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How to choose a career when you have no idea what you want to do


How to choose a career when you have no idea what you want to do

Some young people know from an early age what they want to be when they grow up. The vast majority, however, have no such certainty, and when the time comes for them to decide what they want to study, making a choice is a process riddled with uncertainty and anxiety.

Ncumisa Makrayi

However, by following a few guidelines, the process can be made much simpler and less intimidating, an expert says.

“The decision about further studies is one that comes up during the last years of school, when it is time to make subject choices in Grade Nine, and again during Matric, when you need to finalise your plans for what to do after school,” says Ncumisa Makrayi, Senior Team Leader at Oxbridge Academy, which serves more than 20 000 South African distance learning students every year.

“Choosing a career can be scary, and many people take a long time figuring out what it is they want to do with their lives. But it is important to remember that it is normal not to be a hundred percent sure which direction to pursue – even if your friends are,” she says.

Makrayi says the most important thing you can do before deciding is to do a lot of research about the various fields and careers that interest you, and then also to speak to education professionals about your options.

“The best place to start is to make two lists. The first list is about things that interest you, things that you enjoy doing, and the school subjects in which you perform well. The second list contains things that you don’t find stimulating or interesting,” she says.

Next up, learners should start researching careers related to their fields of interest – both independently and with the assistance of a student counsellor at the potential institutions they may want to go to.

“By doing your own research, you will get a better understanding of which careers might be a good fit for you and you’ll narrow down your list of options easily. Once you have given this some thought, reach out to educational advisors who will be able to guide you in the right direction. Also reach out to people working in the careers or industries that interest you, as they’ll be able to give you the most hands-on advice and information when it comes to what it’s really like to work in those roles,” says Makrayi.

For additional insights and clarity, it can also be helpful – and fun – to do a personality quiz, which matches your personality and interests to potential careers. *

A personality quiz will help you identify whether you are a Doer, Thinker, Creator, Helper, Persuader, or Organiser, says Makrayi.

“Doers are active, action-oriented, and able to take charge in situations. They are often confident and independent, yet sometimes quite reserved,” she says.

Doer-careers require practical thinking, involve the use of your hands, and have concrete results or outcomes.

Thinkers like to contemplate the world at a distance. They think before they act. They are also very curious and often come up with interesting new ways to solve problems.

“If you are a ‘Thinker’, then you will flourish in work environments that give you opportunities to learn, require independent work, are stimulating, and don’t require repetitive work,” notes Makrayi.

She says Creators are spontaneous, love the unexpected, and hate monotony.

“They can often solve problems in unique ways by looking at things from a different perspective, and they are also very sensitive, independent, and enthusiastic. They flourish in jobs where they are allowed to do things their own way, without having to follow set patterns.”

Helpers are social, friendly, and good with communication, says Makrayi.

“They are intuitive, sensitive to work environments, and great at dealing with emotions. They are also natural leaders and are usually very responsible. Helpers flourish in work environments where they can work with people, manage others, and take charge,” she says.

Persuaders are assertive, social, ambitious, and enthusiastic, and they like taking risks.

“They are enterprising and entrepreneurial and make good managers.”

Organisers pay close attention to detail, and are task-oriented, responsible, and good with numbers. They use their minds to get things done, says Makrayi.

“Organisers enjoy work that entails data collection and sorting, writing, using computers, or working with maths, numbers, data points, and patterns.”

In the end, it is important to also remember that a choice of career made in your late teens doesn’t mean that you need to stay in that field for the rest of your life, says Makrayi.

“Many people change careers during their lifetime – either within a certain field by upskilling, or by studying a completely different field while they remain in their current employment. So taking the pressure off yourself by committing to an approach of lifelong learning means you’ll be able to make the best decision for you, for now.”

* To access a fun and interactive personality quiz, go to:

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