Durban - It is that time of the year when school leavers, particularly those in Grade 12, ponder their choice of career.
Application forms for admission will have to be completed and sent to institutions of further education and training. Deciding on what study programme one should follow isn’t always easy.
But it is a crucial decision that could have a far-reaching influence on the course of one’s life. There are many adults today who are in occupations which they do not enjoy and for which they have little real ability – often because they did not consider the choice of their career with the seriousness, care and foresight that such a vital decision deserves.
No person should recklessly cast away his or her cherished youth doing something “temporary” and then finding, a few years later, that it is difficult to get back to studies, or that so many other responsibilities have crept up that he or she has no choice but to continue in the “temporary” job.
Many young people at this stage of their development find that they have to start thinking about marriage, and independence from their parents. They speak sadly about having missed their “career boat”.
Young people need to take special precautions to ensure they do not repeat this mistake. My advice to school leavers is to try to avoid getting themselves into a situation where they end up wistfully telling themselves, “I wish I had started thinking about my career years ago”.
Unlike at school, tertiary study calls on students to do a great deal of independent study – and unless they have an aptitude for their choice of subjects, they find it difficult to make sense of lectures, lose interest and start falling behind their group.
Many of these students then go through the motions of attending classes for the rest of the semester, often eventually failing and then, belatedly, coming in for a career assessment to decide on their course of study for the following year.
Had these students been proactive and done their career homework while they were still at high school, they may have saved themselves an entire year – as well as a lot of effort and money.
Even, if through sheer dedication and hard work, such a student passes and obtains a degree or diploma in a study course that isn’t “quite his cup of tea”, he is invariably channelled into a vocation where he doesn’t fit in comfortably and that nagging feeling: “I don’t really like my job” could stay with him for the rest of his working life. One has to talk only briefly to some of the many people who are just treading water at work to gauge how keenly they are looking forward to the day when they can retire.
This is where the value of an objective career assessment comes in. Such an assessment provides valuable pointers to the kind of work that would match a particular individual, taking into account his/her intellectual potential, personality, interests, values, level of motivation, and level of aspiration. This assessment will reduce the risk of making a wrong career choice.
Where should you begin?
Some individuals are “naturals” for the career they choose. Others are not so fortunate. And, going by the number of queries we receive at our centre, the indications are that there is a significant number of “not-quite-sures”.
If you are in this undecided category, I recommend that you not leave this decision to the last minute. Soon many of you will be in “panic mode” as your examinations approach. This will increase the danger of making an incorrect career choice.
So what should you be doing while you are still in a relatively calm and clear state of mind? Do some honest soul searching. Be realistic and resist the temptation to allow your thinking to become clouded by wishful thinking.
* What is it that you enjoy? What are you good at? What kind of personality do you have? What values do you hold?
* Decide on what kind of job you are aiming for. What kind of training and skills will you need to reach this goal?
* Find out more about the jobs that interest you; what level of education do you need to be accepted into that career, what will the working conditions be like, and what is the future outlook for that kind of job? Is it one that will be here today but gone tomorrow?
More specifically, ask yourself questions such as the following:
* What exactly does this career involve?
* What opportunities will it give me?
* Where would I work, eg indoors or outdoors?
* What are promotion prospects like?
* Where could I expect to be in five years’ time?
* Approximately how much would I earn for a start? And in five years’ time?
* What types of people would I be working with?
* Is this line of work growing? How fast?
* In a sluggish economy, can I expect to keep my job in this career field?
Make use of career information from the library, the internet, and from career development centres.
Attend career expos and open days. Visit training and educational institutions. Speak to lecturers and to students who are already taking the course. Learn as much as you can from them before making up your mind.
Things generally work out best when a learner’s suggestions and decisions are respected by others. If a pupil is unhappy about becoming a doctor or a teacher, it would be a mistake to coerce him into conforming to, for instance, his parents’ wishes.
The more information you have about yourself and the marketplace, the better informed your decision is likely to be.
Once you have decided what occupation best matches your interests, skills, values and personality, start developing a plan to reach your goal. Then select a training institution that offers a degree/diploma or a training programme that best meets your needs.
Still not sure?
If you feel you still need more assistance, seek the help of a knowledgeable friend or a career counsellor. Ask people you know for names of career counsellors they have worked with and who have a reliable track record.
Most career development professionals have a good understanding of present-day labour market trends and what companies and prospective employers are looking for in the workplace.
By developing a career plan, you can focus on what you want to do and how to get there. This will take time and effort but it will greatly improve your chances of going to work later on in a happy frame of mind. - Daily News
* Ramphal is a Durban-based educational psychologist with special interests in career counselling and the learning and behavioural problems of children and adolescents