Many high schoolers don’t have a clarity on what they want to do, both academically and professionally, once they graduate. With the plethora of career paths available today, including jobs that didn’t exist 5 years ago, students are very susceptible to changing their mind several times, possibly even after they join the workforce. Deciding on just one profession or industry domain in high school isn’t mandatory, however, having a rough idea of the sort of career, field or course after 12th you’re interested in sets you up for success early on.
Take time to understand what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing, inside and outside of the classroom. If you aren’t sure about what exactly you want to do, simply as yourself, ‘What will I like to learn more about?’ For example, if you’re fond of the science side of things – what exactly about the subject draws you to it – the research or the lab work?
Once you’ve identified the activities and subjects you find satisfying, the next step is to search for careers that put your interests to good use. If you excel in sports, for instance, you can become a coach, gym teacher or recreational therapist. If numbers and math appear to be your calling at the moment, consider a career as an accountant, or budget analyst.
However, it’s important to remember that there are hundreds of career options out there that require possessing more than one skill. Here’s when approaching a career counsellor can help you clear your doubts about the numerous professional opportunities, and point you in the right direction based on your skill-set, interests, personality type, aptitude, and motivation factors. With tools, resources, and scientifically-accurate psychometric tests like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, or Strong Interest Inventory, career counsellors are able to determine what careers you’re most likely to shine in.
After recognizing your potential career interests, you can also seek out local employers to discover the types of jobs they offer. Multiple organizations allow a 6-week certification course for high school students who are interested to learn more about joining the workforce and company culture. A lot of times, when before you take up a short-term job opportunity, you might think, ‘Oh, that’s not an exciting occupation,’ however, chances are that once you seriously start handling day-to-day responsibilities, you might feel, ‘This is actually great, and I might want to pursue this further.’
Students can begin getting taking up work experience opportunities, including internships, apprenticeships, certification courses, no-degree awards and other activities, in high school to get a taste of what the industry and their preferred occupation is really like.
Internships usually involve temporary, supervised responsibilities that are designed to give an individual, students or recent graduates, a functional job training. Oftentimes, internships and other experiential learning areas are formulated into the educational curricula, which the students get academic credit for. On a similar note, option for part-time employment during summers can be another way to gain relevant professional experience. Since these jobs are paid, they help you learn long-term and short-term expense management which is a great life lesson overall.
You can also join local groups that offer community service and leadership opportunities, like student government or honour societies, where you can sharpen your work-related skills. Attend a subject-specific camp in an area of your interests, such as writing or engineering, to acquire academic skills that may guide you to a career of your choice.
These experiences not only help you acquire valuable skills but can also act as a step forward towards what you want and don’t want. A licensed career counsellor can come in handy here by giving you tips on how to write an impressive resume, stand out in an interview, and withstand everyday workplace pressure. With an in-depth knowledge of your personality type, a career counsellor can understand how you react in unfavourable situations such as stress or work politics, and help you combat those issues in a professional manner. You can also get a comprehensive insight into your strengths, which you can apply to your advantage, and shortcomings, that you can work on to better yourself as an employee.
In India, a vast majority of working professionals are unhappy with their jobs, because most of the key educational and career decisions in lives are driven by parental or peer pressure. Career counselling also help your parents understand the career path that matches the best with your personality and introduces them to jobs that they didn’t even know were a thing. This can largely contribute to bridging the generational gap between the child and the parent that most students struggle to deal with. Based on your interests, the career counsellor can help you prepare for college, by listing the academic high school courses you need to rigorously maintain good grades in. Doing so not only improves your college application credentials but also enhances your readiness for college-level study.
While, everyone’s career planning journey is different, and there isn’t a pre-defined ‘right’ way to start your career, career counselling helps you to identify the start + endpoint so you’re better equipped to achieve your career goals. For example, a lot of students postpone their college admissions to discover their passion and decide to take a “gap year” after 12th where they have ample opportunities to pursue meaningful work, volunteer or travel experiences. With a career counsellor, you can learn if taking a ‘gap year’ is the best course of action for you, and how you can use your time productively if you do opt for one.
Remember, regardless of the career path you choose to go ahead with, you always have the flexibility to change gears. Your chosen career is not a life sentence by any means, and if at any point you conclude, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ there’s always a way to start over by seeking professional career planning help.