In a world with no limitations as to what one can do with their life, discovering the right career to pursue at a young age can be stressful. What more if you are just beginning to learn about what the world has to offer – and there is a lot! Here are four tips that will guide you as you take the first step towards shaping your career.
Eleven long years of school have passed and now with your SPM certificate in hand, you are ready to take on the world with an unwavering passion. However, like many high school leavers there’s a chance that you aren’t too certain which path you’d like to embark on especially when the list of options are endless. There are countless college and university courses to pick from. You could opt for a Matriculation programme, get a full-time job or go on to the sixth form.
With the pressure and expectations from society as well as family and friends, it isn’t always easy to decide on a suitable path, which also fulfils your dreams. Your interests, added with the anxiety of hopefully being financially independent and landing a good job in the future can at times cloud the vision you have for your life.
HELP University’s Counsellor of CAREERsense, Sydnedé Lim shares what you should consider doing before deciding on the right career path for yourself.
#1 Seeking out the pros
Whether it is following the footsteps of a relative by pursuing a career in medicine or being inspired by a famous painter and thus deciding to take up painting, it is essential to first do your homework. One way to do that, aside from browsing through the Internet, is by speaking to someone with experience as they would be able to give you far more insight.
“I’ve had several students come to me for advice on the careers that they would like to pursue after graduating from their respective courses. With these students, I would usually encourage them to approach a qualified professional in their career of choice and then proceed to ask them what it is that they do each day. As an example, for a qualified psychologist it is very rare that their work ends by just seeing their clients. They would also need to manage their cases, write case notes and etc.,” says Lim.
Once you have an idea of what you’re going to pursue, you will be able to gauge what are the skill sets you will need. On top of that, you can measure the skills you already have and refine them. However, even if you may need to start from the bottom, the good news is that now you know what are the skills required and can then work on developing them.
#2 Be on the field
In relation to seeking out the professionals of your career of choice, it would also be advantageous to be in the field by giving internships or part-timing a try. The main goal is to expose yourself to the working world. This is because the job(s) that you do will be able to mould you as a person, help accumulate experience and even polish your skills, be it communicating with a total stranger or learning how to manage your responsibilities.
“I often encourage my students and young clients to give internships and part-timing a try, especially during school holidays and semester breaks,” shares Lim.
“If you like children for example and have been thinking of pursuing a career related to children, try interning at a kindergarten or be a part-time teacher to see if the job fits you. Experiencing it will assure you if it is something you really wish to do – or not do. If it isn’t, then you can cross it off the list and continue exploring other areas of interest,” explains Lim.
#3 Integrate your interests
While it is preferable to do what you love, not everyone has that kind of opportunity. Perhaps your family does not agree with the choice you’ve made, or you have too many interests which make it hard to focus on just one. On the other hand, you may be attached to a course chosen for you, even if you aren’t necessarily interested in it. These things do happen but that does not mean there isn’t a solution.
“There’s always a way. Why not try integrating your interests and passions into a career path? I had a client who was interested in music. However her parents thought otherwise but were not against her studying psychology. That’s when I suggested that she integrate her passion for music with psychology. After all, music therapists are up and coming these days. With that, she is able to do the things that she enjoys. It helps a lot to find a middle point and compromise,” says Lim.
#4 Understanding yourself
Although it is common not to know exactly what you need or want at such a tender age, it is ideal if you know yourself really well. This would include knowing what you enjoy doing, the kind of personality you have, and your own capabilities. By having all this information about yourself, you are one step closer in determining your suited career path.
Additionally, it is important to ask yourself what it is that you value in life. This is because, although it is possible to have everything you want, there will always be sacrifices that you are bound to make in order to achieve it all.
“Aside from knowing who you are and what you enjoy doing, it is good to know your own personal values, whether you value the feeling of achievement at work, family or money. The reason being that it will help make the journey of your chosen career path easier as you learn to cope and better manage it, along with your personal life,” says Lim.
Your career blooms when you nurture it with passion. It is one of the strongest motivations that keeps you going further as it drives you through your working life. If you are still uncertain about what you truly want to do after the SPM examination, Lim suggests speaking to a career counsellor as it may help you figure it out. Then, you can finally begin the next chapter of your life.