How to Start Thinking About Your Future Career
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a question nearly every young person has been asked at some point by family, friends, or teachers. For many teens and young adults, this is a question to which they don’t yet have an answer. That’s okay!
It can be hard to decide so early in your life what you want to do for your career. Many students reach high school, and even college or university, without knowing what they want their career to be in the long term.
But you can’t simply ignore the question and hope for the best. It is important to give your future career some thought, because that way you will have a goal to work towards when it comes to other parts of your life, particularly your education.
Assess Your Skills and Interests
The first step is taking a look at your existing skills and interests. There are lots of self-assessment quizzes available online or through your school’s guidance office. Most feature a series of questions to answer, which will help to illuminate your strongest interests and skills, and show how these align with possible jobs and career paths.
You can also simply spend time thinking through on your own. Do you prefer writing assignments, or solving math problems? Are you energetic and physically active, or do you prefer quiet, relaxed activities? Do you like being in large groups of people, or do you work better in small groups or solo? What are your favourite hobbies or extracurricular activities? What are the things you’re most interested in: nature, sports, books, video games, dancing, building things, or perhaps outer space?
Figuring out what grabs your attention and imagination and won’t let go is a good starting place to determine your future career.
Speak with Your School Guidance Office
High schools, colleges, and universities all have guidance offices for exactly this reason. They offer counselors to speak to, as well as tons of reference materials about different careers, industries, and the educational and skill requirements to work in specific jobs. They may also be able to direct you to local career and hiring fairs, where you can speak with people from many different businesses and industries to learn about jobs in those fields.
Talk to People
Often students are only exposed to careers of people in their immediate circle, including family members and school staff. Try to find people whom you can ask about their career – these can be friends of your relatives, your friends’ parents, or adults you know through places you spend time in such as libraries, sports, and extracurriculars. You can also find co-op placements through your school that will give you the opportunity to experience different types of jobs, so you can get a feel for what you might enjoy.
Visit Your Local Library
Public libraries have an entire section dedicated to career planning, and will almost certainly have books targeted at teens and young adults that tackle the future career question. You can also explore fiction and nonfiction books featuring characters in different careers, to get a sense of what those careers might be like.
Picture Your Future Lifestyle
Deciding what you want your life to look like can also help you narrow down possible careers. Do you want to live in a town, or a city? What about another country? Would you like a large house or condo, or somewhere cozy? Do you want a new car every few years, or would you be happy with the same vehicle for a decade? Would you travel regularly, or stay local?
Your answers to these questions will help guide you to careers that will support the lifestyle you want, whether you want something high-earning, middle-class, or a career that lets you travel the world. Just remember not to get too caught up in the money side of things, as finding a career that you enjoy is still the ideal goal.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Your Time Deciding
It may seem like you have to make a decision right away, but you don’t! Take as much time as you need to investigate possible careers and find the path that’s right for you. Just be sure to make good use of your time by researching careers, developing a variety of strong skills, and seeking out as many exciting experiences as you can.
CollegeBoard. “5 Ways to Find Career Ideas.” https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/know-yourself/5-ways-to-find-career-ideas.
Indeed. “Career Exploration Activities: How to Help Your Students Find Jobs They’ll Love.” https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/career-exploration-activities.
Stockwell, Carly. “How to Choose a Career.” College Factual. https://students.collegefactual.com/choosing-a-career.
Weishaar, Christina. “5 Ways to Help High School Students Pick a Career.” Connections Academy. https://www.connectionsacademy.com/support/resources/article/5-ways-help-high-school-students-pick-careers.