Choosing A Career

When you do something that you really enjoy, chances are this activity reflects your true interests, abilities and values. If you can identify these interests, abilities and values, and match them to a career that uses them, your career choice will be more likely to offer you success and happiness.


The first step in a career decision process is understanding yourself. You must identify your interests, abilities and values. One way to do this is to make a list of things you’ve done, or are doing. that you really enjoy. Let’s call these experiences your achievements. It’s an achievement because it’s something you thought you did well, that you enjoyed, and of which you were proud. Be careful not to include experiences that you did well, but didn’t necessarily enjoy doing. Try to list about twenty of your past or present achievements. This number may sound kind of high, but remember it’s how you feel about an experience that makes it an achievement. An achievement could be anything from carrying a grocery bag, to saving someone’s life.

Once you’ve completed your list, rank in order of importance your top ten achievements. Start with your greatest achievement and end with the achievement that is least important to you. The next step is to look at the achievements at the top of your list and try to figure out what special skills you have, and how you used them to make these achievements happen. For example, if the number one item on your list is being basketball captain of the varsity team, the skills you listed may be leadership ability, athletic talents, and enjoying competition under pressure. If you do the same thing to the other achievements you’ll start to notice that certain skills are being repeated. It’s very important to identify this repetition of skills because it reveals the skills you already have that you enjoy using.

The last step is to identify careers that use your particular pattern of skills. You can obtain this information from a number of sources. Probably the best overall source is the most recent edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This handbook will tell you the skills that are necessary for success in many different kinds of careers. This book can be found in your school or public library. The title, again, is Occupational Outlook Handbook. Other sources of information include your classroom teachers, guidance counselors, or employment agencies. Talking with friends, neighbors and relatives about their careers can also provide you valuable information.

Another good way to learn about a particular career choice is to get a summer job working in that field. Anything that lets you get the feel of the work, the educational requirements and the atmosphere of the surroundings will be a valuable guide. You may also discover another area of the occupation you enjoy even more.

Volunteer work, whether done in the summer or during the school year, is also an excellent experience. and often serves as a stepping stone for future employment.

Remember, once you do make a career decision, it’s not necessarily final. The average person today changes careers four to six times in his or her lifetime. After you have been out working several years you will have an even better idea of your abilities, your needs and what brings you enjoyment and satisfaction. Then, if you decide to alter your course, you can proceed with confidence to acquire the training, skills, or education to prepare you for your lifetime occupation.


For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.