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Choosing Your Future Self: How to Decide which Career is Right for You

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We all heard this question when we were kids. Back then, we’d say things like – Astronaut! or Dinosaur finder! or Pilot! When we’re that young, we don’t think about any obstacles we might face, such as student loans, the effort it will take, or the kind of money we’ll make. We simply follow our passion and believe nothing will stop us from succeeding.

Then, as we move through adolescence, we start questioning everything, including ourselves. “What am I good at?” “What do I value?” and, finally, the big question: “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”

This article is here to guide you towards choosing the best path for yourself, whether you’re approaching college, you’re still a few years from it, or if you’re wondering about your true calling.

We’ll start with a couple of stumbling blocks people tend to come up against as they try to figure out what it is they want to do in life. After listing each, we’ll offer some tips to help you get past them.

Gender Stereotypes

If you’re a boy, you might be dreaming of playing soccer professionally, or being a programmer. If you are a girl, though, the picture is very different – you might want to become a nurse or a teacher. Although we’re living in the 21st century, there’s still a lot of imbalance when it comes to gender. Certain jobs are still looked upon as masculine – programming being the clearest example, while many jobs involving direct communication with people (and especially children) are considered feminine [1]. So from a very early age, grownups tend to tell us that males are naturally inclined towards sports and math, while girls are more attuned to taking care of others. Due to this imbalance, if you’re a girl but feel that programming is your passion, the people around you might not be understanding of it. Similarly, if your dream is to become a teacher but you’re a boy, the adults in your life (and even your peers) might poke fun at you instead of supporting you.

What’s the solution here? Ask yourself – “What’s more important to me, following my heart and my passion or letting others put obstacles in my way?”  To help inspire you, here’s a list of five brilliant female programmers. We need to be aware of stereotypes in order to break them. So the next time someone mentions that coding isn’t for girls, show them this list – they might realize they’re being foolish.  And, guys, if you’re told dancing is for girls, draw their attention to one of these men – it might change their minds!

Passion vs. Ability – I Want vs. I Can

Some of you might be really passionate about something, but feel like you’re lacking the ability necessary to master it and work in that field. The harsh truth is that just because we’re interested in something doesn’t mean learning it will come easily. It will, however, mean that you’ll have a lot more motivation to study it until you perfect it. Take me for example: I really, really wanted to major in psychology. Despite that, it took me six months to prepare 250 pages for the test. Meanwhile, my friend studied it for two weeks and managed to get a better result than me! But fast forward five years, I graduated with an average grade of 3.56 – and all because I was so passionate about it that I decided I would study as much as necessary to graduate.

Some other (research-based) good news is – you’ll do as well as you believe you will do. In psychology, there’s something called self-efficacy beliefs [1]. Those are the beliefs you have about your own ability to succeed in a certain area, and studies show that those beliefs do not have to correspond to your actual abilities! It means that your C’s in science might be the result of test anxiety or low self-esteem more than your actual ability. If you make yourself believe that you won’t get a good grade, you’re blocking yourself from giving 100% effort.

But there’s even better news! People whose self-efficacy beliefs are higher than their actual efficacy tend to perform better than we’d expect based on their abilities only. So, as cheesy as it sounds, science says that if you believe in yourself, your results will be better than if you doubt yourself all the time. The conclusion here is: follow your passion and believe in yourself, because it will give you a lot of motivation to put in the necessary effort. And never forget – effort is what counts in the end!

I Haven’t The Slightest Idea What I Want To Do

Explore! [3][4]. There are jobs out there that you wouldn’t believe are real. We tend to think in terms of what we’re most familiar with, so you might be thinking: I don’t want to be a businessman, an engineer, or a doctor, so what can I be? For starters, here’s a list of a huge number of professions you can choose from. You can also talk to your school counselor. They can point you in the right direction to help you discover what kind of job would best fit you.

If that helps narrow it down, great! But if you still have some doubts, try picturing your ideal self 20 years from now. Imagine your average day. You’re waking up. What does your bedroom look like? What do you eat for breakfast? Do you have a family? How many people are there? As you’re preparing to go to work, what are you wearing and where are you going? Are you sitting at home, preparing to open a laptop, or are you going towards your car to drive to your personal office on the 20th floor? Imagining your future helps you discover thoughts, ideas, and wishes you didn’t know you had, because you were too busy worrying and wondering.

The final step is to put it all together. What kind of job are you doing in the future to allow you to have the life you just imagined? The answer to this question – or something similar (check out the list again), might be the best possible profession for you.

I Have More Than One Passion

Quite the opposite from the last issue we discussed, in this scenario the problem is having too many options. We wouldn’t say it’s a problem so much as a blessing! You’re a lively, interested person and you want to live life to the fullest. The good thing is, you can – without needing to have three majors. We live in a time when everything is easily accessible to everyone. Follow the advice from the last section to choose which profession interests you the most. And now that you have your major, there’s no reason to focus on that alone. You can always find a course (physical or online), read books, or find apps that can help you learn a lot about your second (or even third) choice. When I was 17, I wanted to major in psychology – but then again, I always wanted to study languages, too! After a month or so of going back and forth, I decided to major in psychology while studying languages in my free time. Today, I want to thank Duolingo for teaching me Spanish, German, and a couple of greetings in Scandinavian languages.

The Most Important Advice

We’ve mentioned this already, but the best thing you can do to decide on your future is explore! Find books about professions that interest you, attend lectures, find Youtube videos, ask people around you who are happy with their professions what helped them choose. It’s a difficult thing – suddenly deciding what you want to be in a couple of years. Just keep these things in mind: explore, follow your passion, think about your values and what kind of job fits them best. And if you have an issue that we haven’t mentioned here, feel free to book a free consultation with one of our Coaches – they’ll be sure to help put your mind at ease!

 

References:

  1. Brown, D. (2002). Career Choice and Development. Published By Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, 989 Market Street, San Francisco.
  2. Dick, T. & Rallis, S. (1991). Factors and Influences on High School Students’ Career Choices. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education,  Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 281-292
  3. Gati, I. & Saka, N. (2001). High-School Students’ Career-Related Decision Making  Difficulties. Journal of Counseling and Development, Vol. 79, pp. 331-340.
  4. Hirschi, A., & Läge, D. (2007). The Relation of Secondary Student’s Career Choice Readiness to a Six-Phase Model of Career Decision-Making. Journal of Career Development, Vol. 34, No.2, pp.164-191

If you need any advice about career paths, you’ve come to the right place!

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