One of the most frequently viewed blog posts on Maximize College is titled Can My Student Realistically Choose a Career in High School? I believe this post is so popular because it addresses the number one question I hear parents and students ask when they want to learn more about career coaching.
The parent version of the question goes like this: “How in the world is a teenager supposed to know what they want to do for the rest of their life?”
And this is the student version: “What should I do with my life?”
Have you every asked this question? If so, I have really good news. You don’t have to answer it. That’s right, I’ve got a better question for you to answer. But before I share it, let me explain why you need a new question anyway.
Take a look at today’s workplace and tell me what do you see? You’ll see that:
- Working Americans hold an average of 12 jobs during their lifetimes.
- The average Millennial will have held 4 jobs by the time he or she reaches the age of 32.
- Less than a quarter of Millennials have worked for their current employer for more than five years.
A common reason for all these job changes is career change.
It’s difficult to find data that clearly tells us the percent of job changes that are also career changes. However, it’s been reported that most people will change careers at least once during their professional lives. That includes professionals who don’t seek to change careers, but technically pursue new professions by accepting management roles, becoming consultants, or starting a new business in their field. These should be viewed as career changes because the new roles usually require new skills, and sometimes additional academic credentials.
When you take this into consideration, it’s easy to see why the typical question parents and students ask causes so much frustration. This question assumes students need to find a career they can stick with for the next 30-40 years. Some may do this…but many will not.
So, if job and career changes are the norm, what question should students answer as they plan for college and their professional lives? Here’s the question I suggest:
“How do I find the best career fit…again and again?”
When students ask this question, they can stop worrying about finding a career that will make them happy for the next 30-40 years. Instead, they can focus on learning how to find good career fits so that they can do it today…and again in the future when they feel stuck or need a change.
So now that you have a better question, how do you answer it? I’ve identified five steps anyone can take to successfully choose and change their career path. You’ll find a quick explanation of the steps below. If you’d like a two-page guide that outlines these steps and includes activities students can complete to work through Steps 1-3 , click here to download How to Choose the Right Career…Again, and Again, and Again.
- 1 Assess Yourself: Really get to know your unique skills, interests, and values so you can understand the types of jobs where you’ll find the most enjoyment, success, and meaning.
- 2 Explore Career Fits: Research the careers that look like your best fits. Read about them, interview people working in them, and even look for work or internships related to them.
- 3 Commit to a Career: Choose the specific opportunity you want to pursue. Be sure your college major and extra-curricular activities prepare you for this field.
- 4 Leverage Your Career: Once you’re working in the field, milk it for all it’s worth. Gain new skills, knowledge, experiences, and relationships that help you succeed today and open doors for future opportunities.
- 5 Hit a Career Crossroad: Be on the lookout for signs that it’s time for a change. Sometimes a crossroad happens to you…maybe you’re laid off or need to move for a spouse’s job. Other times, you’ll just get a sense that it’s time for a new job or direction. When this happens, repeat this process