How to choose a career. What every young person should know, and every parent should read.
Many young people face difficulty with career choice and can be left frustrated, sometimes for years, at seeing others advance while they remain undecided about the future. Do you know what direction to take? Which course to study? What career to choose? A leading independent careers adviser shares their formula for how to make early career decisions.
Making a career choice seems to come naturally for some. For others, choosing a career with any confidence remains out of reach. At Career Studio, we observe how going through a reflective process is key to making good early career decisions. Without this help, some young people can feel overwhelmed, unable to make progress and sometimes have difficulty. In this article, we share the three stages of our nature by defining the stages Attraction, Attachment and Aspiration – to help develop an early career decision you can believe in.
Do you know anyone who loves their job? Maybe they were attracted to it, and became attached to information, opportunities or people in that career. They formed an aspiration to progress into that career, and doors opened. Maybe that’s not happened to you yet? Follow the three stages of Attraction, Attachment and Aspiration to transform your thinking and set yourself on a path to making your early career decision.
Attraction – Which career am I most attracted to?
We are uniquely attracted to some things and not others. It is part of our biology. When we are attracted to something, it generates physical and neurological responses, and these give us cause to act. Your job is to get better at understanding the careers that are attractive to you. In other words, to strengthen your awareness about your attraction to different careers. The question you need to answer is. Which careers am I most attracted to? If your current response to that question is limited, then we need to fix that.
As Careers Advisers, one of the most powerful skills we use in a careers interview is to help our clients realise what they are attracted to. We observe changes in your responses when you talk about something you are attracted to. When we point that out, you realise it’s something you can feel. It is that ‘thinking and feeling’ realisation about attraction that can be a new discovery for young people, helping you become clear about the careers you are most attracted to. It can be a game changer. Go deep with your attractions and build trust and confidence in your instinct. What am I attracted to? Why am I attracted to that? And you start to build a vision for your career.
If there are several careers under consideration, which is the most attractive? If you don’t know where to start, then consider forced ranking, based on attraction. We often recommend ranking the 17 United Nations Sustainable Goals see https://sdgs.un.org/#goal_section. They are all important but one or two of them will be goals that are the most attractive to you. Where you believe you could make a difference. Let your attraction to one or two of these goals lead you to become attached to information, opportunities and people related to those goals.
Another key skill of a Careers Adviser is to investigate the quality and strength of your career attachments and help to improve them. Many of our clients had become informed and connected to the careers they were attracted to, but they had not become attached. Instead, they remained detached or ‘outside the circle’ looking in to where they are attracted. Eventually, they gave up, tried for something else, or stayed in a career they ‘fell into’. If they got the chance of a job they would have loved, just being connected is not enough and they were uncompetitive at interview. Attachment is about actually becoming engaged and invested in the information, opportunities and people. Become part of the career by doing something in the career, through attachment to it.
Work experience might be the most obvious example of attachment. At first this can appear out of reach but there are so many possibilities and creative ways to become attached through information, opportunities and people. By taking the approach of seeking to strengthen your attachments to a particular career, you start to do things differently and think differently about opportunities which might be more meaningful than you first thought.
For example, someone attracted to financial services may not realise that their part time job in hospitality gives them an attachment and access to consumer payment systems, financial transactions and banking. Someone attracted to digital marketing may not fully realise their attachment and access to digital services when they fill up a supermarket trolley for click and collect.
As we begin to attach ourselves to careers, we are also testing our attraction. As we learn about a career from the inside, it may become less attractive! So, try another attraction. The goal of attachment is to feel our attraction continue as our attachment is strengthened to form an articulated career aspiration. A career idea. A plan.
Learn to talk confidently about your career aspirations. Practice. Explain to yourself and to others the story of why you are attracted to a career and how you are strengthening your attachments towards developing your career. It is a short journey to get from being general to specific and to the formulation of a written career goal. By doing so you now have a competitive advantage over others. You know why you want to get into that career and can sell yourself authentically.
Let’s not forget, you will change. It won’t be long before your early career has passed, you look in the mirror and realise you are now in mid-career. The world changes quickly too. An industry that was once up and coming can quickly be down and out. So go back and re-evaluate your attraction, attachment, and aspiration as often as you can. Use this process to help you reformulate and update your career decisions so that you choose wisely whenever you need to.