Dear Joanna,
I have graduated from Grade 11, and am starting my final year of high school soon. I have no idea what I want to do for work when I grow up. How do I find the right career path while I am in school so I can start focusing my education and experiences to achieve a good career fit?

Signed: No Clue What To Do (NCWTD)


You are not alone with this dilemma. I am impressed that you are starting to think about the best career direction for you in high school. As career specialist, Dr. Lawrence Jones suggests, a good career fit could make a difference in “the grades you get, how much you like school, the college major or program of study you chose later on, whether you can find a job, and how satisfied and successful you are in a career.”

Here are some great points to consider that could help you decide, with some ideas from Melanie Pinola at Lifehacker.

What excites and energizes you?

Reflect on your school experiences, especially the courses you have taken and extra-curricular programs. What subjects do you like? Which ones don’t you like? Which ones do you have good grades, and which ones don’t? If you are volunteering and working, which part of the experiences do you like and don’t like? Is there something you enjoy doing so much that you would do it for free?

What are you good at?

Focus on your current skills, strengths, and personality. You can also explore skills that you don’t have but would like to learn. For example, if you are impressed with the leaders at your school (student council, yearbook committee, swim team), talk to the students to find out what they enjoy about it, what they are learning, how to learn these skills. Consider joining in.

Take a test and consult a professional.

JVS Toronto employs highly skilled career professionals who provide a range of expert career exploration services and assessments. Clients of our Employment Ontario Employment Source Centres have access to Career Cruising, a free online career assessment, which is also available to many school children in Canada, as well as through public library systems, such as The Toronto Public Library. Ask your school career/guidance counsellor if there is any testing available through the school or community center, and if not, find out if you can organize this for your school (a chance to develop leadership skills!).

Try an Internship or volunteering.

This is the best way to test out an industry or career type. Ask your guidance counsellor if the school has internships available. This real-work experience is also good for your resume, skills building, networking and career exploration.

Ask other people about their work.

Conduct information interviews. The best way to discover a new career is to ask other people about theirs. Your LinkedIn network (or other social media sites, but especially LinkedIn) is a good place to start, and your local library’s reference librarian can point you to career resources. Find professionals who are working in your field of interest. Ask people you know who seem happy in their careers for a meeting to get information about their field. You might also check to see if any companies or people in that line of work would let you shadow them for a few days to see what it’s really like. Perhaps you can find a mentor too, which is another great way to explore a good career match.

Explore unconventional careers.

If you feel uninspired by the typical choices, there are thousands of unusual jobs you might not have heard about, hidden, perhaps, in the American Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Handbook, or Mashable’s list of six dream jobs. Don’t be limited by the occupations around you — think outside of the obvious. This is your time to explore new options.

Make a Career Plan.

As with most things, your career will benefit if you have goals and a plan. Maybe you think you want to be a Writer, but the next step after that is Editing (or not). Or maybe you want to transition from being an Editor to a Restaurant Owner. (How are you going to get there?) Map out where you want to go, with concrete milestones, as if it were a four-phase project.

Be flexible.

Be open and ready to learn as much as possible. It is not a linear path; it’s a process. It takes time, and one opportunity can lead you to another opportunity (for example, another important person to meet in your dream job).

Good luck with your plans. It’s an exciting time!


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