Choosing a Career

I have no idea what I want to do. Where should I start?

This is a common feeling so don’t panic; different methods will work for different people. You could benefit from researching potential pathways, which might include either asking people who have knowledge or experience in the area, or referring to online data or resources like Careers NZ, Occupation Outlook or the NZ Skills Shortage list, for job information.

Alternatively, you might find it easier to spend some time figuring who you are, first. Instead of trying to fit yourself into a specific job, think about your values, strengths, interests and motivators to help decide what sort of work would reflect or align with these.

How do I choose between multiple career options?

Identifying your priorities can be a great way to narrow down pathway options and can depend on your personal preferences and circumstances. This can include anything from the job’s earning potential, development opportunities, location, qualifications or training required, and family commitments. 

Making decisions from so many different factors can seem overwhelming. Take some time to list points from each area of your life, and decide what actions you can reasonably take in moving towards a possible career. Just the act of reflecting on these will help in providing some clarity and gradually eliminate options that don’t align with what’s most important to you.

Is study the best way to get a good career?

A ‘good’ career is subjective, however undertaking study to develop your knowledge and skills in a focused space, with expert guidance and alongside like-minded classmates, can provide a great foundation to pursue your chosen career.

There are countless factors which can impact the overall effectiveness of study in preparing you for the world of work. This can include how well the content is aligned to the changing industry, the teaching ability of your tutors or lecturers, or even how personally ready you are to learn in a tertiary environment. 

If you’re unsure, always spend time researching the nature of the job or industry you’re considering. Do people actually need qualifications in that area, or do they prioritise certain personality types more? Does that specific company offer their own training or development? Can I learn these skills online, or perhaps from a mentor for cheaper? What proportion of students find work in that area after graduating? 

Study is a fantastic way to up-skill and create opportunities for yourself. Tertiary institute with a strong emphasis on practical learning and industry partnerships offer developmental advantages you might struggle to obtain otherwise, but there are always other equally effective ways of building your future success.

Who can I talk to about possible options?

Toi Ohomai offers a committed Careers & Employability team that supports prospective, current and graduate students in figuring out their next steps. There are also numerous others in your community who can offer valuable insights into career possibilities. One great example is to approach people who are doing the type of work you’re considering, and asking for their advice. You might be surprised how often experienced professionals are willing to give their time to support those humble, driven and courageous enough to seek their counsel.

Often, we take guidance from friends, parents or teachers; some of whom may be knowledgeable and well-intentioned, but may lack current understanding of the ever-changing workforce to offer accurate and impartial information. 

How to Change Career

I want to apply for a role in a different field, but I don’t have relevant experience. Should I even bother?

Absolutely. Although it might be mandatory in some industries for employees to hold specific qualifications e.g. law or medicine, too often people confuse ‘relevant’ experience with thinking they need to have worked in a particular field to get a job in it.

The concept of transferable skills means the competencies you have developed in a previous area, can also be valuable in a different one. For instance, you might not think a chef would make a good quantity surveyor, but as they are often experienced with pricing and ordering, numeracy, managing relationships and communication; with some training they could make a natural transition. 

Always take stock of what you can do now, or learn comfortably over time, and think creatively about how it could help you to do the kind of work you’re passionate about. 

I can’t afford to stop working to pursue study. What are my other options?

Is it that you can’t pursue study at all, or just not full-time? We are in an age where information is available and instantly accessible at varying costs and durations.

Online learning providers are a growing market and come in multiple forms, from offering specialised skills on platforms like Udemy, Khan Academy or Skillshare, to formal NZQA-approved qualifications; many of which can be undertaken for a few hours a week and increase your value to prospective employers. 

Micro-credentials are also becoming an increasingly effective way of learning skills according to certain industries, and in some cases they're tailored for individual companies. Study doesn’t need to be formal either, as you might find experts offering anything from tutelage or mentorship, to seminars, conferences, workshops or working groups; all of which can provide quality learning to increase your employability or business acumen. 

What do I need to consider when looking to change careers?

Priorities will differ. You may or may not have a family, can afford to accept lower pay, need to travel, or have to account for labour market stability or saturation. Or it could just be what feels right for you at the time.

A lot of it will come down to timing. Even if you've accounted for the above, it might not be in your best interests to make a move immediately - but you can still take steps. Updating your CV or LinkedIn profile, investing in your networks, upskilling; anything that will help once you’ve balanced your other factors will all be beneficial when you’re ready to make the jump!

Re-thinking the Word Career

I’ve tried everything, and I’m still lost. What else can I do?

If you’ve exhausted your other options; sought the advice of career counsellors, industry experts, friends or family, or conducted your own research and nothing seems to resonate… try just writing everything down.

The process might seem a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing at first, but some people find it surprising, insightful, or even therapeutic to reflect upon their skills, values, barriers, and of course their dreams, that might feel awkward to discuss openly with others.

  • What would your ‘dream’ role look like?
  • Is there a problem in the world you might contribute to solving?
  • What would you do if money were no object?
  • What do you love doing?

It may take some time, but the investment can have a huge pay-off. Consider the fact that the ideal career for you might be something you never knew existed, or doesn’t yet exist at all. As many as 65% of jobs we know today may have either dramatically changed, or become obsolete 10 years from now, so your options are limitless. 

Try to ask yourself questions, explore ideas and create connections that don’t restrict yourself to specific jobs, and instead look to design what the ideal role for yourself would consist of. From there you can set your efforts towards what you want your career to be, as opposed to what you might otherwise just settle for.