Choosing the right career path for your talents and interests

By Monica Luwes, Manager of Graduate Centre at Sasol Corporate Bursary Services

One of the most daunting choices you’ll face in your last two or three years of school is deciding which career you’d like to pursue, and which tertiary qualifications will help you meet your goal. This is about finding the place where your passions, your abilities and the needs of the job market meet up.

Here a few tips about how you can choose the right career path:

Make a list of your strengths and interests

A good place to start is by taking a look at yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do my personal strengths lie—in terms of personality and abilities?
  • What do I enjoy most? What don’t I enjoy?
  • What sort of lifestyle am I aspiring to?
  • How do I measure success?
  • What do I value in life?
  • Which school subjects do I love best and excel at?

This can help you to start narrowing down potential careers and fields of study. For example, if you know that you’re strong in mathematics, but don’t enjoy school speeches and debates, you may decide you’ll be better off studying computer science than law. And if you aspire towards a high salary, chartered accounting could be a better fit than drama or teaching.

Get a holiday job or internship

An excellent way to find out whether you’re really cut out to be an engineer or a journalist is to secure a short internship or a holiday job with an employer in the industry. If you know someone working for an organisation you see as a prospective employer, why not ask them if you can help out over the school holidays? Also, keep your eyes open on social media and newspapers for intern opportunities.

Arrange to shadow someone at work

Some companies offer opportunities to ‘shadow’ someone for a few days to see what their job is all about and ask them questions about what they do every day at work. It’s an excellent way to see the real-life working environment, with all its pluses and minuses. A teacher at school or your friends and family might know someone who can arrange a shadow opportunity for you. Or you could phone the HR department at a company that interests you to find out if it has shadowing opportunities.

Speak to people in your family and friends circle

The best way to find out about jobs and careers is to speak to as many people as possible and ask them questions. If your friend’s father is an electrical engineer and you think you might be interested in the field, ask him questions. Try to find out what people love about their jobs and what they don’t--find out about the highs and lows.

Do a psychometric test

Though they can be expensive, you might benefit from doing psychometric and aptitude tests with an educational or industrial psychologist. Such tests may be more comprehensive than the ones you may have completed at school. They measure your personality, aptitudes and interests, and give some guidance about your study and career options.

Closing words

Choosing the right career isn’t just about how you will make a living in future—it’s also about your personal happiness and wellbeing. The right career path will put you on a pathway to life satisfaction and enable you to lead the lifestyle to which you aspire. We spend at least 40 hours a week at work, so it’s important to seek a career that will give you a sense of purpose.

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