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Tips on making important career decisions

16 Sep 2014

Senior guidance specialist, Ms Esther Tan, shares tips on how students can prepare to make important career decisions.
Senior guidance specialist, Ms Esther Tan, shares tips on how students can prepare to make important career decisions.

How do I choose a career_1“A career is a series of decisions and different jobs throughout your life. It’s a journey” shares Senior Guidance Specialist with the Ministry of Education, Ms Esther Tan.

Here are some tips from Ms Tan to help students make important career decisions.

  1. Start early

    With post-secondary examination results in hand, many students find themselves asking: “So what’s next?” It happens often, but really isn’t an ideal situation as there isn’t sufficient time to explore, think and make a decision. If possible. career awareness should begin at the upper primary level, where students can be introduced to a variety of occupations and think about their aspirations.

  2. Know yourself – interests, skills and learning style

    Besides academic interests and performance, participation in co-curricular activities (CCA) and values-in-action (VIA) activities gives a good insight to your interests and skills. Are you skilled at organising events? Do you enjoy talking to people?

    You could also try research-based assessments that categorise interests, skills and personalities and reveals the type of work you may be more inclined towards. Most importantly, don’t follow trends. Follow your interests.

    Knowing your learning style will also help you choose a suitable course of study. Do you enjoy academic discussions or prefer hands-on activities? “For example, after secondary school, if you’re more inclined towards an applied learning style, you may prefer to choose an ITE or polytechnic,” said Ms Tan.

  3. Dare to dream

    “If there are no limits in life, what will your dream job be?” asked Ms Tan. If there is a gap between your dream and current goal, ask yourself – what are the hidden roadblocks? It could be misconceptions, expectations or self-limiting beliefs.

    Ms Tan shared about a student who had an interest in writing but planned to pursue a career in life sciences. As they spoke, they uncovered the student’s concerns and need for a stable income, having seen his mother struggle as a single parent. They then went on to debunk the misconception that writers have unstable incomes and explored options to marry the student’s interest and practical considerations, such as being a journalist, magazine writer or copywriter.

  4. Talk to people

    Feedback from people such as teachers, seniors, mentors, parents and counsellors can help you to understand your skills. Do they affirm your talents or praise you for certain actions or abilities?  By speaking to working adults, you can also find out more about their line of work. Don’t just depend on stereotypical perceptions. 

  5. How do I choose a career_2Choose a field

    “People change at least seven types of jobs in a lifetime,” said Ms Tan. Don’t worry too much about trying to find that one perfect job. Pick a field of interest and continue to learn. As you discover about yourself and develop new skills, carry on exploring the options within the field. 

  6. Understand your values

    The things you value in life will find their way into your work. For example, if you like to help others, find a job that express this purpose in life, such as in healthcare, education or finance.

  7. Try work-shadowing or attachments

    Dip your toes into the working world. Shadow your parents at work, go for learning journeys to companies, or take up a holiday work attachment. 

As you make an informed decision after secondary or tertiary education, remember that you will continue to discover things about yourself in the years ahead. Work is just one way of expressing yourself – what you believe in and what you are good at doing. You can always choose to further your studies after gaining some work experience.


Do you find these tips useful? Or do you have advice for others? Share with us in the comment box below!

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