For the last three years, students everywhere have watched with dismay as their future job prospects have crumbled under the force of the economic recession. Once-stable industries such as banking and real estate have lost thousands of jobs and relatively secure ones like technology, law, and energy have tightened budgets to stay solvent. So how does a student, or anyone else thinking about a career change, make a job decision in this type of environment?
It turns out you need to analyze your work skills and learning style, define your true interests, and reassess your economic expectations. Here's a list to follow:
You need to know your true interests before you make a career decision. Career experts believe matching your interests to actual job tasks is most fulfilling long-term. But knowing your interests is harder than it seems. Many have a ready-set list of things they do or don't like without fully examining why they feel this way in the first place. For example, many confuse their enjoyment of shopping with the ability to become a clothing designer. It's possible a shopper can learn how to become a designer, but the part of shopping that engages her might be the research involved and not the clothes. She might have terrible aesthetic sense but an astute business capacity. Essentially, people need to make an honest personal assessment to know what they want.
In order to know your career competency, you also need to assess the level of your current skills. Meeting with a career counselor, taking aptitude tests, or seeking advice from an industry expert will help you find out. You can then figure out how to improve your skills through education.
Before you pick a school, you need to determine the type of learning style that best suits you. Education experts have found that the three most common ways of learning are auditory, experiential, and visual. Knowing which way you learn will help you learn new concepts most effectively and maximize your time in school. It will also help you determine your job suitability. A visual learner is more likely to find architecture or design work more fulfilling and fun.
Assess Your Economic Priorities
Next, assess your economic priorities. Figure out the difference between how much money you would like to make and how much you need to make in relation to your location, family situation, career earning potential, and investments and debts. These figures often won't match so you'll have to make a tough decision: Move forward with the job type that matches your exact interests or figure out how you can use your skills in a higher-paying occupation.
A teaching career, for example, can be fulfilling and pay you a good median salary from the start. But big income growth over time isn't likely. You might have to move to a state with high wages specific to your career or go where an industry is growing. For example, new IT professionals that don't move to tech hubs like San Francisco or New York are looking to affordable cities on the upswing, like Oklahoma City.
In order to make an accurate estimate of your financial needs, you need to plan ahead of time. Start by determining school payments, starting salary, food, housing, and recreational expenses. Then round out your economic knowledge of retirement plans, insurance (health, home, and car), and other living expenses.
Plan Your Career
Choosing a school is an obviously integral part of finding your career. Certain degrees offered by schools can boost your graduate school or entry level job candidacy based on their institutional reputation, the level of curriculum difficulty, or their direct application to future jobs. The presence of quality instructors or high-end research facilities should also be considered. It's up to you to decide how closely the features of a school match your career interests.
You should also find out specific education or certification requirements of potential careers. This will help you find something else that's important: how much your degree is really worth in the job marketplace. It's true that some degrees are more valuable than others. For example, an expensive private school degree might not be as good a value as one from a local college if employers evaluate your job application based on real-world experience merit.
Once you choose a school, realize you need to get as much experience in real working situations as you can. This means internships. Spend your breaks from school networking with industry insiders and learn first-hand about job expectations. Future bankers should work at banks and pre-med students at hospitals. You'll likely be happy at your future job if you like the workplace.
Finding a job you enjoy and fits your needs is possible if you follow the steps above but no matter what you choose, the effort it will take to be successful is substantial. The good thing about this is that any effort exerted doing a job you like won't ever feel like a burden. If you see personal value in it, you're bound to find the subtle breakthroughs that govern successful endeavors, whether it's creating art or finding a successful application to a business problem.