Introduction: 5 Steps in Choosing a Career

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Ask any third grader, and you will get an immediate career

choice – cop, fireman, doctor, soldier, nurse. Studies show that these are the top selections of this age group even in our age of technology and nano-second information access. Ask any middle or high schooler about career choice, and the response will be a vague idea of two or three options. And 40% of college freshmen, even though they have declared a major, state that they are unsure about sticking with that major into a career path.

And here are a couple of other startling facts. Forecasters now say that, at the current rate of knowledge explosion, at least half of the jobs for which our young people are now educating themselves, will be non-existent in 20 years. Add to that the fact that students graduating from college today will change careers – not jobs, but careers – an average of 4 times in their working lives. It almost seems as if choosing a career today is simply selecting some means of making a living for the first 10 years of our adult lives.

Schools are not being honest either. Despite their claims of improving and enhancing their career exploration curricula at all grade levels, they are still stuck with administering “preference tests” that pigeonhole students into specific career options based upon their personality types and their responses about “working with their hands” or “preferring social work environments.”

So, given all of the uncertainty about careers of the future, how does one go about making a career choice so that s/he may then pursue the education and/or training that will result in actual employment with future growth potential? And how does one make a career selection that will ultimately allow for transition to a new career when that one becomes extinct? It might be wise to consider the following 5 steps as at least a start point.

Step 1: Step 1: Listen to the Forecasters


Professions do a terrible job of policing themselves. We have a huge glut of lawyers in this country, for example, and yet law schools continue to admit the same number of students year after year, collect that tuition money, prepare them for the Bar exam, all the while knowing full well that there are very few jobs available and that those will go to the graduates from the most prestigious schools. Many lawyers end up in positions related to their fields of specialty but not practicing law. Constitutional lawyers go into politics; real estate lawyers go into real estate investment, and so on. Students must listen to the forecasters and choose careers in which there will actually be positions available. The biggest job growth areas over the near future include:

· Health Care

· Elder Care – Social Workers, Psychology and Psychiatry, Senior Citizen Living and Nursing Home Facilities, Gerontology

· Finance and Accounting

· Network Security and Administration

· Service Industries/Organizations – Restaurant and Hotel Management; Some Fields of Education and Training; Mental Health Professionals

· Engineering (with advanced degrees)

· Research in Scientific Fields

Step 2: Step 2: Follow Your Passion

Nothing is worse than being stuck in a career you detest. People choose careers for strange reasons – their parents had these careers; they had a childhood “hero” that was in a certain career; they were counseled by a favorite teacher or counselor into a career selection. A few years into that career, however, they are miserable and looking for a way out. Don’t let that be you. Conduct a serious self-assessment. What are your favorite past-times? You are happiest when you are doing what? Do you have a need to be around others or do you prefer being alone with yourself? Do you like helping others, or do you prefer solving problems? Do you love the ocean and everything in it? Is there some field of study that has always captured your keen interest? Forget the aptitude tests and the counsel of others. Choose a career about which you have true passion. You may not become rich, but you will become happy and content.

Step 3: Step 3: Look Seriously at the Educational Requirements And/or Certifications Needed for Your Career Options.

How much time will you need to spend in school and how will you finance it? You may have a passion for the law, but given the lack of available positions and the cost of a law degree, consider an initial paralegal career. Many law firms have discovered that skilled paralegals can do much of the research and writing that entry-level lawyers once did. In the field of medicine, nurse practitioners now perform many of the duties traditionally performed by doctors. The educational and certification requirements are less rigorous, and salaries are good.

Step 4: Step 4: Income Forecasts.

For those of you who place a priority on income, career forecasters are pretty reliable. If you can find a career for which you have an abiding interest that also comes with a good income forecast, lucky you! You might also want to consider the student loan debt you may incur in pursuit of this career and balance that against the income potential at least in your early career years.

Step 5: Step 5: Future Potential

We will always need policemen, of course, but that need will decline as advances in technology and forensics are able to assume many law enforcement tasks. In like manner, we will always need construction workers and public sector employees, but as technology replaces many of their tasks, jobs will disappear. There are a number of technological and scientific careers, however, that will grow – graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, forensic science, and green energy, along with other scientific fields, such as biogenetic engineering and space exploration.

Step 6: Conclusion.

If you have a large career field in mind, you must then

explore all of your options within that field, narrow those options down, and then take these 5 steps – the criteria against which you can then evaluate each of those options. Be mindful, however, of the prediction that you may indeed change careers up to 4 times. Keep yourself open to new possibilities and be flexible enough to make a change when your current career begins to experience decline.
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