Choosing your subjects, preparing your future: Part III
Life after Subject Choice
A few weeks ago I was sitting writing recommendations for further studies to someone who came to me for a career assessment. As I was leafing through different tertiary prospectuses to check relevant courses and qualifications, I told my dad who was sitting nearby how glad I am that I do not have to make this decision now. There are so many options out there and so many careers that interest me in some way; I wouldn’t know where to start!
The thing is, when I finished Matric 13 years ago, I really didn’t know where to start – my career unravelled because of exposure, trials and error and questions I had to ask myself. As I got to know myself and different careers better, my career path started becoming more defined and focused.
Let me tell you how I got to do what I do today.
I had the “right” subjects. When I was at school, it was called “the Big Six” – Afrikaans, English, Mathematics (we did not have the option to do Maths Literacy, but we had the option of not doing Maths at all), Science, Biology (which I changed to Physiology in Grade 12 because I really preferred learning about the human body above knowing how leaves breathe) and Accounting. I had Music as an extra subject. I did well enough in all of my subjects to apply for anything I wanted to. Well, maybe not THAT WELL enough, because I applied for Medicine and was not accepted…
Being forced to go with my second option, I made my way to Stellenbosch campus, enrolled for First Year Camp, met the girl who would be my roommate in res for the year and registered for BSc Human Life Sciences. The plan was to re-apply for Medicine at the end of my first year. I still can not remember who told me to put a BSc-course as my second option on the application form but even though it was only a back-up at that point, it was something I enjoyed tremendously. I’ve always liked Science and was fascinated by the lectures and the practical work we were doing – the lab work, the dissections, learning to draw different chemical structures and figuring out why you can’t have blue eyes if both your biological parents have a set of brown ones.
It was something I would choose again.
Ok, but now you are thinking ‘She’s a Psychologist, not a Scientist’, right? Right.
In the week of registration I learned that there are two options when doing BSc Human Life Sciences – one with Botany as one of the modules, and one with Psychology. Now you would remember that in Matric I changed from Biology to Physiology because I didn’t want to learn about plants and photosynthesis. I wasn’t about to get stuck learning about that for another three years at University, so I chose to register for the Psychology-stream. After my first few lectures, I was sold! I knew, that although I was (and still is today!!) intrigued by being a Cardiologist who massages someone’s heart with my bare hands to make it beat again and that Science was very interesting to me, my next step would be to further my studies in Psychology. I didn’t re-apply for Medicine (their loss, right?!) and enrolled for an Honours programme in Psychology, choosing Career Psychology as one of my elective modules.
At this time I already had some sense that I wanted to be involved in assisting young people in finding their career paths, although I did not know much about how to do so. After a research year in Career Psychology and exposure to people who know more about this field than I did, I was guided towards completing a certificate in Education and entered a Masters programme in Educational Psychology. This qualification allowed me to register as an Educational Psychologist and to do Career Assessment, Development and Guidance as I do now.
Why an I telling you all this??
Because maybe I was lucky. More times than not, I believe that I was. Although I knew I liked science and didn’t find much joy in issues surrounding Business or Accounting, I entered the BSc degree quite blindly. I was fortunate to have the choice between Botany and Psychology and even more fortunate to meet people I could tell about my passion, so I in turn could be guided towards the right routes to fulfill this dream.
Others are not so lucky. I hear of so many students who enter a course and realise later that it is not actually what they though it would be – someone who loves Chemistry and enroll for a course in Chemical Engineering, realising she is not doing as many chemical lab work as she would’ve liked, or someone who really enjoys doing Mathematical calculations and has an interest in Business, but ending up doing a LOT of statistics every day. Not so much fun.
Of course, realising that you are in the wrong place is not the end of the world. It means that you are learning about yourself. But changing your course or starting a new qualification after your initial studies, could be an expensive lesson you can avoid if you start exploring, thinking and learning about yourself and the world you want to engage with at an earlier point. Of course there are going to be many other decisions you are going to have to make in your lifetime and each decision is going to be influenced by different factors, at different times. Still, making this initial decision regarding further studies and starting your future in an informed way, would be a good foundation to start.
So how can you start?
By exploring and getting informed. We know you are still young and you JUST chose your subjects for the next three years…but you can start fine-tuning your future now. This might help you:
- Expose yourself to as many careers and opportunities as possible
You can not know whether you would enjoy something if you have not been exposed to it
Work shadow!!! (We’ll post a HOW TO-blog on Work shadowing soon!!)
Get the true picture of the careers you are interested in. Do not rely on Suits to give you a clear picture of the Law industry, or CSI to inform you properly what Forensic work is all about!!
- Read and ask questions
Speak to people about what they do, ask them what the challenges are, ask them what excites them and bore them and frustrate them. Ask about the hours and the workload… (More on this in our next blog)
- Start familiarising yourself with the training possibilities so you are informed about what you would be stepping INTO and what you will STEP OUT with
- And RELAX!! The most important thing is to enjoy this journey…to find exciting new options, to explore them and to decide whether you would want to pursue them further or not. You STILL HAVE TIME! So we are not saying you have to make your decision now, we are saying that you need to start dreaming!!
I hope this motivates you to start thinking about your future. Again, as you make your way through this exploration process, make sure you have the subjects that will gain you further access to pursue your options. Then see where all your exploring leads…you might find a very exciting future Unravelling!
Let us know how it goes!! We would live to hear your story or to answer your questions.
Written by Amanda van der Vyver, An Unravelling Exploration ‘Explorer’ and educational psychologist.