eciding what career you want to pursue, is one of the decisions you’ll be making as an adolescent. There’s a wide range of careers to choose from – all of which are appealing – making the decision more difficult. There are many ways to approach career planning – some people ask their best friend what he’s going to do and do the same; others find out what their parents want them to do and do the opposite; while others choose a career because everyone seems to be choosing it.

Career planning is however not something that should be rushed into. You find many young people in universities today, changing from one course to another, because they can no longer cope with it, and end up spending more years than they would have spent in getting a university education, if only they had taken a little time to plan their career before getting into the university. Career planning, is therefore very essential before one starts life as an adult. Here are some things you’ll need to consider before deciding about a career:

Know your values
Your values will always come to play in whatever decisions you make. In choosing a career, you have to decide what means most to you, i.e. Do you want a lot of responsibilities? Do you like teamwork? Do you want to work in a ‘big’ office? Do you like working with children, adults, the poor or less privileged? What compensation do you want from this job – is it the money, security, adventure/excitement, personal fulfillment, etc. Your values will greatly affect your answers to these questions and ultimately, the career you choose.

Identify your skills
Everything you do involves one skill or the other. Things like fixing the fault in your cassette player, writing an article, drawing or planning an event, all require specific skills. Make a list of activities that you enjoy doing and list the skill(s) that each one requires. Look at this list, it’s likely that you’ll have skills prevalent in one or more areas. Match the prevalent skills with jobs you think require these skills. For example, if your list shows you have penchant for building things or fixing faulty items, you may want to consider a career in Engineering; or if your skills relate to talking with people, you might want to consider being an actor, a counsellor, or a psychologist.

A note of warning: You may find out at the end of this exercise that your skills don’t match up with the career you have been considering. Don’t give up – you can work at acquiring the necessary skills. However, if you honestly feel that you can’t acquire the required skills, then start considering another career – it’s not advisable to pursue a career that requires skills you simply do not have.

Gather information
After you’ve identified your skills and have come up with possible career choices (2 or 3), the next step is to get information about each choice. You will need to get facts such as: how much education is required (in terms of cost and time – do not start what you cannot finish); what activities are to be performed on the job; what activities are to be performed on the job; what are your prospects, i.e. chances of success; what are the career opportunities, i.e. does it involve things that you like to do, or chances for personal growth and development, etc.

You can get this information from libraries, your school counsellor or publications by individuals or groups in your chosen field. Another valuable way to learn about your chosen career, is to “hear from the horse’s mouth”. This means talking to someone who is already on the job (and is making a success of it). He/she will be able to give you more information about the challenges you’ll face and the obstacles that may come your way.

Get an education
Getting an education is no longer an option – it is a need. Without it, you’ll be totally ill-equipped on how to make a success of your chosen career. What are your best subjects? What are your worst? Why? Make sure your reactions are to the subject and not to a teacher that you particularly dislike. If you are not really sure what you like, you should consult with your school guidance counsellor.

Get experience
Once you’ve made up your mind about what career you want to pursue and have gathered necessary information, getting experience is the next step to take. Of course, a secondary school student cannot get a job as a doctor or a pilot, but you can do something that will bring you in contact with the job, or people who do it. For example, you can work as a clerk in a lawyer’s chambers, if you want to be a lawyer, or get a job at a construction site if you want to be a structural engineer. You can even volunteer your time, if you do not get a paid job. Whatever you do, your experiences will serve to either reinforce your decision, or change your mind, if you don’t get the satisfaction you had thought you would.

To be successful in whatever you do, you also need to know the Three Ps of success – Preparation, Patience, and Perseverance. The first P is as outlined above.

Patience they say is a virtue. Good success does not happen overnight. Things don’t always happen when you want them to. You must be patient.

Finally and most importantly, you must learn to persevere. There are bound to be roadblocks and obstacles; people may try to make you derail and give a thousand and one reasons why you won’t be successful. A quitter they say, never wins, and a winner, never quits. A song from an old movie says climb every mountain, cross every stream, follow every river, till you find your dream… If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, you can achieve it. Armed with this knowledge and a faith in God, you can turn minuses into pluses and stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

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