Graphic by Meena Morar.

Finding Your Career

What’s Shaping Your Career Path?

Knowing what you want to pursue as a career can make a large impact on the choices you make, whether it’s choosing a major in college or even what college you choose in the first place. When making such an important decision, there are ways of looking at the decision that can make it easier. 

A good first question to ask yourself is, “what work am I passionate about doing?” If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about doing, one of the best things you can do is get work experience. Doing some local volunteering or pursuing an internship is a good way to not only figure out what you like doing, but just as importantly, figure out what you don’t like doing. It’s also a good idea to seek out work experience at a part-time job, even if you think you already know where your passions lie. This is because you might end up liking something more or you might find that what you’re passionate about doing as a hobby isn’t what you’re passionate about doing as a full-time job. Also using resources like the school counselors or using a college career center can help as well. A good thing to remember is that it’s okay to experiment after high school as well. School guidance counselor Christine Paton said “I think students want to know right now, what am I supposed to do for the rest of my life but who really knows that when you’re 17 or 18 years old.”

At the same time as you’re thinking about what you want to do, it’s also important to think about what job is a good fit for you monetarily. It is important to ask yourself what lifestyle you want to support and the income it will take to get there.  A good source you can use to compare many occupations by characteristics like median wage, job growth, and needed education level are state and federal labor statistics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has an Occupational Projections database which is good if you want a rough look at jobs characteristics but it’s better to look at the local labor statistics of where you want to work. For example, the median income for a registered nurse is about $8,000 a year higher in Minnesota than the national average ($71,730).

Using Minnesota as an example, the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development has put together a whole host of different and easy to use data tools for people who want to work in Minnesota. Two data tools they have, Graduate Employment Outcomes and Occupations in Demand, could be especially useful to high school students. Looking at these tools can be very helpful in trying to figure out what you want to do and what income you expect from certain careers. 

Everybody’s path to finding a career is different. It can be challenging and stressful but asking yourself what you want to do and using your resources can help you make the first step. School guidance counselor Christine Paton said “what is it that makes you tick, and then to get the paycheck will just be a bonus.” Finding a career is not a science but there are useful tools, information and opportunities to make the decision-making process easier.

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