When you’re at school, at some point you will start seriously considering what you want to do with your life. If you are lucky enough to have a calling to a specific vocation, your path will be clear, and all you have to do is work hard and get the necessary qualifications. 

Many young people though have no driving ambition to work in a particular sector, and you can sometimes find yourself falling into a career almost by accident rather than design. Even for the driven ones, sometimes their drive isn’t enough, and the reality is they don’t have the skills for the job they dream of doing, which can be a huge disappointment. For both groups, searching for an interesting area of study or a rewarding career path can be quite a slog. If you are one of those people or know someone who is struggling to find a suitable career, there are ways to open up the world of work and find the opportunities you seek.

Where can you turn for careers advice?
If you’re at school, you should have access to a careers counselor, who can look at your academic progress and predicted grades and match you to courses and job opportunities that fit your profile. This will probably be your first port of call when looking for professional advice, and it makes sense to listen to them and make use of any resources they have available. There are online portals like Careers.org that provide information on each state in the USA and links to national and international sources of information and guidance on all things career-related. Individual universities and colleges, and many large organizations also have websites devoted to helping people find the right course or job, so look at the information available at your local institution or large employer and see if you find anything that inspires you.

A second chance at studying
If you failed to achieve the grades you need for your chosen course or career, or you didn’t decide what you wanted to do until after you’d taken your exams and are now left with certificates for the wrong subjects, don’t despair! You can still go back into education and get the qualifications you require. Whatever your age, if you want to return to school to study a specialist subject or just improve your grades from the first time around, you can apply to college and complete your education. If finances are an issue, you may be eligible for grants or scholarships, so find out if there are any you are able to apply for. If not, you can still work your way through college by finding a job that enables you to cover your expenses while studying. The availability of distance learning has expanded considerably in the past decade, and there are multiple options for learning online, including overseas-based courses if they are the most suitable.

Looking at careers in a new light
There are certain preconceptions about some careers that persist even now, and people often fail to realise what a range of opportunities there are within certain sectors. Have a look behind the stereotype and find out what these job sectors have to offer that might surprise you:

Medicine. Chances are your immediate reaction was “I don’t want to be a doctor or a nurse,” but these roles are just the most high-profile ones because nursing and medical staff are at the front line of patient interaction. In the world of healthcare there are many roles which suit a range of abilities and interests, so have a look at a website that gives you detailed information about other careers in healthcare like www.ultimatemedical.edu/healthcare-career-guide/. If you look further behind the medical curtain, you’ll discover jobs you may not even have known existed. How about being a medical transcriptionist? You would be performing a vital role transcribing notes for physicians and helping prepare reports and other documents. It’s a role that can be home-based too and doesn’t require a degree, just basic certification. Or a health service manager? You would be responsible for running the healthcare facility or a department within it, in much the same way you would run a business; balancing the books, checking that legislation is being complied with and ensuring the facility runs as smoothly and effectively as possible. It’s normally a degree level role, but a business or management related degree rather than a medical one. Medical records clerk positions don’t require any qualifications but serve an essential purpose in maintaining and facilitating access to patient records. 

Libraries. Librarians are often portrayed as being middle-aged ladies who stamp due dates in books and go around saying “Sshhh” a lot. This stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to modern library services and their staff. What may surprise you is the range of sectors in which librarians work and the variety of roles they can undertake. Most large institutions like museums, law firms, societies, hospitals and of course universities will have a library service of some description. Librarians specializing in a particular sector are highly knowledgeable about their subject and play a vital role in finding and providing access to information in all its forms. Some library services are entirely electronic, containing no printed materials whatsoever. The librarian curates the digital information and provides access in the same way as traditional libraries but will be an expert in online resources rather than printed ones. Librarians are usually degree educated, often with a bachelor’s degree in a subject specialty such as history, and a master’s degree in library science. The role of librarians has shifted into the digital realm to the point where many librarians are now known by different job titles, such as information scientist and knowledge manager. Wherever your interests lie, there is sure to be an institution with a specialist library behind the scenes, and you can get a flavor of them at the American Library Association’s careers website.

Engineering. Are you picturing overalls, cans of oil and a set of socket wrenches? Think again! Engineering is one of the most diverse career paths, encompassing all manner of roles from green energy, robotics, and construction to electronics, artificial intelligence, and interplanetary travel. Engineers are the brains behind everything we build or make, the people who have a vision and can apply practical solutions to finding better ways of doing things or pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the science of creation. To find out more about the extensive range of engineering jobs available, have a look at the Educating Engineers website. Engineering is now almost universally a degree level subject, but it’s still possible to enter at lower levels and complete on the job training to gain engineering qualifications.

The knowledge economy. The Internet started an information revolution, with the enablement of mass communication and the production of mind-boggling quantities of information. It has spawned a new generation of career opportunities and facilitated the modernization of many traditional job sectors. If you know a lot about something, you can build up an entire online business based on your expertise and attracting people who are prepared to pay for your knowledge. Just take a look at the extraordinary numbers of marketing, lifestyle, business and personal growth coaches there are online, all promising to deliver the best results and spectacular changes in your fortunes. Some are just scams, designed to get you to buy their book which will give you the keys to untold riches, and some are just people who have jumped on the bandwagon that they hope will be a cash cow, but who don’t offer much of any real value. Then there are the genuine people who really do know what they’re talking about, and make a lot of money sharing their knowledge with other people. You don’t need to be a financial genius to make money online, just have a passion for your subject, be an authority on the topic and have the self-discipline to work for yourself. You could go into sales, services or any area that interests you and with work and dedication build your pages up to be very profitable. Have a look at this article for some ideas on the subject.

Finding the right job can be hard and sometimes dispiriting, but take the time to look at what you can offer an employer and investigate the wide range of job opportunities that reside behind the obvious. The reason why you may not have hit on your dream job or life’s work is that you haven’t come across it yet! In much the same way as the process of finding a life partner, jobs aren’t sitting outside your door waiting for you, they have to be looked for and discovered. Make an effort to see what the full spectrum of career possibilities can offer before settling for something which doesn’t satisfy you in the long-term, and don’t get trapped doing a job you dislike because you lack the ambition to look for something more rewarding.