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Choosing the right career is a daunting task, especially if you’ve just matriculated. You’ve only just finished school, and now, at the ripe old age of 18, you’re expected to choose a defining direction in life. If you haven’t always known what you want to be, there’s a good chance it’s pretty overwhelming. But that’s okay. Most people don’t know what they want to do fresh out of school. Still, it’s important to take the right steps in making a decision, which is why we now bring you these pointers to guide you in the process. 

Do your research

Take an aptitude test 

 If you're not sure which career path to follow, your parents will probably suggest an aptitude test. In simple terms, this is a series of tests designed to help you figure out which jobs would be the most suitable for you. While these tests can get you on the right path, or at least get you thinking about which path is right for you, it’s important to accept that results are only suggestions. At the end of the day, you still need to listen to your intuition.

Explore your options

If after your aptitude test, you are still unsure of which direction to go, then it would be a good idea to turn to the good old internet and do a little research. What are your interests? Can any of your current hobbies be turned into a career? You can also research career options that others might have mentioned and sound interesting. Take your time with this. Make sure you explore all the possibilities and see if anything jumps out at you.

Job shadow people in the fields you are interested in

Once you have narrowed possible careers down to a couple of different options, it’s a good idea to find people in those fields to job shadow. See if you can spend several days with each so that you can really get a feel for the role. Ask questions, take notes and be honest with yourself – is this the type of work that will get you out of bed in the morning? If it’s a relatively glamorous or exciting, try to look beyond the surface to learn what it would be like to perform that job everyday. 

Consider which university courses you can afford 

Your financial situation may impact your career choice. If you have a shortlist of possible career options, take a look at what they will cost to study. Be sure to look at all the universities and colleges that offer those courses because the fees can vary hugely from one institution to the next. But also keep in mind that something like medicine is going to cost a lot more than a BA. Depending on your financial situation, it might be more viable to study at UNISA or another institution that will allow you to cut the costs of your education.

Here are some other things to consider:

The work hours

It’s all well and good to follow a passion or a career you think will be perfect for you, but you should also consider the hours you will need to spend at work every day. Doctors working in a hospital can work very long hours (think 24-hour shifts), and it’s common to work up to 14 hours a day on a film shoot. And then there are those jobs - like cheffing - which require you to work at night. Beside the obvious sacrifice (your time), consider how these will affect future plans (like a decision to have children).

Work environment

Another factor to consider is the work environment. Is it a place you would feel comfortable and be able to thrive in? Or does it mean slogging away long hours in a windowless office or cubicle? Some people can handle an office environment, while for others it spells death. Will it be a relaxed or formal environment? You're probably going to be at your workplace for most of your waking hours, so you want it to be in an environment you enjoy.

Stability

What kind of stability does your ideal career provide? For example, if you want to study acting, you need to understand that you'll probably live from job to job and you might need a part-time job to tide you over at times – are you prepared for that? You want to make sure you know what you're in for when you choose your career, and stability is an important factor.

Pay

This might seem like an obvious one - what kind of earning potential is there in your chosen field? Is that in line with your goals for the future? And is there enough space for you to grow? Make sure you know the answers to these questions and then, based on all of the above, make an informed decision on which career choice is the best in terms of your financial aspirations and goals. Just also bear in mind that you might have to compromise somewhere.

Learn more

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