You don’t have to have made up your mind to spend the rest of your life in a particular field by the time you leave school. The reality of the modern workforce is that it’s quite likely that you’ll change career direction at least a couple of times before you retire, and that means it’s probably more important to practise being a good learner while you’re still not sure.

Not that there’s anything wrong with dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to something. How can you know if you love something if you don’t try it? Particularly in the first year of university, it’s relatively easy to keep your degree fairly general, and there’s no shortage of people who got to the end of first year and jumped ship into a completely subject area.

The important thing is not to be afraid to make decisions based on what’s best for you. Finding out what you don’t want to do is never a waste of time!

Work backwards

Knowing yourself is the key to making good decisions. When it comes to study, start with the big picture, and work backwards to fill in the details. Figuring out what you want to do is going to require a lot of thought and honesty. CareersNZ has some fantastic tools that can help you take a good look in the mirror – go to: for a look.

CareersNZ recommends asking yourself a series of questions as a starting point. At the top level, you could start with:

  • Who am I?
    • What am I good at?
    • What do I like to do in my spare time?
    • What have I achieved?
    • What am I passionate about?
  • What are my interests?
    • CareerQuest is a great tool that can suggest career pathways based on your interests.
    • Subject Matcher is a good tool that can help you arrive at a career option based on what you liked about school.
  • What are my values?
    • Finding a career that matches what’s important to you can help you feel more fulfilled in your work.
  • What are my skills?
  • Where am I?
    • CareersNZ recommends taking stock of your current situation. What are your commitments? How ready are you to step into the workforce? What challenges do you face?
  • Where do I want to be?
    • CareersNZ recommends asking yourself what you want out of your job. What’s important to you? Do you want a job that earns heaps of money? Is career satisfaction or making a difference more important to you than money? Do you like to be in charge of things? Do you want a job that gives you lots of free time so you can do other stuff?

Words of wisdom

The UK’s **itals** Guardian** publishes a guide to universities every year. A couple of years ago they surveyed students for their tips on choosing the right university course. Here’s a bit of the resulting wisdom: (you can go here to read the full article:

“The advice I would give would be to go to the open days and ask plenty of questions about university life, the course and support services. Chat to students for some honest first-hand experience of studying there.”

“Whatever you want to study, it’s worthwhile researching the lecturers and unit modules to find out their research interests. And for a design-based course, attend the end-of-year graduation show. You’ll be able to see students’ work, talk to them and get a real understanding of what the pros and cons are of the university.”

“Pick something you won’t mind getting up on a hangover to learn about!”

“Everyone wants to have an amazing time at university, but when the going gets tough it’s important to have a strong support network around you. I’ve found when you are on a course such as nursing, which is emotionally, mentally and physically draining, you need people around you who you can turn to.”

Browse, browse, and browse more!

Get out there and talk to people. Browse university websites, and contact their career advisors: you’re not putting them out, or asking stupid questions! Well, you probably are, but that’s what career advisors do: they reassure noobs that they’re not the first and won’t be the last to ask that particular silly question!


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