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Making a wise career choice

Published:Wednesday | August 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith, Career Writer

Glenford Smith, Career Writer


What if you graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) or University of Technology with a Bachelor of Arts degree and 18 months later were still unable to find a job?

What if, as a result of this situation, you were struggling to survive and make ends meet on a daily basis?

While you're pondering this 'what if' scenario, let me quickly assure you that it's not a hypothetical case. It's real. It's that of a young man who graduated from UWI with a BA in philosophy.

He has asked not to be identified, so we'll call him Anthony.

Yes, philosophy. It's a wonderful subject - a favourite of mine in fact - but a questionable university major unless you plan to lecture, as Anthony discovered.

"During enrolment I was advised that philosophy was a good choice, although I might need to combine it with another degree later on, so I chose it. But now I realise it was not a wise choice. No one wants to hire a graduate with a degree in philosophy," he said, explaining his situation.

"Some of my colleagues have stayed on as lecturers, while others have had to find jobs totally unrelated to what we studied at university. I've tried that as well, but wasn't successful."

A mistake

If he had to do it over again, there's no way he would consider philosophy as his major, Anthony asserted.

What about you? Could you make a similar mistake? How can you make a wise career choice before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and investing years of your life in a university education?

Do your homework. Choosing a career is a major decision, treat it as such. Check out all available information on likely options.

Get clarification on anything that is unclear from the persons qualified to provide same, or from people who are already in the fields you're considering. Under no circumstance should you rely only on casual suggestions, or take advice from people unqualified to give it regarding your career.

Factor in your passion and innate abilities.

Many university candidates, when choosing a career, focus only on the external concerns - likely salary, perceived prestige, or what their parents want them to do - and pay little or no attention to what they love and are good at.

Performing better

However, they would work harder, perform better and achieve much more if they also factored in what they love and what they're talented at.

Consider money, industry prospects, the economy, and competition.

Explore these questions with mentors, career counsellors or people in your prospective industry:

How much money am I likely to earn when I graduate?

Is my preferred industry growing or is it in decline?

How much need is there for people with my qualification in my prospective career?

How will the economy likely affect my industry and job prospects?

Following these guidelines will help you to make a wise career choice, and prevent you from having to re-enrol in another university course, as Anthony will have to do.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal achievement