Recently I was asked, “When should you begin to think about a career path? High School? College? Graduate School? After working a few years?” Maybe you think you should work between high school and college to explore the world of work. Maybe you should know what you want to study before going to college so that you have your career path established before you spend thousands of dollars on your education. Or maybe you should use your college years as the time to explore career options. Each person is unique and development does not have a straight path. Career development is no exception. What if I said your career development begins as soon as you learn to walk, talk and imitate those around you? Would you think I’m crazy or does that make sense to you?
Career development is part of human development. It begins at birth and continues as you master more and more skills throughout your life. Today is a different day. Years ago, a person would decide on a career and stay with it working for thirty to forty years in the same field for their entire working career. Today, it is not unusual for people to change careers two or even three times in their working years. Career development does not move forward in straight line. You need time to understand who you are, what you enjoy, what interests you, what you feel are your strengths and weaknesses and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. All of these things take time to explore, evaluate and plan. This takes years! When do you begin? You began at birth!
I used to joke that my daughter was forty since she was four years old. As a small child she showed characteristics that could be considered career skills. She liked to be in charge so you knew since she was four she would be a leader and a take charge kind of person. She also loved to help others. She was the eldest of my three children and loved to help her younger sister and brother with whatever they were doing. She was obviously a born leader, a teacher, a helper, a service oriented type of personality. I knew very early on, whatever career path she chose it would include working with people, offering some type of help to others, she would be in charge and I believed she would be in some type of teaching capacity.
As my daughter went through school she was an excellent and hard working student. It became clear by Middle School she was very good in Science and she had a work ethic that was remarkable. When she got to high school it was very evident that she was a great science student. During my daughter’s sixteenth year, one of her best friends got a type of meningitis that caused her to be unable to speak or move. She was trapped in her own body. My daughter watched her friend relearn to use her body. She was deeply affected by this trauma for her friend and became interested in the professionals that helped bring her friend back to being a fully functioning person after months and months of rehabilitation. Today, my daughter is an occupational therapist. She was able to enter college knowing exactly what she wanted to study and chose a career path that she had been developing since she was a small child.
So, when should you begin to think about a career path? Whether you know it or not, you have been thinking about and developing a career path since you were a small child playing house, playing roles, playing sports, playing an instrument, drawing, singing, building models, listening to music, solving puzzles, playing word games, playing math games, trying to figure out how things work. All of these activities involve skills you have developed along the journey of your life. Pay attention to how you spend your time. What do you do with your spare time? What actions do you take each day that you enjoy? Do you enjoy working with people? Do you enjoy working with data and information? Do you enjoy fixing things, building things, making things work? What truly interests you? When you have a couple of hours to yourself, what do you do with that time? What brings you enjoyment? Satisfaction? Contentment? What challenges you in a way that stimulates you rather than frustrates you? What activities bring a smile to your face?
When you can answer these questions, then ask yourself, what careers offer me these enjoyable opportunities. You work a lot of years of your life. If you go to work to earn money, your days will be long and hard. You need to be able to go to work for satisfaction in what you do. You need to be able to feel content in your work place. You want to enjoy what you do. You want to feel good about what you do, enjoy what you do, and appreciate the income that it provides you. You also want to afford the lifestyle you know you deserve.
So think back over your life and focus on the activities that brought you satisfaction, contentment and joy. You could be sixteen, twenty-six or sixty-six. Your life experiences have been valuable learning experiences. Think back and explore your own history. If you enjoy working with people, find a career that is social. Maybe you want to help others. Explore the many medical occupations and see if any of them fit. Maybe you would love to teach young people and help them develop their minds and their skills through education. Maybe you would enjoy business fields where you help people build and run successful businesses.
Maybe you love working with your hands. Maybe you’ve always been fascinated by cars and would love to learn how to fix an engine. Maybe you’ve always been interested in electricity and would love to be an electrician. If you love working with your hands, then find a career that allows you to satisfy this need in you.
Maybe you’ve always loved being creative. You’ve loved to tell stories or draw pictures or build things. Perhaps you would love to write or design or construct buildings. If you are creative, utilize your creativity. Write, draw, design, dance, create and play music, build and create. Nurture your talents. Nurture your strengths. Be who you are in your heart and turn it into your career.
The best advice I can give any young person trying to figure out what they want to do for a career is, concentrate on what you really love to do, how you really love to spend your time and find a way to make your hobby your career. Discover what you love and make it your career. If you spend your time at work doing what you love, you will never feel like it is work. Work becomes an extension of you and what you enjoy in life. Now that’s a career! Don’t let life just happen and a career happen because it fell into your life. Make it happen. Plan now. When should you begin to think about a career path? Now. If you didn’t start at birth, plan for it now.
Ms. Doyle is a licensed Counselor who has been working in New York City since 1981. Ms. Doyle can always find a positive spin on life lessons. Ms. Doyle is solution oriented. There are no “problems” only challenges which offers opportunity for growth, Ms. Doyle enjoys helping people find their own power and create their own destinies and welcomes you to her website inviting you to join in her E-Counseling and Personal Growth community at http://www.YourExcellenceWithin.org. Ms. Doyle is the mother of three adult children, enjoys reading, writing, music and dance and simply appreciates the gift of life.