Do you remember when you were young and people would ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Did you spend a lot of time pretending you were already what you dreamed of, and maybe even learning some of the skills? If
you wanted to be a zookeeper, you set up pretend zoos with your stuffed animals and talked your mother into letting you keep lizards, fish, and a puppy to practice on. You read every book about zoos and animals you could find and went to the zoo as often as possible, watching the zookeepers to learn what they do.
Today, you may be too old to act out your career with toys, but it’s still important to prepare for a career, even if you’re still not sure what you want to be. Preparing for a career when you’re young helps you discover what you enjoy and allows you to get a more realistic look at careers that might seem exciting on the surface, but not in practice. Even if you change your mind later, the skills you learn often transfer to the next passion.
The first step to preparing for a career, of course, is to do well in school. Make sure you’re meeting all the requirements to get into college, since you may end up choosing a career that requires it. Learn the entrance requirements for five schools, including the least expensive one near your home, and then decide what you have to do to get accepted.
Once you’ve chosen one or more possible careers, try to find a way to meet someone who works in the field. Ask them questions that will give you a realistic idea of whether or not the career would appeal to you. Why did they choose it? What was the biggest surprise once they were really involved in it? What do they like best? What do they like least? What skills do you need to do this job? What kind of personality do you need?
Is there volunteer work or part-time work a teenager can do in the field or in something related? If you want to be a veterinarian, find out if your local vet hires teens to do things. You won’t be caring for sick animals, but you will be around the office, listening, watching, and learning. You may even, if you prove your worth, get to do a few things that will give you skills you need later on.
Read books about your chosen career and about the subjects involved. If you want to be an environmentalist, read about people currently in the field, study books that show you what they really do, and read books that teach you about the environment. The more you know before you get to college, the easier your studies will be. It’s often more fun to study when you teach yourself than when you study in a classroom.
An important part of any career is being responsible and dependable. Practice being dependable at home and at school, as well as in other parts of your life. Become a hard worker who can do what needs to be done without being given specific instructions or without supervision.
If you discover the job isn’t what you thought it would be, or if you lose interest, that’s fine. This is a time for exploring, before you’ve spent a lot of years studying something you then realize you don’t care about. There are so many careers, some of which you don’t even know about yet. The exploration is exciting, so keep your eyes open. There are people working all around you, and this is the time to pay attention and see what needs doing in the world that you might want to help with.