Technology has changed the world of work and nowadays, people change jobs between 10 and 14 times by age 34! An important thing to understand is that people seldom make step-by-step decisions that they can predict when they are school, about their career.
You may have heard your parents speaking about “career paths”. In the past, people tended to follow quite a structured and logical career path. After school, you would possibly look at going to university and then finding a job. Your grandparents probably only worked for one or two companies during their entire lives – how things have changed!
Career Evolution is Natural:
It is quite normal nowadays for your career to evolve, change and develop over time. Studying a certain qualification doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up working in that field. I studied Psychology at Rhodes and Enterprise Management at UCT and then went to work in the corporate world in Human Resources. After 3 years of that, I decided to start working for myself as a career development coach. The common thread though all of this is that my studies and work all involved working with people and helping them to develop their true potential. There wasn’t a logical, straightforward career path and yet I am doing something that I love, every day.
For example, if you start out studying law, that doesn’t mean that you have to become a lawyer. The skills that you learn in this degree would be valuable to a number of different companies, not only law firms. If you start out gaining work experience as a Personal Assistant, you could do part time courses to enhance your understanding of photography and start your own business. The opportunities are endless!
Focus is Important:
Even though career evolution is natural, and you cannot predict exactly where you want to go, it is important to eventually try to pick a focus eventually. This is not something that you need to be too concerned about at this stage and a career focus will emerge with time, as you discover what you are passionate about.
A Career Story:
When Amy Taylor was at school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do career-wise, but she did know that her public speaking skills weren’t great. She really didn’t enjoy standing up in front of a crowd and talking. She decided to do something about it and joined her school’s public speaking society. Naturally, the more she practiced, the better she became at it.
By the time she left school, Amy had found her passion and went on to study Environmental Science. One day, towards the end of her time at university, Amy was doing a presentation during one of the lectures. She didn’t realise that there were headhunters present in the lecture that day. She blew them away with her evident passion for the field, as well as her phenomenal public speaking skills. Amy left university earning twice what her classmates were earning and most importantly, absolutely loving her job.
The Moral of the Story:
Amy didn’t leave it to fate to determine her career. Even though she couldn’t predict a ‘career path’ when she was at school, she focused on developing the skills that she knew could be important to her in her career one day.
What you can do:
Develop your Skill Set
Understand the skills that employers value and make sure that you are focusing on developing them. It is really simple to do this! Get involved in extra-curricular activities at school or find a part-time job. This is likely to help you to develop interpersonal (people), leadership, communication and problem-solving skills, to name a few. You never know when these will come in handy.
Get involved in researching careers in any way that you can. Job shadow, visit universities, speak to different professionals working in careers that you think you may find interesting. It’s not going to come to you-you need to get out there and start exploring your options in order to find something that you will be passionate about doing.
Even though you are not expected to know exactly what career you want to end up in, it is important to be proactive about it. Research career options, get involved in Job Shadowing and make sure that you are developing the key skills that employers look for and above all, enjoy the process!
Joanne Wood is the founder of Achieve Careers, an organisation that provides career development support to schools in the form of Career Development manuals for scholars, and workshops for Life Orientation teachers. For more information visit www.achievecareers.co.za.