CHOOSING YOUR IDEAL CAREER
BY BENJAMIN I. ABUGU
WHAT IS A CAREER?
Let’s start by examining the meaning of the word ‘career.’ Collins English Dictionary defines career as “a profession or occupation chosen as one’s life’s work.” There are certain terms that are commonly associated with career, and they include profession, occupation, work, employment, and trade. These are words used in talking about the work that somebody does in return for payment, especially over a long period of time.
Work is the job that somebody does in order to earn money, while employment is when someone is paid to work for a company or organization. Trade is a job, especially one that involves working with your hands, and requires special training and skills. Examples of trade include carpentry, masonry, tailoring, etc. Occupation is a job or profession. Profession, on the other hand, is a type of job that needs special training or skill, especially one that needs a high level of education. We have the medical profession, the legal profession, the banking profession and the teaching profession, to mention a few. When you choose a particular profession as your work in life, it becomes your career.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CHOOSE A CAREER?
Choice is an act of choosing between two or more possibilities, and it is a very important human phenomenon. Choosing a career is important because whatever you choose to do for a living affects your life: your happiness, peace of mind, sense of fulfillment and so forth. Choosing a career that doesn’t suit your personality can lead to confusion and lack of job satisfaction. If you are in high school, for instance, there is a compelling need for you to get adequate information about the various careers available and what each involves. This will enable you to choose an ideal career for yourself: the kind of work you will love to do in life. Of course, you wouldn’t want to find yourself doing what you hate. If you had earlier chosen a career but have now discovered it is not what you really love to do, you can change it if you want to. Choosing a career is closely related to choosing the kind of life you want to live, the kind of things you love to do, the kind of income you want to earn for your efforts, or even the kind of thing you will like to be remembered for after you have passed on.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS TO BE CONSIDERED WHEN CHOOSING A CAREER?
There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration when choosing a career. We shall however look at only a few of them: (1) interests and skills, (2) education and training, and (3) marketability.
1. Interests and Skills
First of all, you have to look at the kinds of things you enjoy doing and what you are naturally good at. Interest and skill are the two key points here. Something that interests you most is the one you will likely do best in; in fact, people tend to become very skilled in their hobbies. You need to choose a career that is related to the activity or subject that you enjoy – the one you spend most of your free time doing or studying. You must take your interests into account when choosing a career, if you want to have job satisfaction. However, your interest in an activity can only be meaningful if it is something in which you have the natural ability to do well. This is where talent comes in. Whether you look at it from the Biblical perspective or from the perspective of human experience, you will agree that human beings are naturally endowed with different gifts or talents. Some people are talented players, singers, musicians, academics, scientists, artists, sculptors, creative writers, orators, teachers, healers or physicians, actors, comedians, machinists, and so forth. Even among students in high school, some may perform well in Mathematics and the sciences but perform badly in language and arts; others may perform excellently in language and the arts but do very badly in Mathematics and the sciences. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another person. What you find very difficult to do may be very easy for your friend to solve. The one you can solve very easily may give your friend a nightmare. This is why it is wrong for you to choose a career simply because your friend or someone you know has chosen it and it works for him or her. You just have to locate your own talent and choose a career that will enable you to develop and use your skills for maximum productivity and promotion.
John Holland, an American psychologist, described career choice as an expression of personality. He observed that people have different interests which are associated with six main personality types, namely: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Holland's career development model has been found so useful that the U.S. Department of Labour has adopted it for classifying jobs according to interests. According to Holland, most people belong to one of these personality types. Let’s look at the features of each personality type.
A person of this personality type is a doer; he loves to work with tools, machines, plants and animals. He cherishes practical things which can be seen, touched and used, such as tools, machines and equipment, or plants and animals. He is most interested in things that are practical, mechanical and realistic.
People with realistic interests can do well in such fields as agriculture and natural resources, engineering, transportation and distribution, electrical, electronic and mechanical crafts, metal, wood, fabric, construction crafts and support, food preparation, systems operation, equipment operation, manufacturing and production. In other words, they can make a good agricultural inspector, food science expert, civil engineer, mechanical, electrical or electronic engineer, aircraft pilot, locomotive engineer, power plant operator, aircraft mechanic, ship engineer, agricultural equipment operator, etc.
Someone in this category is most interested in studying and solving mathematical or science problems. He is not interested in leading, selling or persuading people. He is naturally a thinker, so he finds it very easy to understand science and mathematics, and loves being precise.
An investigative personality can do very well in physical sciences; he can make a good astronomer, space scientist, environmental scientist, or geologist. In the field of computer science and technology, he can become one of the best computer software engineers, or computer programmers. He can also excel in life sciences, as an animal scientist, a microbiologist, biochemist, medical scientist, zoologist, etc. He is likely to do very well in health sciences, becoming a good physician or surgeon, pharmacist, dentist, psychiatrist, or in mathematics and data analysis where he can become a good mathematician, statistician, operations research analyst, etc. In social sciences, he can do very well as an economist, sociologist, political scientist, marketing research analyst, geographer, historian, etc), while in engineering he can make a good aerospace engineer, agriculture engineer, chemical engineer, computer hardware engineer, and so forth.
An artistic person likes doing creative activities such as art, drama, dance, music and creative writing. He is naturally good at the creative arts and he values works of art such as fiction, drama, music, or art. He believes in and loves being expressive, original and independent.
People of artistic personality type can go into literary arts; they can become good creative writers, poets, authors, etc. In drama and dance, they can do very well as actors, dancers, choreographers, television/radio, movies or theater directors, etc. They can excel in visual arts, as artists, cartoonists, commercial or industrial designers, desktop publishers, art directors, film or video editors, graphic designers, etc. In music, artistic persons can make good composers, musicians, singers, music arrangers, music directors, etc, and in mass communication, they are likely to become good broadcasters, editors radio and television announcers, public address announcers, reporters or correspondents, and so forth.
A social personality loves doing things to help people, such as teaching, nursing, giving first aid, or informing people. He is not interested in working with tools, machines, equipment, or animals. He does well in teaching, nursing, counseling, or information dissemination. He believes in being helpful, friendly and trustworthy.
Those in the social interest area can do well in fields such as social sciences, education, nursing, child and adult care, sports, etc. A social personality can make good social worker, clergyman, counseling psychologist, educational, vocational, or school counselor, mental health counselor, clinical psychologist, and so forth.
An enterprising personality is a persuader, who is deeply interested in leading and persuading people, and in selling things and ideas. He is not interested in the sciences. He is gifted in leadership and the selling of things and ideas to other people. He is ambitious and desires success in politics, leadership or business.
The fields that are most suitable for people with enterprising personality include sales and purchasing, hospitality, beauty and customer services, business administration, legal practice and support, finance, government and public administration, etc. An enterprising personality can therefore make a good purchasing agent or buyer, insurance sales agent, property or real estate manager, supervisor or manager of office and administrative support workers, judge, lawyer, legal assistant, legal adviser, financial manager, chief executive officer, education administrator, government service executive, legislator, school principal, advertising and promotions manager, marketing manager, public relations manager, and so forth.
A conventional personality is by nature an organizer, who loves working with numbers, records, or machines in an orderly manner. He does very well in organizing things and paying attention to detail. He desires success in business and loves to be seen as an orderly person who does things according to set plans.
People of conventional personality type can do well in accountancy, banking and finance, copy editing, budgeting, materials and records processing, etc. They can become good bankers, accountants, cashiers, computer operators, budget analysts, administrative assistants, executive secretaries, and so forth.
What we can deduce from the above examination of Holland's Six Personality Types is that there is great need for you to consider your own area of interests and skills before choosing a career. In other words, it is advisable for you to choose the kind of profession that suits your personality. if your an artistic person, it doesn't make any sense for you to choose a career in the sciences, for instance. It is better for you to choose a career in the arts where you naturally belong. If you are realistic person, you need to choose a career in a practical field where you belong, such as mechanical engineering. If you are an enterprising person, you have no business choosing a career in the sciences which belong to investigative personalities. As an enterprising personality, you do better in marketing or politics than in astronomy or microbiology, for instance. Thus, your interests and God-given skills are very important factors to be considered when choosing a career, to avoid making a wrong choice that will lead to bitter regret at last.
2. Education and Training
Another thing to consider when choosing a career is your ability to meet the education and special training required. For instance, it is not enough to say, “I want to be a doctor.” If you want to be a doctor, then you must be prepared for the required years of study in the university and the cost of going to medical school. Every profession requires a certain level of education and training. And every course in a college or university has its entry requirements and a given number of years to complete. In some universities in Nigeria, for instance, students who want to do a four-year (full-time) or five-year (part-time) degree in the arts (e.g. BA Christian Religious Knowledge, BA Islamic Religious Knowledge, BA Yoruba Language, BA History and International Studies, BA EnglishLanguage, BA Literature, etc) must have at least five credit passes in O’ level subjects, including English Language at not more than two sittings in GCE, WASSCE or SSCE. Those who want to do a four-year (full-time) or five-year (part-time) degree in the management sciences (e.g. B.Sc. Accounting, B.Sc. Business Administration, B.Sc. Banking and Finance, B.Sc. Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, B.Sc. Public Administration) must possess at least five credit passes in ‘O’ level subjects (WASSCE/SSCE/NECO) including English Language, Mathematics, Government and any other two credits. People who want to do a four-year (full-time) or five-year (part-time) degree in the sciences (such as Biochemistry, Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry, Industrial Mathematics, Physics, Botany and Horticulture, Microbiology, Zoology, Computer Science and Science Laboratory) must possess GCE O/L or its equivalent with a minimum of five credit passes at not more than two sittings including English Language, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Those who want to do a four-year (full-time) or five-year (part-time) degree in the social sciences (e.g. B.Sc. Economics) must have five credit passes at not more than two sittings in GCE, WASSCE or SSCE including English Language, Mathematics, Economics and any other subjects preferably from Commerce, Business Methods or Accounting.
What all these imply is that as a student who is thinking of choosing a career, you must consider your performance in the various subjects you are doing in school before making a career choice. If someone is getting F9 in core Science subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, for instance, it will be foolhardy for him or her to insist on choosing a science-based career. This is obvious, since no university will admit someone to study a science-based career without meeting the entry requirements: credits in the core Science subjects. To choose your ideal career, you must look at the subjects in which you are performing best and select a course that has your favourite subjects as core subjects. If your best performance in school is in such subjects as English, Literature, History, Government, etc., it is advisable for you to choose a course leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree rather than one that leads to a Bachelor of Science degree. What this implies is that your actual performance in various subjects in school has a way of indicating what type of personality you are: a realistic, artistic, investigative, enterprising person, etc. You cannot conclude you are an investigative person because you love to be in the Science class, when in actual fact you are not doing well in Mathematics and other Science subjects. Neither can you conclude you are artistic person because you have heard about the Achebes and Soyinkas and love to succeed in the arts like them; you must ensure that you are actually doing well in those Arts subjects that will be required for you to study a course in Arts in the university. Choosing a career is an expression of personality, and personality consists of both interests and skills.
You must also ensure that the career you want to choose is marketable – that is, easy to sell. It is unwise to go into something that is not attractive to customers or employers. Apart from considering your area of interest and skills, you have to consider whether the market is going to pay you an income for doing it. It doesn’t make any sense for you to go into a career just because you love doing it if nobody is going to give you money for doing it. There are a number of people who have spent much time and resources to receive education and training in their chosen career but are out there stranded in the labour market because their skills and qualifications have failed to attract employers. However, it must be noted that one of the things that make one’s qualifications attractive is excellent performance. Whatever field of study you choose, it is your high degree of competence and performance in your chosen field that will endear you to employers. Nothing succeeds like success, it is often said. It is unadvisable for you to choose a field of study simply because it is popular, when you will end up with only a third class or a pass in it. It is better for you to choose a field of study in which you will be able to make a first class or second class (upper). What this implies is that marketability does not necessarily lie in the type of course you have chosen but in your level of competence and performance in it.
It should also be noted that the kind of performance that will make you attractive to employers goes beyond what is commonly called 'paper qualification.' It must be in you. In other words, you must be able to demonstrate it when you are invited to a job interview and also when you are eventually offered a job. Some people choose a course of study because they believe it is popular and not because they can do well in it; they then rely on other people who will write the exams for them. They may succeed in obtaining a degree in that field of study but the day of reckoning will come when, after displaying their attractive 'paper qualification' for a job, they are invited to face a panel of intelligent interviewers. The fact is that during the interview, your interviewers will be more interested in how much you can practically prove that you are an expert in your chosen profession than in whatever grade you claim to have obtained in your course of study. You may convince your employers that you studied medicine in the university, but you may lose your job when the need for a surgery arises and you become confused and do not even know how to begin. You may have studied law in the university and may have gone to the law school, but your competence will be tested when you are asked to handle a case in the court where you are expected to use your knowledge of law and your oratorical power to tear the evidence of the prosecution to shreds and compel the presiding judge to discharge and acquit your client who is being tried for murder, for instance. It is enough to show your certificate claiming that you graduated in Mathematics; what proves that you are a good Mathematician is your ability to solve Mathematical problems when you are confronted with them. Similarly, it is not enough to present your certificate claiming to have done a degree in English Language; the truth of your claim lies in your ability to clearly explain the basic structures in English Language and their grammatical functions and how they operate to produce good English speeches and writings. In a nutshell, you must ensure that you not only acquire competence in your chosen course but are also able to translate your competence into actual performance whenever you are called upon to do so. It is your actual performance on the job that will win the confidence of your employers, clients or customers and thus guarantee your job satisfaction, income and promotion.
From the above facts, we can see that choosing a career is a multi-step process that involves learning enough about yourself and the profession that you are considering to go into. You must consider whether it is the kind of thing you enjoy doing and what you are naturally good at. In addition to these, you have to consider the education and training required for such a profession. Finally, you must find out whether the area you are going into is one that is easy to sell to customers or employers to enable you to make a living out of it. In summary, your best career is what you love to do, what you are naturally good at, and what will most easily fetch you a lucrative job at the end of your education and training.