Advice on Career Choice
By Michael Masinde
Choosing a career is a significant decision that every student makes early in life. As the saying goes, we make choices then choices make us. Given wise counsel by parents, teachers and other experts, every student can be assisted in making an informed decision to identify and pursue a career which suits his or her personal attributes. A career is a life-long journey one makes.
Proper career guidance and mentorship is required to prepare any student for the workplace. Teachers, parents, career guidance experts, publishers, career counselors and mentors come in handy to guide students, protégés and mentees into taking career paths in this rapidly changing workplace.
The career market is full of opportunities. Gone are the days when we had ‘either…. or’ career choices. The time when women, for example, choose between only nursing, teaching and secretarial work are long gone. The explosion in communication technology, and the liberalization and globalization of the world economy has ensured that there is no longer a dearth of career choices. Today, colleges and universities offer a wide range of training opportunities for high school graduates. This has made choosing a career an involving process. It has also given rise to the need for career counseling.
When choosing a career, whether you have the help of a career counsellor or not, there are several factors that you should consider. These include your abilities or talents, your interests, your priorities, and the available opportunities on the job market.
The skills required in a particular career and the ability to gain them through education must be considered when choosing careers. Becoming a doctor, for instance, requires extensive education and training, and many years of educational commitment. In addition to the compulsory subjects, the academic background required for this career is good grades in Chemistry and Biology at secondary school level. If your ability in these subjects is just average, you would be overstretching your luck to enroll for a Bachelor of Medicine degree course. In the past, students have chosen to pursue training in engineering, even when their ability to handle Physics and Mathematics was low. This, in many cases, made them drop out mid-course. The waste of time and resources would have been avoided if they considered a career that did not require the ability to handle Mathematics and Physics well.
There are times when people have been driven to choose a particular career because of the salary and prestige associated with jobs in that field. At times, the desire to take certain courses comes from within the individual, but most times, individuals feel pressured by peers or family to take certain courses. Joining a career in which you have no interest is a recipe for a dull life since you will spend most of your working hours doing something you do not like. Your career does not necessarily have to be your passion, but it should not bore you to death either. You can work out your interests by identifying the subjects you enjoy most at school, or the topics that are of interest to you and for which you take the initiative to read on your own.
It is true that many young people are more attracted by the social mobility that a job might provide than by their interest in the career. Of course we all have to make a living, but if you do not like your job, it does not matter how much you get paid to do it. What does matter is how well a career choice matches your values. If you value variety, collaboration, and creativity, for example, you would not find job satisfaction in a career where you are working alone and doing the same thing every day. People spend an extended part of their productive years in their careers. Spending every day resenting your job and wishing to be doing something else despite the amount of money that you are paid for it is not only counter-productive but can also lead to stress and depression. It is unhealthy. So it is paramount to strike a balance between taking home salary or job satisfaction and fulfillment. This is in line with Paulo Coelho’s words: Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy.
The availability of jobs in a particular field should also be a factor in choosing a career. This should be considered alongside the skills and education sought in a given field. Most times, highly competitive field require more education but may not pay well. When there are more applicants for a particular position, unique personality traits become an added benefit. However, in fields where there are fewer applicants than the positions available, the pay may be more and the job may require less education.
Nevertheless, one should not be discouraged by the scarcity of employment because institutions of higher learning nowadays emphasize not only on training people to go out and look for jobs but to go out and create jobs. Therefore, the availability of jobs is not necessarily limited to presence of employers. It also encompasses opportunities for self-employment which everyone is free to explore.
However, other than choosing courses based on interests, passions, personality traits, values, skills, dreams, and abilities, course selection must comply with the guidelines provided by the subject combinations and requirements by universities, colleges and professional and regulatory bodies such as the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service(KUCCPS)
Each individual possesses a unique set of skills, aptitudes, and abilities that distinguishes them from their parents and children. It would be unwise, therefore, for one to blindly adopt a career similar to that of their parents, siblings, or peers without a careful study.