Believe it or not, if you're in your teens right now, you're at a great point in your life. You have your whole life in front of you and now is a good time to start thinking about your future, to make some initial plans.Now is the time to pursue your dreams!

And as you start thinking about one or more potential educational and career paths, here are some things to remember in the days ahead.

1. Take time to think about what you like to do; dream and imagine ideal careers. 

There are so many opportunities, so many different types of jobs and careers in a wide variety of industries -- and there are also other career paths that are just emerging. Even if you are fairly sure of a career choice, take the time in high school to explore similar (or even vastly different) careers. Explore all your options. Examine your likes and dislikes and take a few career-assessment tests. Answer the question, if you could have any job right now, what would it be -- and why? Don't let any barriers hold you back from finding the perfect career.

2. Challenge yourself, but don't overwhelm yourself.

Do get the most out of the present, as much as possible. When you can, take the tough and challenging schedule of classes; you'll learn more -- and it will look good to the college admissions staff. Obviously, you need to stay focused on getting good grades, but don't overload your schedule -- or yourself -- so that it makes you sick or burnt out. Be sure to include at least one fun course in your schedule.

Example: If you have a passion for something, such as photography, find a way to schedule a photography course along with your other tougher college-prep courses.

3. Work, volunteer, or otherwise gain some experience. 

As with your education, the more you are exposed to, the more options will open to you as you search out careers. There are even a growing number of internship opportunities. Seek work and volunteer experiences in and out of school. And from a practical standpoint, work experience looks good on future job applications and resumes. And one other benefit if you are working in a paid position: spending money! Just remember that school and grades have to come first, so only work if you can balance your schedule, manage your time.

Example: If you're interested in a career in journalism, start writing for your school newspaper and look into a part-time job at a local newspaper.

4. Get as much education as you can. 

We are now a society in which many jobs and careers require additional education or training beyond secondary school. Most careers require a graduate degree before you can work in the field. Take advantage of all educational opportunities that come your way, such as summer educational opportunities and educational trips abroad. If financially possible -- and there are many ways to help make it so -- attend university; university graduates make a much higher salary, on average, than secondary-school graduates.

Example: If you have a passion for science or math, instead of spending a long vacation playing around the community pool, consider a summer math enrichment program.

5. Talk with as many adults as possible about careers and universities: 

The best way to find out about different careers is to ask people -- family, neighbors, friends, teachers, counselors -- to tell you about their career and college experiences. If you have not already, begin to build a network of adults who know you and are willing to assist you in your educational and career endeavors. And for careers that truly interest you, consider asking each person if you can shadow him/her at work. You could also consider conducting informational interviews to learn more about jobs and careers.

6. Remember that everyone must follow his or her own path in life.

Don't spend too much time worrying what other people around you are doing -- or letting their opinions about your dreams and ambitions affect your decision. And don't worry if you leave high school with no clear career path -- that's partly what college is all about, discovering who you are and what you want to do in life. Everyone develops/matures/grows at their own pace, so don't feel the need to rush to make a decision now… but don't use the fact that you have plenty of time to make a decision as an excuse not to at least start learning and researching potential career options.

Example: Many schools, both secondary and tertiary have guadiance counsellors offer special "discovery" programs for students who have no real idea of their future careers. These programs expose you to a wide variety of classes, events, and speakers to help lead you onto a path of career discovery.

7. Don't let anyone control your dreams and ambitions. 

You might not be your best if you let a parent or other family member dictate your major or your career. Students often feel pressure to follow in an adult family member's career path, especially if s/he is footing the school fees, the worst thing you can do is choose a career to please someone else.

Example: A friend came from "a family of accountants," and everyone was supposed to join the family's accounting firm. The problem, however, was that she had no aptitude for numbers and hated accounting -- yet could not summon the courage to tell her family. When she finally did confess her dislike, the world did not end, and her parents actually encouraged her to follow her passion.

8. It's never too early nor too late to get organized and begin making plans. 

No matter where you are in school, now is the time to plan the remainder of your school years-- as well as your plans after school. Start or continue your preparation for the various examinations, school, entrance, qualification and even certification examinations. Start thinking about teachers, lecturers and even colleuges that can work with you in the direction of your dream-- and approach them. Finally, make plans to fill any gaps in your plans -- such as striving for better grades, taking tougher courses, gaining experience or earning community-service hours.

9. Never stop learning… read, grow, and expand your mind. 

Don't pass-up opportunities to learn and experience new things. Look for opportunities for growth rather than a drag on your holidays. The more you read, the more you'll know. It's a cliche, but knowledge is power.

Final Thoughts

The Secondary School and the University periods are real transition times for teens, as you move into adulthood and the more adult issues of work, careers, and college. It should be a time of growth as well as a time of challenge. Have fun, but get the best education you can so that you are positioned to take advantage of further educational and career opportunities and no matter where you go after secondary school, never stop learning and growing.

Modified from: Dr. Randall S. Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers.

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