When to start taking a look at career options?

Throughout middle school and high school, whenever someone would ask the classic question, What do you want to be when you grow up? My mind would always blank.

Sure, I had dream jobs, but nothing realistic ever came to mind. I never thought it was very urgent, so I always put off starting to make that decision.
Come November last year when it came time to start applying to schools, I had to start narrowing it down in order to have something to put down as a major in my applications.

Some schools hold a lot of weight to what you put down as your major: at some colleges, you’re stuck with whatever you put down on that application. You definitely don’t want to choose the wrong one, that’s for sure.

The best thing you can do is to try to start having an idea of what you’d like to do as a career way before you begin college applications. But where do you start? Well, the place I started was? Google News, to be honest.

Take a look at the news articles on the site. Find some articles with titles that appeal to you, and read into them a bit. Notice what categories those are under. Do you notice any kind of a trend? I remember noticing most of what I read was under either Science/Technology, Medicine, or Business.

Think of things you feel passionately about that relate to those categories. If you picked World, perhaps you feel strongly about AIDS in Africa. Search through Google News and just plain Google for more information. Try adding a career to that normal Google search? see what comes up! Chances are what you find won’t be really any good, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

StumbleUpon, the famous site for discovering stuff online, can be a huge help. Set it to display topics that are related to the areas of interest you just found. Read more on it, see how much it still interests you and is you’ve found a job and don’t like it, may starting your own business (after firing your boss) is a great option. Who knows…

Try taking a career test

Look for tests that ask specifically about your opinions, not ones that ask How would you like to do ____? Those obviously don’t help. Try to take different tests if you can, but don’t do the same one twice because you’ll remember your answers. Take your time on these and think deeply about yourself. The Career Cruising Test that I took was incredibly accurate for me when I took my time. Take also a look at this article about young entrepreneurs that all started before they were 25. Speaking of role models…

Check out any options on CollegeBoard

Again a great resource, CollegeBoard has a career information section that can tell you a lot. For each career, they tell you what to expect and what abilities and qualifications you’ll need.

Consider your strengths

What are you best at in school? What are you interested in at school? The more these two line up, the better. I was great at science, but I had little patience for the tedious work, so I knew that’s not where I belonged. You know, the path toward leadership can become pretty complicated, and you definitely don’t want to end up in a job that involves constant use of skills you loathe. Think also about your basic skills ? are you good at abstract thinking? Problem-solving? Writing? etc.

Take note of any necessary qualifications

Do you need to get a Ph.D. to get anywhere in that career? What kind of colleges offer degrees that will help you? Can you get by with a bachelor’s? Each career is different. Does the job maybe have other qualifications? For example, pilots typically need good eyesight. Maybe your career has a similar requirement.

See if there’s somewhere you can write to find out more

Back in 9th grade, my English teacher made us write an organization to find out more about a career. I wrote to the National Bar Association to find out more about being a lawyer (this was before I decided what I wanted to do), and they replied with a nice packet full of information. But don’t procrastinate. You don’t have that much time, and chances are few.

Don’t be frustrated if you can’t decide on a career just yet. While that would be nice, it actually should not be your goal at this point. Hopefully, this has helped you at least narrow your choices down to? one or two major areas? As you begin to head towards that direction, you’ll find out even more that will lead you to your career.

Don’t feel like your choices are set in stone (unless your college won’t let you change major). You can always take classes in high school or college about some potential interests of yours to explore further. Changing majors is very common, don’t worry if you’re still not confident about your choice.

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