Expectations of what a career path looks like from the outside can stand in stark contrast to the actual experience of a professional in that field.
Almost every teenager falls into the water of confusion while thinking about a suitable career. Unlike the generation of their parents, their options are endless. The hundreds of choices available today allow students to explore and choose from a variety of fields of work but the decision can be overwhelming.
This choice is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows adolescents to find career options that match their interests and abilities. This is important because each career option brings its own set of professional struggles – whether you are an office administrator or a famous footballer. It is easy to be motivated during this time of struggle when you are working in a field that is well suited to your skills and interests.
On the other hand, the endless array of choices, and the rapidly changing environment make it difficult to know whether certain trends have survived here or whether it is a fad that could have disappeared. Some areas may look flashy but there are very few ways to get there, some areas can pay a lot in the short term, some may take years to pay, and some may even be automated! Uncertainty prevails – the world can change drastically in the six or seven years a student spends between streamlining and locating. Also, there are gaps in information – the prospect of what the career path looks like from the outside can be compared to the actual experience of a professional in that field.
So, here are three basic principles that will help teenagers make the right career choices.
Find your USP
Identify and focus on key strengths to narrow down career prospects. Everyone has something that arouses their curiosity – either a ‘favorite subject’ at school or an activity that interests them. It can be a specific subject, sports, entertainment, theater, fashion and even musical skills. These often tell you what the person enjoys – and this is a good starting point for a career decision. For example, an early interest in the English language or literature could be a launchpad for a career in marketing or content production. Strong language and communication skills are required for a number of emerging careers in corporate communication, advertising, journalism, etc. Did you accurately predict whether your friend or family would like a new app or TV show? It can be a valuable skill for a career that demands a deeper understanding of user behavior like design. Similarly, a keen interest in cricket statistics can indicate the underlying strengths of the information-related field. So, the key is to quickly explore your interests and find a ‘USP’. This will help you narrow down the career paths that are compatible with your interests, passions and energy.
A ‘test drive’ of future career options aligned with your USP
Unlike before, teens now have the opportunity to explore and experiment with different domains and try out different types of everyday projects and tasks. Look for opportunities to try different career paths. For example, if you know people who work for companies involved in a similar field, ask them for an internship for a few weeks to observe what professionals in a particular field do and what a typical day or project involves.
Whenever you experience something, ask yourself questions like ‘Did I enjoy bringing something new every day and changing it in response to feedback?’ Or ‘Do I prefer to work in group projects with others, or do I prefer to work alone?’ To answer these questions correctly, you need to gain first-hand experience in these industry roles. Like learning to ride a bike, there is no way to understand ‘behind the scenes’ just from books or videos. Questions like these help you align your ‘USP’ with potential career choices. This alignment is the key to professional happiness because when you can ‘improve a skill’, whether you enjoy something or not, it is a “trait” that tends to stabilize over time.
Demonstrate your real-world abilities, not just grades
It’s time to dump the bubbles. Academic scores are not the only way to a successful career. Nowadays, a large number of students choose to pursue their careers by taking on real-world projects. Start by building a portfolio even when you are waiting for an internship opportunity. It can be design, coding, journalism, product development and logistics. If you are thinking of starting your own business with friends from high school or college, do it. A short time running a company, even six months, (whether small or large) will teach you more life skills than any educational qualification. Additionally, it will give something more specific to talk about in the interview. An increasing number of employers care more about your real-life accomplishments than your academic scores.
In short, choosing from multiple career options can be mind-boggling but it doesn’t have to be. A USP, a test-driving career that is consistent with your USP and a step-by-step approach to exploring your interests to find innovative ways to showcase your skills will save you millions of years of wasted time and money.