Choosing a career doesn’t have to be confusing and nerve-wracking. Here is some advice, from an indecisive student who has managed to pick a career path she is content with.

Are you a Year 13 (or younger – or perhaps older) student with no idea what to do, career-wise? Feeling a little panicked? Never fear, for a student with some relevant, (hopefully) helpful advice is here.

Make use of available resources:

1. Career websites: Careers NZ and of course, JETmag. You’ll find all sorts of quizzes and information that will help you to narrow down your interests until you find a career. I find that these websites really helped me to identify the things that I absolutely did not want to do – you can work backwards if you need to.

2. Job websites like ‘Seek’ or ‘indeed’: Search vague key words like ‘writing’ or ‘science’ and see what comes up. The results show you not only the availability of jobs in certain fields, but also many career ideas you would have never considered.

3. Your school’s careers advisor: They’re more helpful than you think.

4. Universities’ websites: Have a look to see what they offer. I recommend searching faculty by faculty. Universities also hold open days and information evenings, where you can ask questions and explore degree/career options.

5. Your connections: Maybe your friend’s brother is a builder, and you want to be one too. Ask to find out more, from a real-life example. What better way to determine whether you’ll like a career than to ask someone who’s in it?

Take your time – but don’t put it off. The dreaded career decision is one that’s vaguely expected of students from about Year 9/10 onwards. ‘Do you know what you’re doing when you leave school?’. Then Year 13 hits, and it becomes the topic of every discussion. ‘Have you applied yet?’. It is an important matter and people will definitely express their concern if you haven’t made a choice in the later years of school. To quieten these people, as well as your own worries, it’s wise to not put the decision off, avoiding it in the hope it will disappear. Set some time aside, have a ‘career choosing day’, and do your research then. It’s best to do this early on, so you are ready to apply for things, so you can give people an answer when they ask you that wretched question, and so you can feel a little more prepared about your future.

Don’t be too picky. Understand that there will never be a ‘perfect’ job for you – there will be aspects that force you out of your comfort zone, or parts you simply don’t look forward to. There is no point searching for that ‘perfect’ career, because it doesn’t exist!

Be wary of advice. Everybody you ask for career advice will give you a different opinion. They might direct you onto the right path, but, alternatively, they could confuse you beyond belief. Advice is tricky because you’ll be bombarded with a storm of ‘I think you should…’ and get a whole host of jumbled opinions. Be careful of what you take into account.

Choose for you and you only. Don’t choose in terms of status, or for acceptance from your family/peers. Disregard any expectations or judgement from them. You shouldn’t do something for the acceptance of others because, in the end, it’s your life. Stand your ground.

Don’t set concrete plans. Sure, it’s wonderful to be prepared, but concrete plans, calculated to the last minute, rarely come into actuality. Life throws too many obstacles or twists at you. Be flexible, instead of having tunnel vision and pretending that nothing will happen differently than anticipated. If you acknowledge that you might change your mind or be unable to fulfil your childhood career dream now, it won’t come as a shock in a few years if it does happen.

Explore other options. Don’t want to/can’t making a career decision right now? Explore the possibility of a gap year or full/part-time work. I think that as long as you have plans to do something following school, you will be okay.

Once you have a career idea, ensure it ticks the boxes:

1. Does it have good employability/is it in high demand?

2. Does it offer sufficient pay?

3. Are you passionate about it?

4. Are you/will you excel at it?

5. Can you attain the required qualifications?

Ideally, every answer to these 5 main questions should be ‘Yes!’. Unfortunately, not every career allows for this. This is where compromise and sacrifice come into play, and where my belief that a ‘perfect’ job does not exist originates.

How did I choose my career? After years of being indecisive and trying to fulfil other people’s expectations, I researched by faculty at a few universities. Teaching? Medicine? Nah. I stumbled upon ‘Arts’, and scanned through a list of about 40 offered majors, until I found a few that sparked my interest – the literature and media ones. Then, it all made sense. I had been ignoring my strengths in school

(writing and creative stuff) and pretending that I was interested in science and tourism. From there, I googled careers that an Arts degree with those majors could earn me. Next, I picked a few of these example careers: editing, technical writing, journalism, etc. I narrowed it down, but still left room for adjustment, which is what I recommend you do.

All in all, after spending a little time researching, you’ll likely find something that sounds alright. Once you find this (you will, don’t worry), identify how to get yourself into that career path. Gain the qualifications, get the job. This is a rather crude summary, but it is essentially the way it works. The most important thing to remember is to never give up. There is a career out there for you, and you will find it.

Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves writing and the subject of English. She intends on one day becoming an Editor or a Technical Writer

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