I only thought about two things before choosing to study petroleum engineering. I measured my options based on these two criteria; one was that I was good with math and sciences. The second was that I wanted a profession with the most potential to make me rich. Since I live in an oil-rich country, petroleum engineering became the easy pick. I was young and ambitious but naïve. It took few years for me to realize how little thought I had invested before making that decision.
I don’t have any regrets, but maybe I could have been more informed before making such an important decision. If you are young and contemplating your career decision, or you are not fully convinced with your career choice, this video is for you. I want to share with you 7 things you must thoroughly think about before choosing a career to pursue. Before we get to it, be sure to subscribe to After School Africa for more insightful videos like this.
1. Think About your abilities and interest
I know a talented young man who wrote a post-university exam 5 times and failed. This guy was talented at making building models. He had a passion for architecture from childhood and taught himself to design buildings and models. Since this was a natural inclination, he didn’t quite see architecture as a lucrative profession. He felt it made sense to study a complementary course like an engineering degree. On different occasions, he attempted getting admission for civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and one other engineering course, all to no avail. He was later advised to apply to a polytechnic, this time, for architecture. He graduated as the best student in the architect department. Today, he runs a successful construction company, doing what he has always loved to do.
You see, it’s very common for people to practice professions that are totally different from what they studied in school. Society sees it as normal. As a result, many young people are encouraged to just study whatever field they can lay their hands on, as long as they get a certificate. This is a terrible thing to accept as normal. Why should young adults spend 4 to 5 years of their lives learning something they have no business with? We can’t always get it right, but you have to make the effort to choose a field you have some interest in. So before you choose a field of study, think about your areas of strength; your areas of interest, and if possible, your abilities. Your decisions won’t be based on this alone. So let’s move to the next one.
2. Think About your values, dreams and personality
Everyone expects you to be a science student once you are good with schoolwork. If you are intelligent in the classroom, everyone expects you to either become a medical doctor or an engineer, without considering whether your personality and dreams fit into the profession.
Because I often came home with good results, I got the label of medical doctor quite early. The prospect of becoming a medical doctor was drummed into my head that I didn’t think there was room for any other option. In my first attempt at the pre-university exam, my first choice was medicine and surgery.
Then, I observed that my friend’s elder brother who had been a medical student since our Junior class was still in school after we left secondary school. I didn’t want to spend that much time in the university. So I decided to switch to the next prestigious field for intelligent students; engineering. Medicine didn’t align with my dreams, values, and personality. Today, I’m more than happy I walked away from it. Before you let anyone pressure you into choosing a career because of your academic performance, think about your values, dreams, and personality; and see if it fits into that profession.
3. Think about your inspiration
If you suddenly developed an obsession for a particular field early on, it will help to take time to think about what inspired your new-found interest. Your inspiration may be well placed or it may be ill-informed. For instance, a student who chose to study architecture said what inspired him was that he admired how an architect working on his uncle’s house was always giving directives to someone on the phone. The sight inspired him to study architecture. Whether this is a good inspiration or not, depends.
Our interests change over time. And a decision as important as your career path deserves more thoughtful evaluation. Watching a few moments in the life of a professional may not give you the entire picture of what the career entails. So ask more questions. Don’t be like the student who chose to study psychiatry in the university, only to realize by his second year that what he actually intended to choose was psychology.
4. Think about the opportunities where you live
When you have carefully thought about your areas of interest and strength; your dreams and personality; and carefully evaluated your source of inspiration. You have to move past yourself and think about external factors. Are there readily available career or business opportunities in your field? If you want a job, can you find one? Does this career offer an opportunity to help people solve actual problems? Studying petroleum engineering when you live in a non-oil producing country is not a smart decision. You want to consider how practical it is to practice your knowledge where you live.
5. Can you learn this without formal education?
In June 2020, the president of the United States, Donald Trump signed an executive order to overhaul the government’s hiring practices so that a job applicant’s skills will be given priority over academic qualification. This move will shift focus from vetting applicants based on their educational credentials and move toward using skill assessments and interviews to determine an applicant’s qualifications. Degree requirements will not be entirely eliminated, as they will remain mandatory for positions where advanced degrees are legally required like in law and medicine. However, this is evident that the job market is steadily moving from degree-dependent to skill-dependent. Emphasis is now on what value you can offer.
Many global companies no longer prioritize college or university degrees when hiring candidates; and there are courses you can learn through less formal education institutions in less time like programming, creative design, photography, etc. You may just realize that you can achieve more in four years without an expensive college education.
6. Think about the market value
The market value of the industry over the past 10 years says a lot about whether the industry is growing or shrinking, and it also gives insight into the market size of the industry, and its consequent growth potential. Even if you are not interested in making a lot of money from your profession – which puts you in the minority – you still want to know that there is a vibrant market for the skill you are going to acquire.
But let’s be honest – money does matter. Nobody wants to struggle financially later in life. So it is important to keep potential financial rewards in mind when choosing a career to pursue. Before you choose to get liberal art or zoology degree, think about the market value.
7. Think About the Future
Will this be relevant in the future? This is the ultimate question you want to ask before choosing a career to pursue. The world is changing fast. By the time you are done studying most courses in the university, the majority of what you have studied would have been obsolete. Most of the oil exploration techniques I learned in school had become outdated. Many professions today are under threat due to technology innovations in AI, machine learning, digital technology, robotics, 3D printing, and the likes. Is your choice of career immune to disruption in the near future? Think about this before choosing your career. We have published a number of videos on the future of work. Check out some of them in the playlist linked in the description below.
So before choosing a career, think about your abilities and interests, your dreams and personality; think about what inspired your choice, the opportunities available to you, the best method to acquire the relevant education, the value of the market, and the future prospect of the industry.
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