Ask most young people what they plan to do after high school graduation and you will usually get one of two answers: “I have no idea,” or ” I definitely want to be a doctor, lawyer, auto mechanic, truck driver, etc.” For those of you who fall into the “I have no idea” category, talking to peers who claim to have known since they were three years old which career path they wanted to pursue can be intimidating. In addition, each time you have to explain to someone that you do not really know what you want to do, you may feel embarrassed by your apparent lack of direction.
Trying to determine a direction for your future does not have to be so frustrating. There are a number of things you can do that will assist you in making wise choices. First, remember that Proverbs 16:9 says that we should make plans counting on God to direct our steps. So an obvious beginning is to ask God to give you wisdom as you investigate your options and follow His lead as He grants you insight and opens and closes doors of opportunity.
Next, recognize that the reason for your confusion concerning your future plans may be quite simple – you probably do not have enough information to make a wise choice. You are being asked to make some major decisions that will affect the rest of your life. What information do you currently have that will allow you to make these choices with confidence that you are heading in the right direction?
There are three areas of your life that you need to examine in order to make a sound career decision. These areas include your interests, your natural talents, and your values. You also need to learn how to thoroughly research a career field before committing to it. You will discover that the more information you have, the easier it is to identify a career that fits you. Information is truly the key to good career planning.
The area of your life that we will examine through this article is your interests. Quite simply, interests are those things that fascinate you. Interests are usually identified by sentences that begin with the words, “I like.” For example, “I like airplanes, animals, reading books, going to the beach, etc.” So, a young person who says, “I like animals.” has just revealed something about what interests him. Such an individual may deduce that since he likes animals, he should be a veterinarian. He may then chart a career path based on his interests alone. This can be very risky because interests can change. Interests have to do with feelings and to a great extent are influenced by your life’s experiences.
Interests can also be developed based on the things you read or see on television. I used to watch television documentaries about marine biologists who conducted research in some of the most beautiful bodies of water I had ever seen. Scuba diving in deep blue and emerald waters looked intriguing, so I immediately decided that I wanted to be a research marine biologist. I assumed that the primary responsibilities of a research marine biologist were scuba diving and making exciting discoveries. I had no idea about the actual job duties of most research marine biologists or which talents, skills, and abilities were required to succeed in this career. With just a little research I could have discovered that some of the talents and abilities that are most often used by research marine biologists in their daily activities include analyzing, recording, collecting and researching data; problem solving; and writing technical reports. In addition, people in research positions may be required to work for long periods of time by themselves. While my misguided notions of research marine biology interested me, the actual job duties typically associated with this career path did not match my natural talents or abilities. My strengths and skills have never included analyzing, compiling technical data, or working alone. While my interests seemed to point to research marine biology, my natural talents did not match this career field. We will cover the importance of discovering your natural talents and matching this information about yourself against appropriate career options in a future article.
After all this discussion about not making a career choice based strictly on interests, should you even gather information about your interests? Certainly no one wants to work in a career field that is not interesting to him. It is looking only to interests to determine a career choice that is the problem. Information about your interests should be combined with other information about your natural talents and values to form the foundation for a solid career plan. First, you do need to know which career fields sound interesting so you can begin the career investigation process.
If you have no idea about which career fields sound interesting to you, here are some easy ways to help identify your interests. Simply look through the yellow pages of several phone books and write down careers that sound interesting. It is always fun to look through the yellow pages of a large metropolitan area and then look through the yellow pages of a rural area. You will find career options in one that you could never find in the other. Another readily available source for beginning career exploration is a newspaper. Look through the paper for stories about people who have careers that sound interesting to you. Do not overlook the want ads for a listing of various job titles. One of the best resources for reading about various career options is the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Your local library should have a copy. The handbook is published by the Department of Labor and is also available on the Internet (http://www.bls.gov/oco/). It describes more than 250 occupations in detail and gives great information concerning working conditions, job outlooks, training and qualifications, and earnings. It is well worth a look.
Be sure to browse the careers section of your local library and bookstore. Consider looking through resources like the Encyclopedia of Associations, found at most public libraries. Almost every industry or occupation has an association, and these associations usually have a wealth of information about the businesses in which their members are engaged. These associations are staffed by knowledgeable people who are usually quite eager to provide information about their career fields. Of course, you should not overlook exploring careers on the Internet. This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to explore careers; be creative with your research.
If you do not know your plans past high school, start by trying to identify the career fields that sound interesting to you. But remember; do not let your interests alone determine your career path. In upcoming articles we will be looking at the other areas you need to explore before deciding on your career plan.