WHAT IS A CAREER?
According to Arnold (1997:21), a career is a sequence of employment-related positions, roles, actions, and experiences. A career defines how one sees oneself in the context of one’s social environment, in terms of one’s plans, one’s past accomplishments or failures and one’s present competencies and attributes (Raynor & Entin, 1982:262). UNESCO (2002:4) defined a career as the interaction of work roles and other life roles over a person’s lifespan including both paid and unpaid work. Career is also seen as the progress and actions taken by a person throughout a lifetime, especially related to that person’s occupations (Oloasebikan & Olusakin)
The major part of people‘s life is spent in occupational activities and these pursuits do more than simply provide income for livelihood (Bandura, 2002:279). Career guidance is widely accepted as a powerful and effective method of bridging the gap between education and the world of work and in informing an individual’s career choices (Ibrahim, Wambiya, Olaka & Raburu, 2014:301; Ajufo, 2013:312). In this article, I explain how to choose the right career for you and how family and the school system affect career choices.
Due to limited employment opportunities and lack of career guidance people have ended up in careers that they do not enjoy. Considering that we spend most of our time at work it is in our best interest to choose careers to which we are well suited. There are several factors that affect a person’s choice of career. It is however better to look for a career that you are going to enjoy. For most people understanding the world of work and making realistic plans after high school is not an easy task.
FAMILY INFLUENCE ON CAREER CHOICES
Families play a big role in choosing careers. In some instances parents want their children to follow those careers they followed themselves. This will not always work simply because other important factors affect our career choices. Without professional advice, parents can lead their children into careers that they will never enjoy and in some instances fail to excel at. Choosing a career should begin early in life to enable proper planning.
Research on family influence has increased rapidly during the last couple of years, yet an understanding of family influences on career choices remains sparse. Much of the research on family influence focus on individual parents’ careers, for instance, mothers or fathers influencing children to take up a certain career. This research considers family members’ influence on career choices which includes parents, siblings, and extended family members. The first interactions of a child with people take place within its home among members of its family who include parents, siblings, and relatives (Bollu-steve & Sanni, 2013:92). A child is affected by several family-related factors such as the marital relationship of the parents, the socio-economic status of the family, the atmosphere of the home (whether parents are warm or hostile), the environmental condition, occupational status of the parents, and the number of siblings in the family (Bollu-steve & Sanni, 2013:92). The family dynamics, therefore, play a pivotal role in the career readiness of the students.
Studies revealed that parents influence career choices among high school students. African studies, for example, in Kenya (Mokoro, Wambiya & Aloka, 2014:1465) and Nigeria (Abiyo & Eze, 2015:26; Abiola, 2014:231), have highlighted that many of the settings in which children and youth participants are dependent on the choices of their parents. Thus, parents’ decisions, choices of where to live, what to provide materially and relationally in the home, and how to structure out-of-school time for children, impacts children’s development in ways that are meaningful for later success in the world of work (Abiola, 2014:231). Beggs, Bsutham, and Taylor (2008:391) refer to “helicopter parents” who tend to intervene in their children’s college life from choosing a university to helping them choose individual courses. In this case, parents are seen as inseparable from their children’s career choices.
SCHOOL INFLUENCE AND CAREER CHOICE
Career guidance is offered at institutions of learning such as schools, colleges, and universities among others. High schools are a transition to higher institutions of learning and the world of work so they have a critical role in assisting students to choose careers (Baloch & Shah, 2014:547). If students have too many choices of careers or have not made a decision on which career to take, school career guidance helps select their study paths and in identifying their potential strengths to enhance their competitiveness for positions (Dodge & Welderndael, 2014; Sun & Yuen, 2012:204).
Krumboltz’s theory of Social Learning Theory of career development, emphasizes teaching people career development techniques so that they can give career guidance in schools. Similarly, Lapan, Tucker, Kim, and Fosciulek (2003:329) stated that the transition from high school to university or the world of work has been understood as one of the most difficult developmental challenges confronting adolescents and that schools play a pivotal role in guiding the students towards a career. The current study sought to find out whether career guidance offered in schools influences students’ career choices.
Edwards and Quinter (2011:85) emphasized the influence of Kenyan schools
in students’ choices of careers when they argue that it is in schools where
students learn about and explore various careers before they make career
choices. Korrie and Wafula’s (2012:87) study highlighted the influence of the
school on choosing a career.
STEPS TO FOLLOW WHEN CHOOSING A CAREER
Step 1: Self-Evaluation
Before you can choose the right career, you must learn about yourself. Your values, interests, soft skills, and aptitudes, in combination with your personality type, make some occupations a good fit for you and others completely inappropriate. Use self-assessment tools, and career tests to gather information about your traits and, subsequently, generate a list of occupations that are a good fit based on them. Some people choose to work with a career counselor or other career development professionals who can help them navigate this process.
Step 2: Make a List of Occupations to Explore
You probably have multiple lists of occupations in front of you at this point—one generated by each of the self-assessment tools you used. To keep yourself organized, you should combine them into one master list. First, look for careers that appear on multiple lists and copy them onto a blank page. Title it “Occupations to Explore.” Your self-assessments indicated they are a good fit for you based on several of your traits, so they’re worth exploring.
Next, find any occupations on your lists that appeal to you. They may be careers you know a bit about and want to explore further. Also, include professions about which you don’t know much. You might learn something unexpected.
Step 3: Explore the Occupations on Your List
Find job descriptions and educational, training, and licensing requirements in published sources. Learn about advancement opportunities. Use government-produced labor market information to get data about earnings and job outlook.
Step 4: Create a “Short List”
Now you have more information, start to narrow down your list even further. Based on what you learned from your research so far, begin eliminating the careers you don’t want to pursue any further. You should end up with two to five occupations on your “shortlist.”
If your reasons for finding a career unacceptable are non-negotiable, cross it off your list. Remove everything with duties that don’t appeal to you. Eliminate careers that have weak job outlooks. Get rid of any occupation if you are unable or unwilling to fulfill the educational or other requirements, or if you lack some of the soft skills necessary to succeed in it.
Step 5: Conduct Informational Interviews
When you have only a few occupations left on your list, start doing more in-depth research. Arrange to meet with people who work in the occupations in which you are interested. They can provide firsthand knowledge about the careers on your shortlist. Access your network, including LinkedIn, to find people with whom to have these informational interviews.
Carl Tapi is an Organisational Development Consultant at
Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources
consulting firm. visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com