There is no right answer, but from my experience, the best way to know if a career is right for you is to actually be working in it. The rapid pace of change fueled by technological advances creates new career paths all the time. I know, this doesn't help you immediately, but don't sweat It. You don't have to know right now. Check out this post from Quora.com. Believe me, you're not alone.
Between now and the next few years, be it college, military, or work, your job is to TRY STUFF first. Attending college opens the door to a wide range of paths to explore. How you absorb to the information you hear, tackle projects you are given, and foster relationships in study teams or social endeavors, will help you discover your talents, passions, and strengths, which in turn will help point you in possible career directions. The opportunity can be similar in military service and in the work world, where you get training, job tasks, and exposure to other roles at the company or in the unit. And don't pass up opportunities to join clubs and organizations that fit your interests/passions. Community involvement is a great way to sharpen leadership skills and knowledge expertise. This applies to your time in college, the military, or in any work you do. In time, you'll know what works, and what doesn't work for you.
So what can you do right now?
Kellee recommends the following next steps:
- Make a list of classes you like, and classes you don't like, and WHY you like them or not. (ex: dislike number crunching? you probably can cross Accountant off your career list). Reference this list as you take the next steps:
- Take an online career assessment test. There are so many free ones that give results you can use as a starting point. They're usually for folks already on a career path, but don't be intimidated by the questions, just answer them to the best of your ability (and honestly). The results may not be super accurate, but they'll give you some ideas. Try this list from Monster.com: https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/best-free-career-assessment-tools
- Make a list of occupations to explore. Just a few to start, maybe up to 3 or 4. Know some folks working in these occupations? Talk to them! That's right, that relative, family friend, or business owner down the block, would love to talk to you about what they do and how they got there. They can also connect you to people they know who might talk with you. Great insights from just a few people can go a long way. Also, check out jobs descriptions for roles in each occupation to learn what it takes to get hired. You'll discover which credentials in education, work experience, and yes, personality, are being sought for the role. It's common these days for a job description to include criteria such as "team -player", "addicted to smiling", "likes dogs", etc. These have nothing to do with the work itself, but is all about assessing your fit for the culture/environment of the entity where you'll work.
- Remember, you are just trying to gather information at this point. Experience will be your best teacher. So, when you get to college, or the military, or go to work, seek out opportunities to learn MORE. Grades and performance reviews will give you a more definitive sense of your talents; leadership and team roles will help you understand how you work with others. Take the initiative to get involved, and commit to being your best at anything you do. (BTW: you can do things now. Join clubs and be active, volunteer and/or work after school. It's all about exposure).
- And finally: It's OK to make mistakes! Try not to stress out, as there is no right answer and no straight path. It's about getting to what's right for you at every stage in your journey. You just have to start somewhere. The average person switches careers 3-7 time according to the U.S. Department of labor, and switches jobs 10-15 times according the the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I've switch companies 5 times and careers twice, so I'm below average. (LOL). But what these numbers point to is this: the career that you start may not work 2 years, 5 years, or even 10 years from now. As you grow, your needs and passions may change, leading you in a different direction. Do your best at every stage, stop and assess on a regular basis, then move along as needed. And don't forget to have fun along the way. Your amazing story is waiting to be told. :-)