What all students must remember is that school is only a way of transition into the working world. A career is what will define a person’s life for many years, and the critical decisions about one’s future are often made very early in one’s life. Here are five steps that will help you prepare for life outside the classroom.
Step 1: Know What You Want
Knowing what you want is the first step in career planning, and it can be the most difficult one. When you are in school, you have the opportunity to decide to become skilled at something new, but what you pick must be something that you know you actually want to do in life. The best way to make this decision is to experiment with different fields, think outside the box, join different clubs and research different careers. You should also consider your existing skills, knowledge and talents. However, keep in mind that the purpose of school is to learn—and if you do not know much about a particular skill, there is always opportunity to learn.
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Step 2: Visualize
Think about the future. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What about 20 years? Imagine how you’d like to live your life, and what you can see yourself doing. To understand what will make you content in the future, you must know yourself first. Do you prefer stability, or challenges? What keeps you motivated? Do you see yourself living internationally, or in your same city? Do you need a lot of money, or would you prefer less money but more meaningful experiences?
By asking these questions, you will begin to hone in on the types of jobs that are best suited for who you are, and these can be translated into specific types of college majors.
Step 3: Consider Financial Benefit
A student needs to make serious consideration about how to monetize their desired career. Money may not be the most important thing to consider when choosing a career, but a career must be financially viable, or else you may find yourself in an entirely different and perhaps unwanted job, simply to pay your bills.
While studies in straightforward professions in fields like law or medicine almost guarantee financially satisfying jobs, a less structured major—something like music—means the student must consider a solid strategy of developing their career and finding satisfying employment. This may include focusing on becoming a teacher, or entering the business side of the industry.
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Step 4: Prepare for the Real World
There’s a lot to learn in school, but keep in mind there are a lot of differences between the professional and academic world. Begin to take up professional practices on your own initiative, which may include everything from self-promotion, creating business cards, a LinkedIn profile, to doing things completely removed from your studies in an effort to become more noticed in your desired field—such as attending trade shows and networking with people in your profession.
Step 5: Seek Internships, Apprenticeships
Internships and apprenticeships can be your best opportunities to transition from academia into the working world. To prove reliable in a professional context and to make critical real-world connections is the surest way of building a successful career.
A student must keep one foot planted in their studies, and one foot planted in ‘real life’. The biggest mistake a student can make is to improperly plan their future. Don’t let this happen to you, instead pursue your dreams with confidence–and know what you really want before you make a critical decision.
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Dunya Carter is a marketing specialist from Brisbane, Australia who writes articles on business, marketing, job search strategies and career development for several websites and blogs. She is currently working for Ochre Medical Recruitment as a consultant.