Almost nothing in life is more discouraging and frustrating than spending thousands of dollars and years of your life going to school only to discover a year into your first job that you hate the career you’ve spent so much to get into.
Almost as bad is getting to college and changing your major seven times (the average number of major changes college students go through before graduation). Most of us didn’t plan to go to college on the six-year plan.
But how do we avoid the pain of career plan failure?
A great start is to actually develop a career plan. And having an answer to the question “what do you want to do when you graduate from high school” isn’t really the same thing as a career plan. A complete and comprehensive career plan involves equal parts researching and soul-searching. It’s important to find out as much information as you can about the career(s) you’re considering, but it’s equally important to ask yourself some serious questions about who you are, what you like, and what you want out of life. It’s a great idea to spend some time planning out a budget and imagining what your life would look like on the median salary of your desired career, too, while you’re at it.
But that’s still just the beginning of your career research. We recommend that all students (high school and college) seek out a mentor in their chosen career field, and communicate with them on a regular basis. Ask questions about what they like, what they don’t like, what a day in their work-life looks like. What they wish they had done differently. How much their education cost them and how long it took to finish. You could probably think of a dozen more.
Once you’ve found someone you like and trust in your chosen field, it’s time to really put yourself out there and ask if you can join them for a day and job shadow. If your school will allow it, we suggest job shadowing for more than one day. See what the work environment is like. See what the people are like. Observe a totally normal day at work. Does it interest you? Do you think you would enjoy it? If not, all it’s cost you is a day of your life, not months or years, and not thousands of dollars. You can always start over and check out another career and job shadow another professional. You’ll find something you love if you look long enough. And the sooner you start, the better. Imagine the long-term benefits of finishing you career training or college degree on time and already having contacts in your industry when you graduate. It’s worth the time and energy. We promise.