Making crucial career-defining choices

2009-01-22 00:00

The new year almost coincided with the release of matric results. There is no better new year present than good passes for matriculants. I would, therefore, like to congratulate those who performed well. However, a word of caution. This is not the time to sit back and relax. Prosperity and fulfilment can pass you by while you bask in the glory of your success.

To those who performed below average, please stop crying. It does not signal the end of the world. You can salvage a lot of good from the wreckage.

Strong people have been known to rise from positions of adversity and go on to achieve greatness. The important point is that for both sets of performers, this is a very important time of your life. It is a career-defining moment. As such, career-defining decisions ought to be made.

Chances are that if you do not choose your career carefully now, you risk living a life of past glory — telling your grandchildren how good you were at school but without any tangible proof to reinforce your claims. Many promising youngsters have sadly gone on to lead miserable lives because they have made bad decisions at crucial moments like this one. On the other hand, some not-so-promising youngsters have made it in life because they made the right decisions.

Choosing a career should not be a spontaneous decision made in a single moment. It should be a process. For some, it starts well before pre-school. When you are a child saying: “When I grow up I want to be a doctor,” the sub-conscious part of the mind is engaging in a career-choosing process.

As you grow up, you observe, you identify role models and you learn about careers. As such, I assume that by the time you make your choice of subject combinations at matric level, you have an idea of your career goals.

Your first determinant in choosing a career should be interest. It is very easy to be motivated, to have drive and to be a self-starter when you are driven by passion. Interest should, however, be matched with ability. Imagine choosing to become an actuarial scientist when you have no passion for mathematics or choosing to be a lawyer when your aptitude for languages is not good enough.

Do you have what it takes to excel in your chosen career? This is easy to determine. For instance, if physical science gives you sleepless nights and endless headaches, it may be difficult to succeed in chemical, electrical, civil or mechanical engineering, no matter how much you are interested in one of these disciplines.

Do not choose to become a pharmacist because your parents want you to be one. While it may be fine to please your parents, a career is like a marriage — a life-long commitment. You will have to live with it even when your parents are gone. Get advice from them, but the ultimate choice is yours.

Always put as first choice a degree or diploma programme for which your passes give you automatic entry. It is also important to know the duration of the programme of your choice. Your personal circumstances may not allow you the privilege of spending more than four years at a tertiary institution.

Once the semester starts, brace yourself for some hard work. As the saying goes: “If you want to live like a king, work like a slave.” The skills that you acquire will allow you to excel in your job. Good luck in creating your future.

• Alois Nzembe has several years of teaching experience at both primary and high school levels. He teaches human resource management at Icesa College.

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