City : Careers Advice Hall : Planning Your Future

Work is an important part of most people's lives. The choices you make now can affect your whole way of life, so give careful thought to your plans. Don't wait until you are about to leave fulltime education? 'panic' choices aren't usually the best ones.

It's your life

The kind of work you do is certainly important. It can affect:


  • Your general satisfaction with life
  • The way you think about things
  • Your circle of friends and acquaintances
  • How much money you earn
  • Your lifestyle.
  • Over your adult lifetime, you are likely to spend a large proportion of your time at work. So it makes good sense to try to find something that, besides earning you money to live on, suits the kind of person you are.


'But I'm not leaving school yet...'

Although it may be some years before you leave fulltime education, it's very important to begin thinking about your career choice early on. The courses you choose at school or college can affect the range of careers you will be qualified to enter later. If you already have a career area in mind, you need to check what qualifications may be essential, or helpful, for entry.


If you live in England and are in year 11 or below, you will be required to continue in education or training until at least your 18th birthday. This doesn't necessarily mean staying on at school? you could leave school after year 11 to start an Apprenticeship or a job with training, for example. So if you're planning to continue your learning in the workplace after year 11, you need to start thinking as soon as possible about the kind of work to aim at.


Getting started with decisions

For many of us, choosing a career is difficult. There are just so many different courses and careers available! So it's really important to take advantage of the advice and guidance that is available, to help you to make the best possible choices.


Career choice involves thinking about your own interests, abilities, needs and values, and matching them against the requirements of particular types of work. Some of the activities you do in school, as part of your careers/PSHE programme, will help you think things through. You may have the chance to use a computerised guidance system? these look at your interests, together with other factors, to produce a list of jobs for you to consider.


What you should consider:

Interests, skills and abilities

  • What sort of interests do you have? Are there any such as art or sport that could be used in a job?
  • What are you good at? As well as thinking about school or college subjects, think about things you do in your life generally. For example, are you particularly good at organising things, listening to people, managing your money or practical tasks?
  • Do you like the things you are good at? (It doesn't automatically follow!)
  • What things are you not so good at? Are there certain skills that you need to develop?
  • What jobs involve activities that you might enjoy?
  • What skills would you like to learn?
  • Do you like working closely with others in a team, or do you prefer to work independently?
  • Are you an indoors person, or do you like being out and about?
  • Each of us is unique and will answer these questions differently, and there are many more questions you could ask yourself. Try not to compare yourself and your interests to those of your friends. Think about your answers carefully, to get an honest picture of yourself.


Values, pay and practicalities

  • How highly do you rate things such as: job security, convenience, perks, status, regular hours or being able to live locally?
  • Have you got any firm views or values that would affect your choice of work or employer – political or religious beliefs, or strong feelings about, for example, the defence industry, the environment or animal welfare?
  • Do you prefer the idea of working for a commercial company or for a public service organisation? Or doesn't it matter?
  • How keen are you to have opportunities for training?
  • Are you an ambitious person? Is the chance of promotion important to you?
  • Might you want to become self-employed one day, possibly running your own business?
  • How much does money matter to you? Even if it doesn't matter much now, it may have more importance when you have a mortgage and/or a family!
  • What jobs will give you the lifestyle you would like?
  • There are no right or wrong answers to such questions. But once you have identified the factors that are important to you, it will help you to assess whether a particular career idea might suit you.


Work experience

If you have the opportunity, undertaking work experience while at school or college can help you to discover what the world of work is really like. Spending some time with a local employer will give you the chance to experience a job or range of jobs before making any commitment.


Some employers offer a work experience programme that allows you to explore different departments and different work roles. Others enable you to learn about a particular job. You will be encouraged to keep a log of your work experience? you can use this afterwards to help you reflect on what you have learned about work and about yourself.


You may be given the opportunity to so some work shadowing – this may be in areas where it would be difficult to do any aspects of the work yourself, as in the case of a professional, such as a teacher, nurse or social worker. You can get a real insight into a job through observing someone over a period of time, whilst they go about their daily activities? you can also ask them questions about their work, how they got into it, what their training involved etc.


It's your decision

It's you who must make the decisions. You can drift along, not worrying about the effect that choosing particular training, courses or subjects will have on your future. But if you do, you may well have regrets later. If you are at all in doubt as to what to do, make sure you get advice and information, but don't be persuaded into choices that you aren't happy with. Don't choose courses just because your friends are taking them or because you like the teacher. Your friends may be very different from you and you won't necessarily have the same teacher! Also, just because a career seems 'out of the norm', don't let this put you off. These days, regardless of your gender, you are free to choose practically any career.


What employers want

In the future, to have access to the widest choice of careers you will need to aim for the highest level of

qualifications and skills you can. So, to equip yourself, try to gain these while you are still at school or college. As well as qualifications such as GCSEs, employers look for people with skills such as communication and team working, which you can develop while at school or college or through all kinds of extracurricular activities. You will need to continue your learning and update your skills throughout your working life. Many employers support staff who wish to study for relevant qualifications on a part-time basis, perhaps by attending college or university for day or block release or for evening classes, or through distance learning.



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