Part 1: Exploring a Happy and Fulfilling Career
From the time you were young, you may have been asked these questions by parents, teachers or even your friends:
- What do you want to do when you grow up?
- Do you have a dream career?
- How are you going to achieve your dream career?
- Will you continue your studies or start working after secondary school?
- What do you want to study? Do you know which careers are suitable for you?
Some of you might already have the answers to these questions but don´t be alarmed if you don´t. Many students would not have given it much thought but now that you´re in upper secondary school, it is time to revisit that all-important question and plan your career.
What Is Your Dream Career?
By now, many of you may already have, or somewhat have an idea of your dream career. Some of you may have decided to opt for conventional careers such as an engineer, an accountant, a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher. Others might like to pursue less conventional ones such as being a pilot, a musician, a stuntman, a professional athlete, or an entrepreneur.
You may even have second or third dream career choices. However, there may be some of you who may not be sure and may not know how to start on deciding on a career.
Regardless of the position you are in, acquiring information on various careers, the study options available, as well as knowing yourself are paramount in enabling you to make a good decision.
Job Occupations in line with the Government´s Strategic Plan
If you find a particular industry appealing, you may have several career options you could pursue in that industry. For example, if you are interested in the healthcare industry, you could become a surgeon, a general practitioner or a pharmacist. Or you may have decided to make a living in the construction industry and become either a quantity surveyor or an architect. Don´t worry if you haven´t decided on your dream career just yet, it is not too late to start exploring your options now.
A great place to start in exploring the different types of industries would be to take a look at the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) as identified by the government´s Economic Transformation Programme. Careers relating to the industries under the NKEAs are expected to be in popular demand. These economic sectors are also predicted to drive the highest possible income over the next 10 years.
The 12 NKEAs cover 11 industries and one geographical territory:
- Oil, gas and energy
- Palm oil & rubber
- Financial services
- Business services
- Electrical & electronics
- Wholesale and retail
- Communications content and infrastructure
- The Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley
How to Make the Right Career Choice
Choosing a career is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. A career is a pursuit that requires a lot of time and emotional investment on top of the need to provide for yourself, and possibly a family. Making the wrong decision may result in you not being satisfied with your job or not being able to live the lifestyle that you want.
This decision about your future should be a decision you make yourself. However, you should ensure that you have done your homework in finding out all your options and comparing them to your own interests before making a decision.
A number of different factors contribute towards choosing the best career for yourself. These factors can be extrinsic, intrinsic or a combination of both.
Know Yourself Well
When choosing your dream career, it is crucial that you first know yourself well. The best way to begin is through self-exploration which will allow you to uncover more about your personal interests, skills, personality, and values. One or more of these elements may have a great influence in your choice of career. Some people choose to follow their passion, regardless of what others say or how little money it will make them. Others look to the career that pays them the highest salary. Knowing yourself well will enable you to identify career choices that best fit you.
The first step towards your journey of self-exploration is determining your interests. Interests are important considerations when choosing a career. By focusing on your interests, you can determine which career options would provide you the highest satisfaction and sense of enjoyment. If you enjoy your job, you will be more motivated to do your job well. Job satisfaction contributes towards a positive attitude at work, which in turn will affect your chances of gaining success in your career. So start by asking yourself, what do you like most to do? What types of daily activities energise or motivate you the most? There are many psychometric tests available that can help you determine this.
The next thing you have to consider is the skills you possess. What are the things you´re good at? These skills are acquired as a result of your innate abilities and aptitudes which you have developed at school, or through hobbies, and can be either hard or soft skills. Once you have determined your set of skills, you will need to determine which of those skills are transferable.
Transferable skills are not specific to one job, so you can apply them to a variety of different jobs. While you are assessing your skills, you should also consider the time you are willing to spend on acquiring more advanced or new skills. Having the right skill set is the key that opens a whole new realm of career possibilities for you. You may even be surprised at the number of career options that are a good fit with the skills you currently have.
It is equally important that you take your personality into account when choosing your dream career. You will need to assess your individual traits, motivational drive, needs and attitudes to find a career that has the best fit with your personality. For example, a salesperson generally needs to be naturally outgoing, so someone who is shy or fears talking to strangers is likely to struggle in that profession.
You can determine your personality by using the Holland Code test which is incorporated in most self assessment tools or other types of psychometric tests on personality. The Holland Code is a combination of three letters that represent the top three personality types which you could be categorised in. There are six types of personalities which are collectively referred to as RIASEC. They are:
- Realistic: A realistic person prefers concrete tasks and prefers working alone or with other realistic people.
- Investigative: An investigative person likes to use his or her abstract or analytical skills to figure things out. He or she is a 'thinker' who strives to find answers to their numerous inquiries and often prefers to do so independently.
- Artistic: An artistic person likes to create things and have a big imagination. He or she is usually extroverted.
- Social: A social person enjoys interacting with people. He or she tends to be concerned with social problems and wants to help others.
- Enterprising: An enterprising person typically leans toward leadership roles. He or she is willing to take on challenges and are extroverted and may even be aggressive as well.
- Conventional: A conventional person prefers structured tasks and tending to details. He or she is often conservative.
Knowing your Holland Code will help you to identify career options that are most compatible with your personality.
Another important element to consider in your decision when choosing a dream career is your values. Values are linked to your moral principles and beliefs and the scale of your values is based on your attitudes and beliefs about what is important in life. There are two types of values:
- Extrinsic values include external features such as physical setting and earning potential.
- Intrinsic values are related to the work itself and what it contributes to society.
An assessment of your values should include the type of lifestyle you want; your beliefs, religion, or ethical guidelines you follow; the type of organisation or people you want to work for; and the product or service you want to contribute towards. If your values match closely to those of your work or colleagues, you are likely to feel a sense of pride in what you are doing and be happy to devote your time and energy to your career.
Translate your interests, skills, personality and values into ideas about a career or specific industries you prefer to work in. Don´t be too quick to discard an idea even if you don´t think you could make a career out of it at this point. If you love sports but you are short in athletic abilities, think instead about a career as a coach or a manager of a team. Think outside the box. Your dream career should align with your interests, skills, personality and values in order for you to attain maximum satisfaction and enjoyment in what you choose to do.
Influence from Family and Friends
Family and friends may have a big impact on your career choice. Because parents create the initial self-esteem of their child, which in most cases lasts for the rest of their lives, some tend to choose careers that their parents favour in order to gain their approval. On the other hand, some tend to choose familiar careers like that of their parents, due to extended exposure and deeper knowledge about a particular career. Sharing of experiences and knowledge about a particular career, with both family members and a network of friends, will help to shape your attitude and interest in that career.
Financing and Education Cost
Financing higher education increasingly requires a large amount of money, a trend which has the potential to alter schooling and career decisions. High education fees may discourage those from middle- and low-income families from pursuing a particular career path. Nevertheless, access to financial aid such as government scholarships, bank loans and private grants may also influence career choices as it enables more students to explore a wider choice of education opportunities.
Study Opportunities Available and Acquiring the Right Qualification
While financing the cost of education is an important consideration, it is equally important to evaluate the study opportunities available that will enable you to acquire the qualification that you need to pursue your chosen career. Some colleges and universities may only offer a limited number of places for students to enrol in a particular programme. Carry out some research to find out which colleges or universities offer the programme you would like to enrol for. Find out if there are any limits placed for enrolment, or if there are any specific requirements that you need to fulfil in order to enrol for that programme. The location of colleges and universities may also affect your decisions. For example, if the college or university of your choice is far away from home, you will need to consider additional travelling or housing expenses.
You should also consider whether the course you plan to study at a particular institution is recognised by the professional organisations which are related to your career choice. If you are a candidate for financial aid, you need to make sure that the course of your choice is recognised by the financial aid provider.
It is also important to consider the job opportunities available when choosing a career. What is the projected outlook for that field or occupation? Market conditions affect the opportunities available in any particular field. Therefore, you should find out which industries are in high demand as there would be more job opportunities available in those industries. For example, the Malaysian government has identified 12 NKEAs which are expected to be in popular demand and predicted to drive the highest possible income over the next 10 years. Choosing a career in one of these 12 NKEAs would ensure a positive outlook for job seekers.
A job´s work environment plays a large role in influencing decisions to pursue a particular career path. A person who grew up near the ocean or has spent a lot of time in the water is more likely to have an interest in related industries such as marine biology than someone who has lived in the desert most of their life. Likewise, a career that requires a lot of travelling will be more appealing to those without many home attachments compared to a family-oriented person. As such, it is important to consider a job´s work environment to ensure that it aligns with your interests and values.
Career Interest Analysis and Psychometric Test
Now that you know the factors that influence career choice, there are various tools available to help you decide on your dream career. A career interest analysis and psychometric test will help you to know more about yourself and find out what type of career fits you best. You can opt for professional tests which are offered by your school counselor or career guidance consultants, or take an online career interest test. Once you have an idea of a potential dream career, do some research to find out more about the job to make sure that it is something that you would really like to do.
Besides psychometric tests, your parents, guardian or a mentor who spends a lot of time with you would know you best. Do consider their input and advice on the type of careers that could fit you well.
Career planning is essential in providing you with a roadmap to achieve your dream career. Careful planning will help you control the direction of your actions, make the best use of available resources, and measure your progress results.
In a nutshell, you first need to get to know yourself better and evaluate the external factors that are likely to have a significant impact on your choice of career. This can be achieved through self assessments which revolve around the thoughtful consideration, reflection, and evaluation of your interests, skills, personality, and values.
Second, you must explore, collect, and organise all available resources to help you shortlist your top career options from the initial list of careers that you have developed.
Third, you need to understand the study routes that you must take to pursue a particular career choice and determine the academic and professional requirements needed by that career. You can then evaluate whether you have the necessary requirements for that particular career choice and if not, whether you are willing (or have the resources) to fulfil these requirements.
Careful planning is the key to nailing your dream career! The following sections will take you through more detailed steps in career planning.