, you might find that a career in sports is actually where your calling is. Whereas, some people have a flair for entrepreneurship, so a career in business may be better for them.
Everyone has skills they excel in and it's a good idea to reflect on what you think yours are or what you would enjoy developing.
It’s also a good to know what your weaknesses are too. If the idea of standing in front of people and talking frightens you or mathematics is something you detest, you may want to try avoid jobs that would require this regularly.
Are You Prepared, Willing and Able?
I would love to be a pilot but I have a slight problem; I’m terrified of flying. Setting unrealistic goals isn’t helpful and when it comes to making the right career choice, you need to think about your circumstances as well as your own ability.
Be honest and ask yourself if you’re prepared and willing to make the sacrifices needed to break into your chosen career path?
You see, dependent on how competitive the career choice is, some employers may even look back on all your grades all the way back to your A-levels and GCSEs. So, if your chosen career is in a competitive field, you have to be willing to put the work in now when revising for your A-levels or GCSEs.
Some career choices also have a higher level of entry that look for experience as well as just fantastic qualifications. So, you may also need to consider doing work experience or internships to help you stand out from other applicants.
Hard work is always necessary to get into any competitive careers and showing how committed you are, even with relevant voluntary work, will help show your dedication.
Find Out the Progression and Development Opportunities
Some career paths are more flexible than others and it’s always good to be in a profession that allows you to develop skills that allow movement into neighbouring industries.
Imagine for example, you choose to be a math’s teacher. The good thing about being qualified and experienced in mathematics is it’s extremely flexible and if you’re good at it, you can jump into a number of other professions.
The list of other fields you could jump into is almost endless with mathematics; think marketing, data analysis, business analytics, accounting, training and development, the list goes on!
Not all careers are created equal in this sense and some career choices may not allow you to develop as many transferable skills, making it trickier to move left or right across industries...
If you train to be a plumber for example, although this is usually a well-paid job, if you happen to want to do something different or more varied, it can be tough breaking into something else without retraining when your skills and qualifications are purely in this specialist niche.
It’s important to also ask yourself what’s happening in the industry and where do you see it going in the next 10 years to assess demand. Also, some industries can require regular training and development to remain relevant and ahead.
Marketing, video game design and software engineering are fast paced industries that constantly see change which requires people to constantly be at the forefront (think how much social media platforms have grown!).
Ask yourself whether you want to be in a career that demands this from you or perhaps you want something that may be more stable.
It may be wise to choose a career path that allows greater and more varied development so your skills can be easily transferable into other jobs just to keep your options open.
How Much Money Will You Earn?
Some people prefer less money but a better work life balance. Other people just want to jump into careers that earn them as much money as possible. Once you know what your own goals are, you can then examine all the possible careers that pay enough to help you achieve them.
Dependent on what you decide your goals are and what salary range you desire, you can then try to research what the average salary is within this profession or what the long-term potential is.
Reverse engineering your goals like this and understanding what is required to achieve them is a good way of ensuring you won’t be unhappy in a career choice later on, as money isn’t everything, especially if a profession makes you happy and you enjoy it.
About the writer: Sajan Devshi is a blogger at Learndojo. When he’s not busy creating content or writing for different publications, he’s usually helping students on Loopa Revision. You can catch him on twitter @sajdevshi if you want to say hello.
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