“I’m going to be a senior in high school and am feeling a lot of pressure to decide what I want to do with my life. I don’t want to waste my time by picking a career field that has no jobs. How can I make a good decision?” Tami from Long Beach, CA
While choosing a career in a growing and thriving field is certainly important, even more so is selecting a field that fits your interests, personality and aptitude. You don’t want to end up stuck in a field that makes you miserable. The good news is, as a high school student, you have plenty of time to figure out what you want to do with your life—and even change your mind a few times if you’d like!
To start on your journey, try to narrow down what interests you. There are a number of approaches you can take.
Career Aptitude Tests
These help you pinpoint your strengths, abilities and interests and match them to a variety of career fields. You can find free versions online or your school counselor or local Goodwill® job center may administer them as well. A career counselor can also help you interpret the results. While these tests may point out options you had not considered before, do not be discouraged if your dream job is not listed. Be realistic, but also be optimistic. Hard work and determination can take you a long way.
Once you’ve selected a few fields that interest you, connect with professionals in those fields and request informational interviews. Unlike a job interview, where they ask you the questions, in an informational interview, you will be directing the conversation to learn about not only the career itself, but the path needed to get there. Prepare your questions in advance around topics such as work environment, ideal skills and qualifications, industry trends, the interviewee’s career path, typical compensation, challenges and rewards, and the field’s career ladder. It may be beneficial to meet with several people in the same field, perhaps on varying rungs of the career ladder, to get different perspectives.
Consider shadowing professionals in your desired fields. See what it’s like to be in their shoes and if the job would be a good fit for you. Your school or Goodwill job center may be able to connect you with people available for job shadowing, or you may have to find them on your own. Large organizations and government agencies often offer these opportunities, and you can also spread the word to your friends and family about what you’re looking for. Professional associations may be able to connect you with people available for job shadowing as well.
Before you make a decision, check out the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook to see which fields are growing and which ones may be stagnant or declining. This may help you ultimately decide which path to take, but remember, just because a field is on the upswing now does not mean it will be when you are finished with your training and education. Whichever path you choose, be open to varied experiences and opportunities to position yourself as an attractive candidate for many positions.