Finding Your Career Fit

By Brian Dorrington on September 15, 2013
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So here you are well into high school and you have no idea what the heck you want to do for the rest of your life. Major problems, right? Don’t panic yet.

“There is a negative stigma of not having your plans mapped out,” said Carmen Croonquist, internship developer at UW-River Falls. “For students, there is not enough information to make those decisions. It is kind of like knowing who you should get married to when you are still in high school.”

But Croonquist will also be the first to tell you that you can’t let your future career come to you.

“You have to keep your options open, but at the same point, you have to take risks to learn more about yourself,” she said. “There is so much pressure to have it all figured out, and there is a certain paralysis that comes with that for students as they are afraid of making the wrong decision.

“But really, there is a lot more fluidity in the workplace today. People are not staying with the same jobs forever like they were 20 years ago.”

Trying to figure out your career can be stressful. Especially when you try to balance it with finishing homework, planning for college or worrying about the upcoming ACT test.

By researching your interests, talking to professionals in the field and job shadowing, you can at least narrow your search down and you may be surprised how much you can figure out about yourself.

Losing track of the time

If you really don’t have any idea of what you want to do, some simple questions can start your exploration process.

“A big part of it is assessing your own motivation,” Croonquist said. “Get a sense of what motivates you and what doesn’t. Where do you totally lose track of time and what kind of things do you just dread to do?

“For me, I dreaded math. What fascinates you? How do you learn? What are you curious about? Don’t ask yourself what you want to do when you grow up. Here is the question: What do you think would be fun to do next?”

Talking to professionals

Reading books, taking inventory tests and searching the Internet all are good places to begin, but they are only starting points.

“If you are passively sitting and reading a book, it just doesn’t do it,” said Michael Henle, president of Henle Management, a leadership and career management consulting firm.

“It is very ineffective. You have to get out there and meet people. You just don’t take an exam or read a book and decide on a career.”

While meeting with professionals can be intimidating, it can be much less so if you talk with a parent’s friend or with members in the community.

“The first meeting or two you can ask open-ended questions just to get the person talking, like ‘Tell me more about your field,’” Henle said. “The first time you don’t have to have a lot of questions, you just have to get the other person talking.”

Taking the next step

While talking to professionals is much better than reading and researching, job shadowing is taking things a step further.

Brittney Lane dreams of opening her own company, but knows that it’s not as easy as it sounds. That’s why she decided it was time to gain experience and make some contacts in the business world.

Lane spent a day job shadowing at Nationwide Insurance to learn the ins and outs of running a company.

“I wanted to gain experience in the work world,” she said. “I wanted to be inside a company to be a part of the environment and see what it’s like.”

During the day, she got a chance to visit each department in the company, and learned how to complete financial reports and type up statements.

“Having personal encounters with employees made it everything I had expected,” she said. “I learned that no matter how big a company may be, everyone is still on the same team.”

Researching careers, talking to professionals and job shadowing may not get you to your future career immediately, but it will get you started in connecting your future career with your passions and interests.

“It is the interest and your passion that keeps you going for the long-run,” Henle said. “If you are interested in something, you will do what it takes to build your skills, knowledge and training, and you’ll be just fine.”

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Brian Dorrington

Brian Dorrington

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