I’ve wanted to pursue Computer Science since the 7th grade. The main appeal was the job prospect and the pay.
Then Grade 12 came around.
With post-secondary program application deadlines approaching, I wasn’t sure anymore. After speaking to people in my network who went into that field about their experiences, I realized it wasn’t for me. I enjoyed programming as a hobby, but Computer Science wasn’t my passion. Research and self-reflection led to a final decision I was happy with, and in the end, I chose Engineering.
It’s nearing time for post-secondary applications again, and the struggle to choose your pathway after high school may be something you’re facing, so I’ve gathered a few tips on how you can explore and narrow down your options based on my own experience.
1. Explore your interests and strengths.
As obvious as it sounds, the first step is to figure out what you like. Exploring your interests is an important part of this, and the earlier you start doing so, the better. However, myself and many of my peers faced the challenge of indecisiveness around our options. It felt like picking your poison, especially if you haven’t discovered a passion for any area.
The status quo pushed us to move forward regardless of this feeling, and the lack of information made it feel as if we had to choose one option that we’d be stuck with.
Take note of what you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy in high school where there is freedom to try lots of things without commitment. The accomplishments you feel most proud of, the roles you took on in those activities, and any patterns you find can be your guide. Take the time to reflect on your strengths throughout the process; your family, friends and supervisors can help you with this.
Create a list of broad pathways (e.g. STEM, business, education, social sciences, health, etc) you might enjoy!
2. Research career paths that match your interests and strengths.
Look into the list of school programs within the broad pathways of your choice and eliminate the options you don’t want. Once you have this filtered list, research different fields of study and job profiles to see information about career prospects, education requirements, and other statistics for each path.
Use this research to create a list of careers that match your strengths, experiences, and futures you might imagine. Your guidance counselors likely have career quizzes that can help you imagine a future specialized for you.
3. Leverage your network and hands-on opportunities.
This can include taking part in job shadow programs, reaching out to individuals working in that industry on LinkedIn , and contacting your teachers, parents, guidance counselors, and their networks for informational interviews. Figure out what their day-to-day work looks like, the hardest part of the job, the most exciting parts of the job, what made them decide on that field, their education and path to this role, etc.
Volunteering and taking on internships or apprenticeships in an organization within the industries of your interest is another great way to see what’s suitable for you.
4. Finally, explore potential programs of choice.
Depending on your university of choice, there may be flexibility in being able to switch programs, or even the option to pursue an alternate interest through higher education, so don’t feel like your pathway is solidified from this decision.
Deciding your career path in a few months puts a lot of pressure on students, especially after losing two years of self-development and discovery to the pandemic. Gap years are seen as taboo because fear of losing momentum and not finding our way back to post-secondary education is a quick way to scare us.
The truth is it doesn’t matter how long it takes to figure out what makes you tick, once you find your passion you’ll feel motivated to find your way into a path that you not only enjoy but also succeed in.
It’s important to have steps to take once you have that inspiration. I hope this blog has equipped you with the steps to learn more about yourself and make a confident decision about your career path. Good luck and happy exploring!
This blog post was written by Karuna Adhikari of the First Work Youth Council.