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By what age do your parents expect you to be partly self-supporting? By when do they want you to be fully self-supporting?
A job finances your life. What kind of a life do you want to have as a young adult?
You are not picking a job for life. Experts predict that you will work in 4 different fields and have at least 18 jobs (on average), Your generation will have short career arcs, even shorter ones when you are first starting out. Remember that you are picking what you are going to do, first, to Earn a living when you leave school, at whatever level that turns out
Jobs are like clothing, you have to try on quite a few in order to find a couple that fit really well.
To learn what a particular job is really like, you need to talk with 9 people who do that job, or a similar one. If you take the time to do this, you'll learn about new jobs you never knew existed, create a network of people who know you and who can tell you about vacancies. Through this field research you may learn about training shortcuts and develop skills that will help you do well in employment interviews.
About 75% of today's jobs require training, education, or both after secondary school. Only 20% of those need an academic degree.
(How do you learn best? A university education is an academic education and not everyone learns well that way. If you are going to take on more studies, make sure they fit how you learn.)
Do the jobs you most want happen in places where you would most like to live?
What are the starting salaries for work that interests you? Most reports about salary use averages. Starting salaries are much lower. If you are going to borrow money to cover educational expenses, don't borrow more than 2/3rds of your likely starting salary or you won't be able to pay your bills!
No one is a success at something they don't like. What are the most repetitive tasks of the jobs you most want to do? How will you feel about doing those tasks day after day?
Talk with the youngest people you can find who are doing the jobs that most interest you. The experience of recent hires can be very different from those who have been doing that job for a while.
Learn effective job search techniques. No matter how great your education, training, skills or experience, if you can't get a job in the field you most want to work in, you won't have a career in that field.
Finding a job you'll enjoy—one that matches your ambitions, education and interests—is your responsibility. Lots of people can help you, but don't expect someone to do this for you.
Leave room in your life for the unexpected. Sometimes plans or goals must change. Learn to be flexible and quickly set new goals, you won't be devastated when life takes an unexpected turn.
Carol Christen is a veteran career strategist and author of What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens. Carol has spent several years researching the new generation of workers as they enter the economic marketplace of the early 21st century. Learn more about her work at parachute4teens.com.