It’s never too early to start planning for your future, in fact, the sooner you start, the better chance you have of setting yourself apart from the crowd and securing the future you want. You may already have some idea of what your dream career is, but before you can start taking actions towards achieving it, there are several things you need to figure out. It may not seem like there is much you can do in high school to get you started but you can certainly start laying out the foundations upon which you can build your ideal future.
Close the gap
Once you’ve identified what qualifications you need, and what skills and knowledge you need to acquire, it’s time to start turning these weaknesses into strengths. Take on leadership roles at school, get certified, look into school-based traineeships, find tertiary degrees you’re interested in and apply to them or volunteer. Network along the way and make sure to maintain professional relationships – they’ll come in handy one day. Be realistic about what you can achieve. If your goal is to go into law enforcement but academics is not your strong suit, look at alternative pathways. It’s entirely possible to become a lawyer by first starting out as a police officer, building your way up and then making a transition. It’s not a race – it’s much more important that you end up in a fulfilling career.
If you’re in year 10, start researching employers for work experience early to give yourself a better chance of getting something relevant to your career choice. Work experience at certain institutions, such as hospitals and media organisations, are extremely competitive, so start asking as soon as possible. If you’re a senior, research any cadetships that may be available to you and find out how to give yourself the best chance of getting a place. These measures will show future employers that you’re motivated and driven and that you have everything they are looking for in an employee.
While you prepare for your future, the important thing to keep in mind is that your pathway will be different to your peers and that sometimes it won’t be as clear-cut or direct as you would like it to be. Don’t let that discourage you; your hard work will eventually pay off.
Figure out your why
While some of your fellow classmates will have a dream job picked out from the get-go, you might find yourself still trying to work out what you want to do with your life. Even if you already have a job in mind, it’s important to evaluate what your purpose in life is, what you value, and what sort of experience will give you fulfilment. It can be as simple as wanting to help others, protecting the environment or building a safer world, but the important thing to keep in mind is that your career should build on your passion. If your dream job doesn’t align with your purpose, you may want to reconsider. A job isn’t the same as having a career; as long as you’re living your purpose, you’ll be living your dream.
Identify your motivations
This may sound like it goes hand-in-hand with figuring out your purpose, but once you give it serious thought, you’ll realise what a useful exercise it really is. Being conscious of what motivates and, conversely, what demotivates you, will help you narrow down your career options. Perhaps you want to make the world a better place, but you realise politics is not interesting to you – it might mean the difference between going into policy and joining an NGO or building your own social enterprise. Be honest about what drives you, then start brainstorming what career options fit in with your purpose and motivations. Don’t be afraid to abandon your initial idea – career changes are quite common as it can take awhile for people to find the right fit for them. Taking these two steps will help you make the right choice sooner.
List your strengths and weaknesses
This is the stage at which you start taking concrete actions towards your career. It’s important to take the first two steps before you do this, so you don’t waste time with making unsuitable career choices. Figure out what characteristics, skills and knowledge bases you already possess that will help you go after your dream career, then make a list of what other factors you need, but lack, in order to get there. Such a list might include getting a degree, gaining field experience, acquiring technical skills like programming, or building leadership experience and a network.