#5 – Making Wise Career Choices

  • Career choices (unsplash)

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius)

Each of us has a story that has defined our lives and made us who we are. In this blog post, my focus will be on starting to get more specific about choosing a career, whether you are a young person making these choices for the first time, or someone a little older rethinking who you are and where you would like to go.

I would like to start with a story of a young man called Nkululeko. I first met Nkululeko several years ago when he arrived for interviews we were running for applicants to a hospitality training school. Nkululeko impressed us as a panel as, although his background was difficult and although he came from rural Swaziland, he had a burning hunger to grow. We accepted him into the class and spent six months working with him and watching him grow. His enthusiasm for life was infectious, his ability to connect with guests was brilliant and his willingness to teach and grow were impressive. He graduated from the course at the top of his class and was quickly offered a job at a local hospitality establishment. There he connected with a guest and was invited to attend a butler training school in Cape Town. Again, the right attitude and his passion to grow propelled him to the top of his class. As he finished this course, he secured a job at a seven-star hotel in Dubai. His journey took him from rural Swaziland into the luxury of one of the most expensive hotels in the world. He has now been there for 30 days and seems to be enjoying the journey immensely. I am sure that he will continue to grow and prosper.

Nkululeko’s story is important as it illustrates several elements of a journey towards career choice: he was hungry to grow, he has been prepared to work hard to attain his dreams, he has fought to overcome the obstacles that have come his way and most importantly it is clear that he has found his groove, the pathway meant for him. These are all elements that we need on this career choice journey – the right attitude, a willingness to grow and work hard, perseverance through challenges and a sure knowledge that we are on the right journey. The focus of my next several blogs will be upon finding the right path.

In the past, this path seemed to be a lot easier – you were either born into a particular path (for example, if your parents were farmers, you probably grew into a farmer); you had a particular path because of your gender, your race or your social class; or you could pick from a relatively small group of potential careers – doctor, nurse, teacher, pastor, lawyer, accountant, salesperson, etc. These days, the number of career options can be overwhelming. The South African Department of Higher Education and Training has created an index of possible occupations in southern Africa called the Organising Framework for Occupations (OFO). This document highlights thousands of possible careers.

How do you then start to narrow down your options?

If you think of a soccer game, the key elements of the playing field are the field (a certain size with lines and boundaries) and two sets of goal posts. You then have the players and the referee who play the game according to certain clearly defined rules, and you have coaching staff who ensure that the team are ready to give their best when the game starts. Then you have the ball, which is kicked across the field and hopefully into the goal to win the game.

A career choice has some of these elements. The playing field is the economic and social environment of the world in which we live. This environment defines which careers have potential for the future and which careers are less relevant today, both in terms of need but also in terms of financial sustainability (I will explore this in a future post). The two goals in my analogy are your personality – I have explored this in a previous post – and your interests – see next week’s post. The coaches are those people who can help you define how best to play and how to score goals when you are on the field. These coaches may be parents or other family members, teachers, mentors, pastors or career guidance professionals. The players are all of the people who are playing the game and competing for the ball. The ball is your dream.

In order to help you narrow down your career choice, you need to understand your personality (see here) to give you an idea of which careers fit your personality. You then need to define your interests, your strengths and your passions. Combining the results of these elements will give you a good understanding of what kind of career you should explore. You then need to check that your choice will work on the playing field of 21st century life. My next blog will explore your interests by providing you with an easy assessment to help you narrow down your choices. I look forward to seeing where this journey leads us.

Resources to explore:

There are a number of great resources which provide information on possible careers and will help you in this journey:

I would encourage you to start exploring these resources.

Next week: Identifying your interests




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