Mark out your path in life and career

Higher Education: Before Your Studies

Making your dream a reality will take research, planning and serious decision making. In the past decades the employment market has changed tremendously, which is in turn reflected in education. Long gone are the times when you could go to university, if you were lucky, and then leave with a good degree and a job for life. Another way to look at this is that the days when you were herded into a career you were more or less stuck in for the rest of your life are long gone as well.

These days, a dream will only take you so far and you don’t need to plan all of your life from where you are now. In fact, you only need to plan your next step if you are going to university. if you do that well, you’re on the righ track.

Two main ways to plan

There are generally two main ways to plan your future:

  1. Plan from a ‘dream career’ idea you have. You can then plan step by step back to where you are now and then you know the steps to take to get to where you want to be in a later career.
  2. Plan from where you are now and make the best decision for your next step or steps only.

The first method can give you a feeling of long term security and knowing where you are all the time. However, if you think about it, reality around you is changing all the time and there will be lots of unexpected events. You may even change your mind on what your longer term goal should be. In addition to that, your situation may change and prompt a rethink. So, always keep an open mind and explore the things around your ideas as well, so you know what could be a potential ‘plan B’ or changed plan.

The second method may seem very insecure, but if you choose well, it can give you a lot of security and flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and events that happen around you. One way to plan is to always choose by:

  1. What do you like most?
  2. What are you best at?
  3. Are the options it leads on to in the future things you may be interested in, in a very broad way?

The first two of these are the most important ones. If you focus too much on the last one and you ignore whether you like your next step and whether you would be able to get good results, you may be on the wrong track in the longer term. You may be on the way to something you dislike in the longer term or something you are generally not good at, with the potential effect that you struggle and hate your job.

How we plan:

Planning sometimes happens in a more haphazard way, but if we look at how it might work, then that may help trying to avoid some pitfalls. We often start with ideas, which may or may not come to fruition, which can be a good thing. Ideas are easily transformed into assumptions and misconceptions. In the worst case this will block us off from possibilities which would otherwise be open to us.

It’s not only important to be aware of any assumptions we are making but it’s also important to find out the correct information which, by comparing with your initial ideas, will become evidence for or against.

This may trigger further ideas, or may prompt us to adjust our plans, after which the circle starts again. 

Once we are more or less sure about:

  •  What we want
  •  Whether what we want is possible and a good idea

we can move on… and start acting on our ideas to allow our plans to be successful. 

You will see that the (very much simplifed) model above is easily used in the decision making for university study and our career. This is of course very similar to the scientific method!