How to choose a career if you have no idea what you want to do

Some young people know from an early age what they want to be when they grow up.

The vast majority, however, have no such certainty, and when the time comes for them to decide what they want to study, making a choice is a process riddled with uncertainty and anxiety.

However, by following a few guidelines, the process can be made much simpler and less intimidating.

The decision about further studies is one that comes up during the last years of school, when it is time to make subject choices in Grade Nine, and again during Matric, when you need to finalise your plans for what to do after school.

Choosing a career can be scary, and many people take a long time figuring out what it is they want to do with their lives. But it is important to remember that it is normal not to be a hundred percent sure which direction to pursue – even if your friends are.

The most important thing you can do before deciding is to do a lot of research about the various fields and careers that interest you, and then also to speak to education professionals about your options.

The best place to start is to make two lists. The first list is about things that interest you, things that you enjoy doing, and the school subjects in which you perform well. The second list contains things that you don’t find stimulating or interesting.

Next up, learners should start researching careers related to their fields of interest – both independently and with the assistance of a student counsellor at the potential institutions they may want to go to.

By doing your own research, you will get a better understanding of which careers might be a good fit for you and you’ll narrow down your list of options easily. Once you have given this some thought, reach out to educational advisors who will be able to guide you in the right direction. Also reach out to people working in the careers or industries that interest you, as they’ll be able to give you the most hands-on advice and information when it comes to what it’s really like to work in those roles.

For additional insights and clarity, it can also be helpful – and fun – to do a personality quiz, which matches your personality and interests to potential careers.

A personality quiz will help you identify whether you are a Doer, Thinker, Creator, Helper, Persuader, or Organiser.

Doers are active, action-oriented, and able to take charge in situations. They are often confident and independent, yet sometimes quite reserved.

Doer-careers require practical thinking, involve the use of your hands, and have concrete results or outcomes.

Thinkers like to contemplate the world at a distance. They think before they act. They are also very curious and often come up with interesting new ways to solve problems.

If you are a ‘Thinker’, then you will flourish in work environments that give you opportunities to learn, require independent work, are stimulating, and don’t require repetitive work.

Creators are spontaneous, love the unexpected, and hate monotony.

They can often solve problems in unique ways by looking at things from a different perspective, and they are also very sensitive, independent, and enthusiastic. They flourish in jobs where they are allowed to do things their own way, without having to follow set patterns.

Helpers are social, friendly, and good with communication.

They are intuitive, sensitive to work environments, and great at dealing with emotions. They are also natural leaders and are usually very responsible. Helpers flourish in work environments where they can work with people, manage others, and take charge.

Persuaders are assertive, social, ambitious, and enthusiastic, and they like taking risks.

They are enterprising and entrepreneurial and make good managers.

Organisers pay close attention to detail, and are task-oriented, responsible, and good with numbers. They use their minds to get things done.

Organisers enjoy work that entails data collection and sorting, writing, using computers, or working with maths, numbers, data points, and patterns.

In the end, it is important to also remember that a choice of career made in your late teens doesn’t mean that you need to stay in that field for the rest of your life.

Many people change careers during their lifetime – either within a certain field by upskilling, or by studying a completely different field while they remain in their current employment. So taking the pressure off yourself by committing to an approach of lifelong learning means you’ll be able to make the best decision for you, for now.

Ncumisa Makrayi is the Senior Team Leader at Oxbridge Academy.

What does your company’s Energy Signature look like?

As the move from the Mechanical Age to the Digital Age becomes a reality in the workplace, companies are going to have to focus more on the energy in the company rather than on soon-to-become-outdated concepts like corporate culture to ensure increased productivity and profitability.

For centuries, people have been exposed to long haired radicals walking around with placards (there was no twitter until recently) referring to the end of the world. Those prophets/predictors/futurists who were not that confident would carry placards simply stating, “The end is near.” This would give them lots of room to manoeuvre, as “near” is open to much interpretation.

The more confident ones would carry placards that stated messages confidently stating, “The World will end on … (then provide a date). There are almost 150 such predictions listed on Wikipedia, none of which, you may have realised, have been accurate. There are probably a lot more and there are a lot more predictions of dates still to come.

What we however have to face at the moment is not the end of the world but the end of the Mechanical Age. There are a couple of important points to note when we talk of this Age “coming to an end”.

Firstly, the Mechanical Age will not end in the sense that there will no longer be mechanical devices used. They will continue to be used for a good many years or even centuries. Despite the dramatic, almost unimagined advances in digital technology, the wheel is still very much a part of everyday life. Secondly, the end of an age doesn’t come on a particular date. We can therefore not say the Mechanical Age will end on … and then name a date. There is, instead, a window period during which one age comes to an end and the next starts up. We have thus been living in that window period when the Mechanical Age is ending and the Digital Age is starting. It’s probably been happening over the past 30 to 40 years – or maybe a little longer, depending on how detailed you want to be.    

So, back to my original point – the Mechanical Age is coming to an end and with it will end some of the thinking that dominated during that age. There will be a decline in the military model of leadership that has dominated the workplace for the past century or longer. This in turn will herald the demise of concepts like mission and vision – which will be replaced by purpose and cause.

As mechanical thinking gets replaced by the thinking of quantum physics, my sense is that companies will start talking about their energy signature. Traditionally, the closest we have to that at the moment is company culture, which reflects a company’s shared values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that determine how employees interact with one another, with their clients and with the greater community. This ultimately determines how productive and profitable a company’s people are.

Obviously, talking about energy is a radical step from culture, but think about it for a moment. What do you require in order to achieve anything in your company? Energy. That energy resides in the people who work for your company and is an expression of their values, beliefs and behaviour. This in turn refers to the energy that lies in the quality of your products/services, the energy that resides in your brand and marketing, and the energy that resides in your target market that prompts them to purchase your products or use your services.  

This is, for practical purposes, an oversimplified treatment of the topic, but is simply intended to challenge your thinking. If you are indeed prepared to stretch your thinking, imagine what you could achieve if you started focusing on leveraging the energy in your company.

For starters, if you looked around your company right now, how would you describe its energy signature? Is there low energy or high energy? Is there positive or negative energy? How much creative energy is there or is there more destructive energy? How focused is the energy in your team, your department, your company? How much of the company’s positive, creative energy is being leveraged?

The answers to these questions will start to give you a picture of your company’s energy signature. Come to think about it, how would you describe your own energy signature? The answers you get will reveal why you are or aren’t as successful in your career as you would like to be.

In a world that’s being increasingly recognised as consisting of pure energy, it’s time to start looking at your company’s, and your, energy signature!

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“.

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