Although there are some high school students who are already focused on a certain career path, there are many who simply do not know what they want to do in the future. And although it may seem scary not to know, I believe that not knowing is sometimes actually better than knowing. This is because there is still plenty of time during high school and college to discover what students want to do. In fact, studies show that about one-third of college students change their major within the first three years of college. Another surprising statistic is that students who originally declared a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) major are more likely to change their major than a non-STEM major. Another reason I think it is fine to be uncertain at a young age is that the future is unpredictable. Although it is great to have goals, pursue them, and think that everything will go as planned, that rarely happens. Therefore, whether or not a student knows what he or she wants to do in the future, it is always best to keep a set of ideas and questions in mind that can help in choosing a career path.

When most people think about choosing a career, they usually start by thinking about what they would be doing while on the clock. However, I believe that work should revolve around one’s personal life since work should not be the source of a person’s true happiness or well-being. Therefore, I think the better thing to do is to first think about how they want their future life outside of work to look. Here are some questions they can ask themselves: What are my hobbies and interests? How involved do I want to be with friend, family, religious, or other groups? Will I want to raise a family and if so, how involved will I want to be? Will I want a standard 9 to 5 weekday work schedule or will I be ok with a non-standard or constantly-changing schedule? Will I be ok traveling for work? What type of personal possessions, if any, would bring me happiness? With the answers in mind, they can then consider what type of jobs might help them live the way they want to, and since the answers to these questions will likely change in the future, their career path and interests may as well.

After whittling down to a few possible directions to take, students should then do a self-assessment related to the possible career. Some questions to consider could be: What are my key values? What soft skills (time management, communication, problem-solving, etc) and technical skills (data analytics, planning, research, photography, etc.) do I possess? What natural aptitudes (writing, leadership, selling, planning) do I have? What’s my personality (quiet, outgoing, confident, aggressive, etc.) like? Since some students may find this question the most difficult to self-asses, they can take personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram personality tests. These can easily be found and taken online to reveal a student’s overall personality, strengths, and weaknesses and can even suggest certain jobs that might fit well for them. If any of these suggested careers fit into the student’s ideal lifestyle, it would certainly be something the student can research and consider pursuing.

There is a reason life cannot be spelled without an if. Life circumstances change and priorities shift. Although this may be hard to swallow for some students and parents, not every child who wants to be a doctor going into college will become a doctor for a variety of reasons. Therefore, whether a student knows what he or she wants to do in the future or not, it is always best for them to know how to choose a career path. And though many may suggest thinking about the work first, I recommend thinking about life outside of work first. Your job does not define who you are; rather than considering it to be an end goal in life, it should be thought of as a means to the things you truly enjoy and love in life.

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