Simple steps to choosing a career path

October 27, 2021

How to choose a career path as a teenager

Most of us go through an emotional ringer during high school years. The transition from child to adult is exciting and terrifying, because no amount of “this will happen next” advice can prepare you for your own lived experiences. 

Choosing a career path feels overwhelming sometimes, because right now you’re more focused on things like working a late shift on a school night to pay for gas money. 

Here’s some encouragement: you don’t have to chart a course for your entire life! People change, and so do their careers.

You just need to get started. And that means taking some time for a little introspection to make sure the career ideas popping into your head fit your interests and personality. 

The writers at The School of Life have written quite a bit about the challenges and hopes of thinking about your place in the world:

There are so many things we already know without knowing that we know them – because we haven’t been trained in the art of gathering and interpreting our experiences. What is a beautiful city like? What is an ideal holiday? How does a good conversation flow? The questions may sound daunting, but we have answers to them already – for we all harbor, somewhere within our memories, recollections of well-being as we walked the streets of a capital, or felt our senses reopen in a new climate or registered our sympathies expanding at a table of friends. 

Looking inward before scanning the horizon outward can be a fun exercise! 

If you’re hesitant, set a timer for 15 minutes to consider some of the career planning advice below.

What makes you lose track of time?

We all have interests that seem to make time stand still, and before we realize it, we’re late for dinner. Maybe that’s editing photos, journaling, baking, or playing video games. Don’t judge yourself on whether or not your interests seem important. Just start by writing them down.

Create a self portrait.

This is a great tip from Big Future. Not a sketch or painting, but a written self portrait. They suggest making a list of 10 qualities to describe yourself. Sure, it feels awkward writing about yourself, but this is part of the planning process. How do your friends describe you? How about your siblings?

Scan list of job descriptions.

It does sound boring, but trust us, there are so many choices available in the 21st century. You owe it to yourself to at least read through lists of job descriptions to see what pops out based on your self portrait and instincts. Here’s a good collection of career briefs for your research. 

Interview some adults.

Reach out to some people working in the career fields that interest you. This is important for two reasons: (1) you’ll get the inside scoop about what the work is really like, and (2) you’ll start developing a network. Check out these tips from Monster.com about rocking the informational interview.

Get some outside feedback. 

A formal self-assessment can be an extremely useful tool. As advisor Laurie Genevish says, many of the online tools are like fortune cookie summaries rather than deep analysis. Consider asking your parents to invest in a meaningful assessment program. 

Eat a fortune cooking.

Borrowing from Laurie, sometimes you only have time for a fortune cookie. Princeton Review has a 24-question career quiz if you’re feeling stuck and don’t have time for a formal assessment. 

Make notes as you go!

Your spikeview profile is the perfect place to keep notes about your interests, ideas, goals, and inspiration about career possibilities. It’s so much more than a diary or resume, and it grows with you as you move into a career path.