20 April 2022: Choosing the right career is important for learners who seek to fulfil their aspirations and make a unique contribution to their communities and the country when they enter the world of work. Given South Africa’s current unemployment rate of 35.3 percent, it is critical to consider how you plan your future career and goals. Choosing the right career is often seen as a decision that could lead you to financial security, but it also prepares the way for a work-life that enriches your overall wellness.
“Technological advancements have made it important to choose a career that is future-proof in the sense that it won’t become obsolete due to automation,” says Zanele Twala, CEO of the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation. “But while you need to be pragmatic and choose a career that the world actually needs, it is equally important to consider what your natural interests, passion, talents and skills are to decide on a career that’s right for you.”
Established in 2016, the Tutuwa Foundation helps young people access high-quality education from their earliest years through to post-schooling, ensuring that learners develop into qualified, skilled professionals.
Twala says that learners can follow a few key steps to make choosing a career path easier and ensure their decisions are based on sound principles.
The first step in choosing a fitting career is completing a self-assessment. This is where you reflect on your interests, personality, skills, and values. The assessment will not tell you which career to follow but will give you a place to start your research. Consider the following factors when you start this introspective exercise:
Interests: Reflecting on your interests is an important part of the self-assessment process since you are more likely to be successful and happy in a career that stimulates you. When reflecting on what your true interests are, you could ask yourself what activities you enjoy, what issues are important to you, what classes you have liked at school and when you have felt like you are in your true element. You could also think about why you admire certain accomplished people and follow their careers and causes on social media.
Personality: When reflecting on your personality, think about aspects such as whether you like to interact with other people or prefer to work on your own, and whether you are a big-picture person or someone who loves to focus on the details. You also know yourself well enough by now to determine if you are an inventive and imaginative person or a more practical individual.
Skills: Identify the personal skills you have demonstrated in your school and other activities: are you a natural leader, emphatic listener, popular entertainer, or are you a budding entrepreneur who sold homemade ice cream during breaks? Many skills can be used across industries and roles, so consider how your skills could suit various career options.
Values: It is important to choose a career that lines up with your values as this will lead to career satisfaction. Some people want to make a difference in the world, while it’s important for others to earn a high income or express their creativity. Consider how important values like freedom, independence, adventure, camaraderie, diversity, fun, routine work, intellectually challenging work, structure, building things, security and risk-taking are to you.
Identify and research options
Once you have completed your self-assessment, you can start exploring the full range of career options that are potentially available to you. Consult publications, websites, career expos and other resources to learn more about the numerous jobs you don’t know anything about and the new jobs that are being created in evolving industries.
If you are not pursuing a tertiary education but looking for a job at this stage, it is always a good idea to research employers and trends in the areas you are interested in and draft a list of target employers to prepare for networking and job hunting.
Narrow it down
The next step is to evaluate each career area that you are exploring. List the pros and cons and consider how it lines up with your personality, interests, and values. Also, think about your first reaction after you learnt more about a career field or a specific job and whether this was positive or negative. Lean toward career choices that you are passionate about. Have you ever heard the saying “ choose a career or job that you like and you will never work for the rest of your life” It means when you do what you like and are passionate about it will never feel like work because you are enjoying what you are doing so much.
If you are searching for a job, it’s best to determine what skills and knowledge you will need to enter the field and whether you are interested enough to develop these. In the current economic environment, it is also advisable to consider in which areas you might have a competitive advantage based on previous work experience or proven skills.
Get work experience
Finally, try out the career options and fields you believe may be a fit for you. You can do this by signing up for holiday work, part-time jobs, volunteering, or internships. Keep a journal during this time and note what you enjoy or not, excel in or find challenging. Also, dissect if it was the work itself or the people that made it a good experience. This is a good way to learn more about the type of work and environment you find satisfying and get closer to making a career decision that suits you.
Finally, Twala says that the Tutuwa Foundation would like to see young people make career decisions that lead them to become skilled workers or qualified professionals set to transform the country. “Choosing the right career will connect them with their passions and enable them to make a positive impact in their communities, thus it is imperative that our young people are supported in these phases and stages to ensure they reach their full potential.”