Let’s talk about high school. I love teaching high school because that is where I feel the action is. So much hinges on the decisions made during high school. In a way I think it is unfair, because most kids have no clue what they want to do, but they are expected to make this decision. Most college students are also unsure, so if you aren’t sure you are not a freak. In a perfect world you would know your career and your desired major. Then you would take the best high school courses to make the transition to that field of study more easily. You would then choose a college and a major in line with that exact career.
The problem is a concept of vision. Look at the picture below taken from inside a forest:
Now look at the same forest from a different vantage point:
You can see that the higher vantage point allows you to see how large the forest actually is. If I were lost I’d rather have a view that allows me to see more. Career identification is a lot like this. As you begin to interface with the working world, you will begin to see the immense career choices available to you. There are thousands of jobs you can do. If you take apart any organization you will see this. Did you know that McDonald’s employs statisticians? In the same way, IBM employs day care workers. How do you get a clearer vision of what you want to be?
One thing is to just start paying attention to what you see around you. You have access to quite a few adults who do many different things. Ask them about their jobs, what they do, what they like and dislike about it, the conditions, the outlook, and the best way to get qualified to do such a job. As you meet adults soak up as much as possible and you will get a clearer vision of what may be your dream job. You are forcing yourself into a better vantage point that doesn’t appear fast enough if left to itself. It takes effort to get a handle on what is a good career fit for you.
Volunteering at multiple organizations can help. One student of mine volunteered with a local hospital twice a week. He got a real look behind the scenes and found out that he didn’t want to be a doctor but rather a nurse. In addition, by working in many different wards of the hospital he discovered the exact sub-field that he wanted to pursue. When he went on to college, he sought a college with that exact major. He is going to end up where he wants.
Your high school classes are a good indicator of career possibilities. As you take your classes ask yourself if you enjoy the material and if you are good at it. Competence and enjoyment are two powerful indicators of where we should be going. They are mutually reinforcing. When you are not competent in your job, people complain at you all day long, there is less pride in your work, and you will not be promoted. This will lead you to be unhappy with your job no matter how much you initially enjoyed the job. We need to have the basic skills required in order to pursue a college major. A person weak in math should not pursue a math degree, nor should they pursue a career that demands a lot of math.