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I seem to be having trouble knowing what I want to be/do as a career. Is there any tips I can take/learn to find out what I want to do/be?

I am a senior in high school and have been having trouble not knowing what I want to do since I started high school. I used to be very motivated and inspired to do many things such as drawing, but now I don't feel the same way. I feel stuck or lost and scared for the future. #high-school #career-choice #motivation #career #career-options

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Dexter’s Answer

Hey Annette,

I think going to a period of malaise is totally expected, and happens to just about everyone in different degrees. For me, I wanted to be a historian until my final year of highschool when I got more introspective and figured out that I wanted to go into engineering. I'm sure if you put effort into it, you could better figure out what you want to do. Or at least, a direction, so you could figure out your post-high-school plans.

I would recommend a few things to figure out your career path:
1. Talk to your school career counselor (if available). Their whole job is to help guide you towards a career, so I feel like, you should talk to them, since that's a resource that's available to you. I think it was my school counselor that first put the idea of going into engineering into my head as I was good at math and science classes, even though I hadn't really considered them.
2. Figure out what makes you different. Have you figured out anything about yourself that seems to be different from your class mates? For me, I really like helping people, like as long as my interaction with someone ends up helping them out, it's something I can do all day and it comes easy to me. I found out that not all people are wired this way. Or maybe you can sit in front of a computer all day (or not). Or maybe you like technical aspects of art (or maybe you're just good at knowing what design is good vs bad). These types of realizations will help guide you towards the right career for you.
3. Similarly to 2, what makes you happy? Once you figure out what bring you joy (not the short term type of happiness, but the type of happiness that makes your soul feel different for days), it might also help guide you towards your career path. If you find that animals bring you joy, maybe you should take a look at a career as a veterinarian. Or if you find hiking and conservation makes you happy, then maybe a ranger. Or if you find yourself loving TV shows in minute detail, maybe you should become a writer/producer for TV.
4. Are there any fictional character you find yourself looking up to more than others? Perhaps this can help you become who you idolize. Perhaps it's a bit unrealistic to look for a career as a galactic starship captain (if you're a fan of things like Star Trek), but maybe you can use insights like this to learn that what you find attractive about that career is the leadership aspect of it, in which case, there are many different careers for you.
5. Finally, my final point of advice would be to volunteer. I know it's a bit tough in this COVID environment, but there are sites like catchafire.org or volunteermatch.org where you can find virtual volunteer opportunities. Using these volunteering gigs, you can try out different careers while helping others. These volunteering opportunities will not only help you find your career, but it will also help you in your college admissions and future job considerations.

I wish you the best of luck Annette, and I'm sure if you look within, you can at least get a best guess and try towards that. And don't stress about trying to figure this out yesterday. I know many people in my life who changed their careers after college, and I can tell you that as long as you put in the effort, you can be successful.


I agree with everything you said Dexter. It has helped me actually think about my hobbies and talents. Thank you so much, I will try new things that involve my strengths and what makes me happy. :) Annette L.

Hey Annette, that's great! If you have any further questions, just let me know and I can try to help further. :) Dexter Arver

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Theresa’s Answer

Hi Annette,

This is a really good question. People often expect you to know what you want to be , but there so many different choices and it's actually very common that you don't know what you want to do. I felt that way in high school, I was overwhelmed with the decision i was supposed to make and in the end it took me over 10 years to figure it out.

Here are a couple of things that can get you started:

- Think about your talents and abilities. What are you really good at? What do you naturally do well? What subjects do you do well in at school? What are your hobbies and interests? If you could make money doing the one thing you love doing the most, what would it be? What would you like to do more of? Where are the places that you like to spend your time? What would your ideal future look like? What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

- Take some online assessments. The best one in my opinion is https://www.youscience.com/ it does cost $29 but the invest is really worth it. It truly helps you figure out what you are good at and what careers can be a good match. There are also a couple of free assessments you could take, for example https://www.truity.com/view/tests/personality-career and https://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip
When taking these kind of assessments keep in mind that they are just assessments - in the end you will know yourself best and some of the results might be accurate and some might not fit you. I use them as a starting point for brainstorming of what could be career fields that you are interested in. But they will not give you all the answers, in the end you will have to make the decision yourself.

- Is there a career center or a career counselor at your school or in your community? If so, definitely take advantage of these free resources.

- One of the best exercises I think you can do is to look through all kinds of different job postings online and read what kind of duties are listed in them. If there's a task that you think would be really interesting to you, copy and paste it in a separate document until you have 2 pages of tasks that you would want to do. Then look for common themes and find occupations that list a lot of the duties that you would enjoy.

- Once you have a better idea what might interest you, make a list of 10 occupations that could be interesting and research them further. Then narrow it down to your top 3. For each of your top 3 choices find someone who works in that position - ask your friends and family if they know someone or create a free LinkedIn profile - it is a great networking platform where you can find professionals from all kinds of fields. Once you found someone who works in one of the top 3 occupations that you chose, ask if you can call them and if they would answer some of your questions and tell you more about their job. This is the best way to find out more about a field you could be interested in.

I hope this helps. If you would like more help, you can find me on LinkedIn, feel free to reach out: linkedin.com/in/theresa-a-white

Wishing you all the best!

Theresa recommends the following next steps:

Think about your talents and abilities
Take online career assessments
Meet with a career counselor in your school district
Research online job postings
Find your top 3 occupations and conduct informational interviews

Thank you so much! This made things more clear for me. And much easier to understand:) Thank you for your time and advice!:-) Annette L.

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Cindie’s Answer

Hi Annette.

I agree with Dexter; there are times in your life when you won't know in which direction to go. It's simply normal. And you're doing exactly what I would recommend...reaching out to get advice. I agree with Dexter too in that you should engage a counselor at your school and/or a teacher(s). They will likely know of various tests that you can take to help you identify your strengths and interests and the types of careers that are a good match. If you don't feel like you have access to a counselor or teachers, I've added a link to a really nice set of steps to help guide you.

Annette, the good news is this...your first 2 years of school is pretty much a repeat of your 4 years of high school: history, math, science, English. During this 2 years, take the time to engage the career center where there's likely better career planning resources than at your high school. (A sign of a successful university is that they have high job placement for their graduates so they invest in resources to help their students find jobs. You may want to ask about this as you interview schools...what their placement resources are and their success rate at placing graduates.) Also try to get involved in one or more college fraternities that have a focus that you might be interested in. These fraternities are not of the Greek nature but professional in nature, focusing on a particular specialty like accounting/math, science, business, and so forth.

After a year or two, you'll likely start to hone in on what you want to study and what you want to do post-school.

Don't despair...just write down the steps to de-clutter your mind, to bring clarity. Lastly, never fear making a change. It's ok if you find out later down the road that you want to do something else. It may take some time and money to do it, but it is possible. You have a long time to work, 40+ years; don't feel in too much pressure to have it all figured out right now.

All the best to you!


Cindie recommends the following next steps:

How to Decide on a Career Path: https://www.wikihow.com/Decide-on-a-Career-Path

Thank you so much Cindie! I appreciate your help and advice! I will look forward on what to donand how i am gonna do it:) Annette L.

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Jackie’s Answer

Hi Annette -

Congratulations on your senior year! It's an exciting (and scary) time of your educational journey. So many people will ask you "what are you going to do next?, what are you going to study in college? What do you want to be? I think people forget how much they may have hated that question when they were that age.....I know I did.

I grew up always planning to be a teacher - I was for sure going to be a grade school teacher....then middle school....then maybe a high school guidance counselor. I did some jobs working as a camp counselor and quickly realized that for as much as I loved to help kids of all ages, I have the patience of a gnat and would not be a good teacher. When I started college I followed my dad's advice "go into business, learn finance, people always need financial people at their companies, you'll always have a job". That was solid advice and I followed it. Yet, during school, I found that business didn't really excite me that much - and post college my first job was auditing and then doing taxes. I learned, I did not have a passion for taxes or the tax cycles - and took a big leap of faith and changed careers.

My point of sharing that is to help you know you're not alone in not knowing what you want to do next - in my opinion, nearly every single person goes through that type of questioning. Things that have helped me in the past - time. Take.your.time. There is no rush to make a decision about the rest of your life when you're 18...or 21...or 25....etc. I looked for opportunities to explore different areas - I found internships, job shadows, and spent a lot of time going to every seminar, lecture, workshop, open house the career center at my university offered.

Another thing that I found helpful was the book "what color is your parachute"....not so much for reading every single page - but taking the self discovery quizzes that helped to pull out information from me on my interests, ideals, and passion. I'd also suggest watching any of the Ted Talks that may seem interesting to you. For instance, if you're interested in technology, maybe some Ted Talks on careers in tech, or how someone got started on their path.

Also, do not be afraid to try. It is a-ok to go through a trial-and-error phase, the important part is to be able to look back at your errors and learn from them. If you don't, you'll be likely to do them again.

When I changed careers, I ended up going into the technology field. At my company I've had the opportunity to work on digital media, advertising, content, operations / datacenter, and engineering. I love the versatility I've been able to find, and being in tech, there's always something new to learn. The other thing I have always enjoyed is helping people - and in my role, I feel like by helping to create intuitive and engaging digital products, I'm helping people be able to use technology easier in their lives - and I've found that to be far more appealing than taxes :).

Enjoy your senior year.....take advantage of the guidance counselor at your school, and on your own time table, start to think about what things you've liked most about any past job you've had, or roles you've done on school projects. Those types of data will help you to start thinking of the bigger picture - would you like to continue doing those types of things? If so, what are professional paths that allow you to use those skills.

Good luck!

Thank you so much for your time and advice! This was very helpful to me especially when I don't know what I want to do or be. I will for sure take my time and try new things :) Annette L.

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Alexandra’s Answer

Hi Annette,

Great question, one that I think many young adults have!

In addition to all great advice already shared, I want to highlight how helpful your first year of college can be in figuring what you want to do as a career and that you don't have to have it all figured out before you go. I started my freshman year of college as an "undeclared" major, meaning I hadn't yet committed to a specific major. Part of your undergrad degree will be fulfilling your "general elective" requirements. Often times if you've declared a specific major, you have to take a certain amount of classes per semester related to your major to stay on track. Being undeclared allowed me the flexibility to take general elective courses in a bunch of different subjects that weren't offered in high school. This really broadened my perspective and gave me the chance to explore new topics and learn about the careers related to them until I found one that piqued my interest.

You will also be exposed to a whole new set of people who will expose you to their different interests and perspectives which might spark new interests in you! On my first day of class I was told that 50% of students change their major, it's totally ok to not know what you want to do yet! Take your time and explore, you will be able to figure it out :)

Thank you for your advice! It did help me feel better about myself and my future :) and also thank you for your time:) Annette L.

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Sunny’s Answer

Hi Annette,

I think your question is related to a long-term goal in your life, so it might not seem very easy to answer it right away. I would recommend you to allow some time to figure out what you would like to be in your future.

It might be helpful to observe your passion. When you take any class or do a project, did you find anything so interesting or curious that you would like to learn more about? If so, then you can start from there and gather more information through additional job research or counseling with a teacher. If you have not experienced that, that is OK too. You can ask around your family and relatives and learn more about their career by showing your interest in their jobs.

Good luck on finding your career!

I appreciate your time and advice Sunny! I will do that! :) Annette L.

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Aaron’s Answer

Hi Annette,

To think about what you want to do as a career during high school I would first think about what you like to do as interest then conduct research on those interests to see what types of careers fit these interests. Once you figure out what type of careers are available that fit these interest I would conduct additional research on these careers to learn more about the job opportunities available in these careers and the education involved with working in these careers. You can also use websites such as Career Explorer where you take a survey to see what jobs that might fit your interest. Hope this helps.

-Thank you,

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Amy’s Answer

If you didn't have to go to school for it or money wasn't necessary, what do you enjoy doing? I highly recommend listening to Ken Coleman's podcasts or going to his website for information. He gives fantastic clarity advice. www.kencoleman.com

Thank you so much Amy!! I appreciate it!! :-) Annette L.

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Danalila’s Answer

Hey Annette,

Based on your question I remember when even I went through a similar thing at the end of highschool. It is very normal not knowing what you career will be like that early on. Life is all about finding yourself and sometimes that takes times. It 's very common to feel nervous and scared but trust me you are not the only one! Lot of high schoolers go through this. I myself in college was confused between Management Information Systems and Human Resources. Eventually I took some classes and that helped me find an interest so my advice would be to keep an open mind and be open to new opportunities. Good Luck on finding your own career path!

Thank you so much! I am always open for new ideas and experiences! I appreciate it so much! :) Annette L.

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Shelby’s Answer

I would suggest going into supply chain or logistics. It can be applied to almost any industry, but it’s not so generic that you’ll have trouble finding a job. Plus it pays well and is in demand! Good luck!

Thank you! I appreciate it! Annette L.