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Your guide to choosing a career

If thinking about what you want to ‘be’ triggers a sense of panic, rest assured that you have time to work through your options. Also remember that this is not a ‘once and for all decision’— you may not decide what you want to do until you’re actually in the workforce, and many people actually change direction years into their career. For now, you may just focus on narrowing down your options to certain fields of work or the types of things you enjoy doing. Even if you’ve got your mind set on a certain career, it’s still worth taking some time to consider if it’s the right fit for you (and what the job actually entails!).

So where do you start? Explore our questions below.

What do you like to do?

This may seem obvious, but the first thing to consider when choosing a career is what you enjoy doing. Think about your interests, the type of work you would be suited to and the skills you have. Do you prefer analytical work, such as maths or science, or are you more on the creative side? Do you enjoy things like researching, planning or reading or do you prefer more practical, physical tasks that allow you to use your hands to build, create or fix things? Perhaps you enjoy helping people or maybe you’ve shown a flair for being organised and methodical. Do you enjoy working as part of a team or individually, or are there certain demographics that appeal to you (children, the elderly or animals, for instance)?

What type of working environment appeals to you?

Another thing to consider is the environment in which you see yourself working. Are you more at home behind a desk or outside in the sun? Do you want to work during the day, on weekends, at night or on call? Do you want to travel interstate or overseas for work or would you prefer to stay in the one place? Do you see yourself working in private industry, private practice or the public sector? Some of these conditions will depend on the specific workplace you choose, while others are pretty standard for the occupation in general — if you’re a marine biologist, chances are you’ll be spending some time in the ocean, while accountants will generally be found behind a desk in an office.

Are there jobs that match your intended career path?

Now that you know what you like doing (and how you want to do it), it’s time to really explore the possibilities. You can use the Career search to sort through more than 500 job descriptions to find the one that suits you and investigate the career paths available. If you can’t find a job that matches your interests and skill set, remember that jobs are constantly changing — particularly in fields such as communications, IT and engineering, where new niches are developing each year. You will also find that tasks completed as part of a job differ considerably depending on the workplace chosen — for example, public relations duties in government will be very different to those in the fashion industry. Remember that you can take the freelance route too and work in a way that suits you, perhaps even starting your own business where you see a gap in the field.

How much study are you prepared to do?

When it comes to choosing a career, you need to consider how much study you’re willing to do to achieve your end goal. Start by reading the job profiles you’ve found in the career search and exploring the ins and outs of your desired fields of study — there are 30 to explore, from accounting to veterinary science. The level of study required for a given occupation can range from Year 10 to completing a VET course, a bachelor degree or even a postgraduate qualification. Some occupations may have no formal requirements and provide on-the-job training to successful applicants; others take on apprentices or trainees and offer employment through these routes. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re considering a career in fields like architecture, medicine or law, you’re looking at several years of university study with compulsory periods of practical experience and strict accreditation requirements. Keep in mind that the job market is competitive and while some occupations don’t require a specific qualification, your chances of gaining employment will usually increase if you’ve undertaken study or work experience in the field.

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