Building a career

Some people know from an early age exactly what they want to do when they grow up. For others, it takes time to figure out what kind of career matches their interests and skills. Either approach can lead to a great job or career. Whether you know what you want to do or not, it is important to know how to go about building a career. Here are some important steps to consider:

What are your interests or passions?

Work is more fun when it is something you like doing, so it is good to pursue jobs in areas that match your interests. That doesn’t necessarily mean if you like sports or music you have to pursue jobs in those industries, although you can certainly try those areas. Try thinking about where your interests might work well. If you like working with your hands, manufacturing or construction might be a good fit. If you’ve always liked science, maybe there is a career in health care for you.

What jobs are available?

Many students may have big dreams like becoming a professional athlete or musician, publishing a great novel or becoming a social media influencer. There’s nothing wrong with having or pursuing these dreams, but it is also important to think about the number of opportunities in those fields in comparison to other industries. Be realistic about the work it will take to achieve those dreams and consider if something else may be just as fulfilling. You should also think about the job prospects for your chosen industry in the area you want to live and whether you’re willing to move to pursue your career. 

How can you develop skills and gain experience?

Depending on the industry you want to go into, there’s a good chance you will need some kind of education beyond high school. In some cases, this means going to a four-year college or university, and jobs like being a lawyer or doctor require even more   schooling. That said, there are many careers where you can get started with a two-year degree, a technical diploma or a certificate. There are also opportunities for apprenticeships and internships where students get on-the-job training in their chosen field.

How can you build your network?

No matter your industry, the relationships you form with people you work with can help you grow and take advantage of opportunities. It is often said that it is not what you know but who you know that can help you land a job. This can be frustrating for someone just trying to break into an industry and it takes time to develop a network of people who can help you out. 

One place to start is with your instructors or professors when you’re in school. Ask them if they know of businesses looking for interns or entry-level employees. Your family and friends might also be able to help. When you do get your foot in the door, do your best to build relationships with people and don’t burn bridges unnecessarily. You never know who might be able to put in a good word for you or make an introduction. It’s also a good idea to ask someone if it is OK to use them as a reference for a job.

Keep in mind that your career relationships shouldn’t just be a one-way street where you look for people to help you. If you’re always asking for help and never offering it, people will stop making time for your requests. 

How do you land a job?

Depending on the economy and your industry, it can be easier or harder to land a job at different times. However, it is rarely as simple as submitting an application and getting hired. You’ll likely need to interview at least once. You should prepare in advance by thinking about what questions you might be asked. Plan to ask questions about the company and position you are interviewing for. It shows your interest in the position and may also raise red flags that indicate you don’t want to work for the company. After the interview, you should follow up with an email or hand-written note to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration.

Continue to grow and learn once you land a job

The process doesn’t stop once you’re hired by a company and you cannot expect to be promoted or given more responsibility just by showing up. As technologies and industries continue to evolve, you will need to learn new skills to be ready for the positions of the future. Many companies will offer opportunities for training and development. It may also be a good idea to talk with your boss about what other skills would be helpful for you to learn.