5 answers

How did you figure out what you wanted to do for your career?

Asked Brookline, Massachusetts

I'm in junior year in highschool. Sometimes I have some ideas for what I want to be, but most of the time I really have no idea. I think I should have better ideas so I can go to college with some kind of plan. When did you know what you wanted to do for your career? #career-options

5 answers

Tina’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

First, in the words of the great Douglas Adams, Don't Panic! Not everyone has a plan and chosen career by the time they reach their Junior or Senior year in high school. Sometimes the simplest opportunity to participate in a project, or activity, can make you suddenly realize you have found a path that you would like to follow. The best places to start determining career paths is to look inside yourself and think of those classes, moments, projects, extra-curriculars you participated in that you really enjoyed. What was it about that subject or doing that activity that excited you, made you fascinated, maybe brought you positive feedback from people on how you handled the work or people? Do you have any special interests or hobbies? From that little moment, you can then start to research how you could turn that enjoyment or talent into a career. Don't be afraid to reach out to people in those areas you might be interested in. Ask them what is the course of study needed, what brings them excitement from the work, what are the pros and cons of what it takes to follow that path. You will be surprised how happy people are to help and answer questions about their careers. The internet can be a valuable tool in looking into areas as you research these talents and interests you have. There are new career paths and opportunities that arise every year in many areas, and there could be new and different avenues you hadn't even been aware of. A little hobby can lead to an area of opportunity you hadn't thought of. A friend of mine use to do the editorial cartoon in our school newspaper. He was going to pursue a career in accounting because he was told that his math grades and scores should lead him in that direction, though he wasn't really enthused about it. A visiting teacher saw his cartoon one week and asked why he wasn't thinking of pursuing art. He told him to look into the graphic arts field and long story short, that friend is now a happy, successful graphic artists who works in the cartoon and video fields. So Explore. Have fun researching what is out there as you work through the process. If you are worried about pending college application season and where you should decide to go, perhaps going locally and taking classes at a community college or local university might be the answer. You can take some classes in areas you might be interested in, or take the basic core type requirements that most universities require before transferring to a location that carries the course study you want. The important aspect to remember is that nothing is ever locked in stone. Any education or training you pursue will be valuable and careers through the years change, adapt or entirely new opportunties surprise you and open up that you would never imagine you could pursue based on the degree or education you have. You can always take what you learned and apply it to something new and exciting that develops. Good luck!

Scott’s Answer

Updated Culver City, California

My advice is going to sound like something that you've heard before probably. Start figuring out what you want to do for a job by taking a look at the kinds of things that you like to do for fun. Honestly - you can actually have a job that you enjoy, but the path there can be kind of weird.

When I was in high school I really enjoyed acting on a stage. My plan (believe it or not) was to be an actor. I joined a theater group, and was usually either in a show, auditioning for a show, or teching a show (working backstage doing the lights and stuff) for my entire time through high school. For one of the plays that I was doing I needed to take a few dance classes. A little later, that dance studio had a performance of Snow White coming up and they needed someone to be the Prince. I agreed for two reasons: it was another chance for me to be on stage, which I loved, and I had a mad crush on the girl who was playing Snow White and I would get to kiss her during the performance. One thing led to another, and three years later I was a professional ballet dancer (things didn't work out with the girl). I got to be on stage for a living, and I loved it.

I've been playing video games and drawing and painting my whole life. Even while I was a professional dancer, I would paint at night after rehearsals, and I would design tabletop games (like Dungeons and Dragons) for my friends and I to play. When it became time for me to stop dancing, I decided to take a chance and go to college to learn how to be a video game artist. I thought (and still think) that video games is one place where you can make a living as an artist, and are still encouraged to be wildly creative. During school, I discovered that I really liked designing the games - more than I liked creating the environments and characters that make up the world of the games. By the time I graduated, I had a Bachelor of Science degree in Game Design, and was working as a Game Designer before I finished college.

I love designing games, and working with teams, and seeing the beautiful art that the people I work with create. Both of these stories have the same theme - I started out thinking that I wanted one thing (acting, or to be an artist); and along the way I found the path that worked for me that was a little different than what I had set out to do. At the end of the day, pursue something that you're passionate about. And as you learn more about it and get in deeper, you will find what it is that you love about your "thing", and you will find a way to make that what you get paid to do.

Have fun out there!

Elena’s Answer

Updated Brookline, Massachusetts

Knowing what career and finding that perfect one is hard. One thing to know that even if you select a path to start with does not mean you have to follow through the path till the end. Many things change throughout time and different factors, such as getting married, or having children, may change what you want to do since different careers have different work/life balance.

For now since you're still in high school, analyze which classes you enjoy the most. For example, if you love your English class and you do well in English classes as well, then that can lead to careers such as journalism, communications, etc. Or if you love your science classes, such as Biology, that can lead to being a researcher in a biology related field, being a doctor or a related medical field.

It was from the classes that I took that led to my career decision. I took an accounting class in high school and I loved it. It was just simple debits and credits but I love balancing the books and making sure everything ties out. I also always loved my math classes the most. From these classes, I learned I'm a more detailed person and like working with numbers, which led to my current career in the accounting field.

I hope that helps!

Heather M’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

Start making lists of what you're great at and marketable skills you enjoy. It might be things like writing, troubleshooting technology, creating digital graphics... keep in mind this is a brainstorming session, so there are no wrong answers!

Which of these things do you feel the most strongly about? It's good to take a time out at this point and see if that particular thing is marketable. Are there jobs in this field out there? That's really important to assess. The last thing you want to do is go to college for something you're super passionate about, but then find out when you graduate that there aren't any jobs. Browse job listings in your desired field and visit sites like Glassdoor.com and see what people are making in your area. Narrow it down to at least one thing that you're excited about AND you've found is a viable career path.

Now I suggest immersing yourself in the winning choice from above. Say you're really into graphic design. Start doing it yourself! No one is stopping you. Maybe go looking for design challenges online, read books about it, learn software on trials, get involved with local professional organizations or clubs (in which you can probably find a mentor,) join forums online and talk shop. Perhaps even take it a step further and try to do some jobs (for free or otherwise) for friends or family, like photo-retouching, T-shirt design, etc. If you've completely immersed yourself in it, you're doing well and aren't sick of it, then start researching what your next steps might be to develop your career. However, if it isn't working, go back to your list and try another one.

Now please keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to plunge right into a full degree program at a university. You might take a class or two, or start out in community college. Maybe you start teaching yourself with tutorials online or get an apprenticeship/coop. Research the job requirements for common listings in your desired position and see where you need to go!

Keep in mind these are my personal pieces of advice. A book I see recommended again and again is "What Color is Your Parachute?" It contains a lot of career-building exercises and job-seeking tips that could also be helpful.

Estevan’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

I was pretty pragmatic in my choosing of a career. I knew a couple of things about myself by the time I was in my junior year of high school.

  1. I've always been a creative person. Since I was a kid I liked to draw, make comics, do arts and crafts, make up games, edit movies, etc. I knew that my ideal career was doing something creative. Specifically I really liked video games and thought I wanted to get into that field.
  2. Knowing I wanted to do video games it became of a question of "What do I want to do for a career in the video game industry?", so I went out and researched the various roles, got a couple of books from the library on the subject (this was in the early 2000's so they just started coming out with "how to get jobs in the game industry" books that were mass market and you could find at a public library).
  3. I thought, but didn't exactly know, that I wanted to go to college. I did know however that college was a huge investment in terms of not just money but also time (you could work those 4 years and not only get paid but gain job experience for example). If I was going to college then it was going to be to study a major that I believed I could make a reasonable amount of money with once I graduated.

GIven those three factors, I decided I the best job in the industry for me would be as a programmer which meant I had to major in computer science. I hadn't actually programmed a single thing in my entire life before dabbling in senior year of high school (and getting stuck on "for loops" of all things and then kind of stopping until college) so it certainly wasn't a calling I have had since I was a kid and had a lot more to do with my education and focus on my end goal.

So my advise is to do just that.

  1. Think about what you like doing.
  2. Ask yourself what jobs exist in that field.
  3. Ask yourself how to best achieve those goals (should you go to college, start working the sales floor after high school to move up and get paid, go to vocational school and learn a specific trade like being an EMT, try to join a union and get into an apprenticeship, and so on).