How to pick a career or job ?

  • I am unsure what degree to take, which academic field should I pursue  ?
  • What should I do with my life ?
  • I don’t know what I want, what degree should I choose  for a career ?
  • These are big questions dealing with matters with lifelong impact on your happiness, employment  and financial security.
  • The most misunderstood jobs in Australia
  • Perhaps start with the END IN MIND  ?

These questions are most relevant during HSC or final year at secondary school. Many students make well informed choices based on consultation and receiving unbiased, objective advice from older folks such as their parents, relatives or experienced friends.  However, sadly many students also make poor choices because they simply couldn’t think of a better choice at the time where they leave school and embark on further studies in the vague hope it will take them to a better place.  These people have been known to choose a degree subject or  job type based on a whim or because ” my mates are all doing it “. Someone once remarked  Beware of making your hobby your career ” . You may live to regret it.  You can still study to be an Accountant and work under the hood of your car on weekends. But you can’t train to be mechanic and be an Accountant on weekends ! Do you fail to plan, or plan to fail ?

There are those who make career choices all because of an emotional not-well-thought-out childhood fantasy. How many times have you heard someone say ” …. Ever since I was 6 years old I’ve always wanted to be a fireman / policeman /soldier ” ….? When I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to be a Ballerina/ dancer/ singer nurse…..But I love cars so I want to be a mechanic ( Grease monkeys make approx $40+K  a year  and it doesn’t increase by much  ) “

How many people charge blindly down a path driven by an irrational childhood desire, oblivious to the realities of salary considerations, job prospects,  job satisfaction,  dangerous aspect of work, career progression ,  sustainability to old age etc How many of these guys live to regret this when they hit their 30’s, too late / difficult  for a career change? Are you sure you won’t be one of these guys?

Useful suggestions:

1. Consider many types of jobs and subjects

Investigate jobs / degree subjects which you might not have heard of  Eg. Actuarial science, Statistician, Geologist, Database Administrator, Network Administrator, Library science, Photovoltaic Engineering etc. Don’t just rely on your career guidance officer for information.

2. Investigate what these jobs  involve

Research these job types by searching for the job in wikipedia. Also talk to many older people preferably those that are already working in that role. Get more than one opinion to even out any bias  Eg. Some teachers say teaching is a crap job as they are stressed and unappreciated…. But they forget to mention it is one of the HIGHEST paid  in terms of fresh grads salaries, and they also enjoy 3 months holidays  ( compared to 20 days for most people), that their job is recession proof ( ie. hard to get retrenched )
Some job ideas

3. Research what these jobs require in terms of  academic qualifications

Find out what degree ( if at all) is needed for a particular job.  Or diploma at TAFE ?
Or will the employer provide this training ( Military, Police, Customs )


4. How much will I get paid ? Is it lucrative ?  Will I always have a job ?

Check out what the starting salaries are like., as well as what the salaries progression is like. Look into the job demand for that job category  in the country for which you plan to work in eventually. Eg. There is not much demand of Aerospace Engineering or Astronomers in the Australian economy….but job prospect and salaries maybe better in USA or Europe.

5. Does it suit my aptitude and temperament ?

Are you good with numbers? Do you have mediocre people skills or are naturally shy ? If that’s the case Police work  may not suit  you, Computer programming may be better. I like helping people  but I can’t stand  the sight of blood ? Nursing or Social worker ? I like solving problems, fixing things but don’t like dealing with human problems … Engineer or Psychologist ? I like numbers and dealing with people…Maths teacher or Accountant ?

6. Environment :  Office, Lab, factory or outdoors ?

Work can be  indoors in an air conditioned office, lab or at home, out doors in a farm, park, street or road, in the air, on water, underground ( mines ), indoors in an industrial complex like a factory or warehouse.  Work may require you to  travel extensively ( some sales jobs, pilots ,  ship work ). Work may be  full time 9-5 or shift work  and may involve weekend work ( Chef, hotel  and hospitality ) Where would you prefer to work ?

7. Social Environment

Work might involve facing young people all day long ( teaching) or sick people ( medicine, nursing, healthcare )  people with problems ( Police, lawyer, counselor ) creative people ( music, art, design, programming, film, fashion, advertising ), happy people ( Tourism & hospitality) , analytical people ( scientist, engineer, computer programmer)

8. Financial assistance or scholarships 

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