Your Future

“I don’t want to be a busboy for the rest of my life,” the young man remarked. He fidgeted in a chair in my office and eyed me nervously. This was his first visit with a school counselor.

He continued telling me his brief work history and school experience. “I feel like I’ve run into a brick wall,” he said. “I just feel stuck. I don’t know what to do.”

This young person’s plight is the same one many thousands of other young people around the world must face. In countries where both educational and career opportunities – along with the freedom to choose – are plentiful, choosing the right career can be seemingly impossible.

Joe, as we’ll call him, knew he wanted to do more with his life than clean tables. But he also knew he did not have the tools to make a wise career choice.

What about you? Do you understand the career development process? Are you developing career self awareness? This process is life-long, but the teen years are the prime time to lay a foundation for wise career and educational decisions. Even the early teen years are not too early to begin thinking about your career.

You should begin choosing your career now. Don’t wait until you “run into a brick wall,” as Joe called it, to be shocked into good career planning.

Taking stock

Good career decision making starts with you. Who are you? What are your talents, skills and abilities? Each of us has our own skills, interests, personality traits and level of intelligence. Understanding these personal characteristics is an important key in career choice.

Career counselors have a number of ways to help you analyze your character traits and interests. For example, career-interest tests link your traits with career fields where those traits can be used. Consult a college counseling center -especially your local community college where classes can be free if you have low income and a free grant to help with living expenses can be obtained- or your employment office for information. Your school or public library and a bookstore may also be good sources to check.

Career awareness

Perhaps you have heard of the square-peg-in-a-round-hole syndrome. Too many people work in jobs where the demands of the job are not matched to their personal traits. The results, all too often, are dissatisfaction, burnout and hopping from job to job. Good career planning matches the right person with the right career.

As you increase your self awareness you must also increase your knowledge of what particular careers are like. Many career information resources are readily available.

In the United States, three excellent sources of career information are the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Guide for Occupational Exploration and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. All of these are published by the U.S. Department of Labor. They may be found in school and public libraries and in employment offices. (These titles may have changed.)

Field trips to job sites and personal interviews with people in a variety of careers are excellent ways to obtain career information. Summer jobs and vocational education classes are also good ways to learn about careers.

Putting it all together

You must have this knowledge to make wise career choices, but it is not all you need. You must also learn how to use this knowledge to make good decisions. Good decision making requires looking at all the information about yourself and how well you would fit into different careers.

List the different careers you are interested in, examining the pros and cons of each one. Ask your parents and other adults for help in your career choice process. They have known you for a long time and have a lot of experience in making important decisions. After you have done all this, you will be able to make a well-informed choice.

Choosing the right career doesn’t happen overnight. Wise career decisions require many hours of learning about yourself and the world of work. Don’t “run into a brick wall” like Joe did. Put these lessons into action now. It will help you make the right choice later.

John Williams ‘Youth’

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