From childhood fantasies to schools’ counsellors and parent ambition, young people often are faced with loads of solicited and unsolicited career advice. Obviously certain professions are highly regarded in particular societies (like engineering and medicine in Arab and Asian countries), and there are also careers that have been emerging as successful choices in a less traditional way like information technology.
Regardless of what drives others’ advice, the decision at the end of the day is one that is likely to have long-lasting effects on only one person — that is the one who will have to live with the career choice for an extended period of time since a career change may not be possible until several years have lapsed and the person is in a financial and social situation that allow more investment in education, if needed. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Regardless to which area or industry you target, proper education that provides you with the knowledge and skills required in the industry in practical terms is essential. Today’s good news is that employers, who are under pressure still to keep costs low, are generally open to hiring new graduates. The one factor, however, that differentiates one candidate from another — since both may be likely lacking practical experience — is the type of education and the level of proven achievement in studies.
Industries change, and so do people. A choice you make at the age of 18 may not viable when you’re 38. While changing careers may be the optimal solution for someone stuck in a struggling industry, it is important that you don’t start with a choice that is too narrow, trendy or appealing only to your current whim or hobby. Think of which studies provide you with a set of skills that can be utilised in different industry and transferable in part. Again, information technology is a good example, as long as you keep yourself up to date with certifications. Languages are another good choice from having a skill that can be applied in many jobs and different sectors.
Many perceive future careers in idealistic terms — shunning any hint of their financial aspect. While money may not be a priority early in life, it is a necessity once one starts a family or simply seeks a more stable and comfortable living. Getting stuck in a low-paying job may not be smart — if you’ve a choice. A good balance is to think of how to get the maximum pay for doing the job you like. For example, it’s common that a two-year certification may land you a job that pays less consistently than if you receive a four-year degree in the same field. While you can always work your way up, getting the right education, again, can give you a leg up financially. In addition, certain jobs that are more specialised or require a special set of skills simply pay more than others. This doesn’t mean that you should alter your plans based on money alone, but it is something to keep in mind throughout the decision-making process.
Just as the case with money, careers are inseparable from our lives. In fact, they often influence our relationships in a way that eventually impact personal decisions. By understanding what a particular career entails in terms of lifestyle requirements you can be better positioned to select the best fit for your own life. For example, a career that needs continued education or extended foreign travel may not be the best choice for someone who wants to focus on hobbies, social life and perhaps starting a family immediately after graduation. It is important to develop a realistic view of your own capabilities as well as the rewards of pursuing a particular path. Remember, you can surprise yourself with how much you can invest in one profession or another, but don’t plan your career path assuming you’ll be able to have super powers.
Once you’ve narrowed down the options, take the time to do some research, including conversations with those who are more than willing to provide advice. Check job opportunities, visit professional forums and try to get a real sense for the opportunities and the realities of being in this industry. The more insider information you collect the better you’ll be in refining your choice (for example, making a better selection in terms of specialization). The process should either reinforce or sway you from your chosen path. Either way, it is well worth your time.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a journalist based in Seattle.