Just graduated from school, and not sure where to go from there? Here are several tips on choosing a career that’s aligned with your interests and goals. 

By Kel Tan 

Deciding on a career after graduation can be an experience that’s filled with uncertainty and anxiety. While you might not land your dream job immediately, your first role is a stepping stone towards your ultimate goal. So how do you decide what’s best for you? 
Explore your options

There are several important factors to consider before choosing a career path to pursue.  

“Consider your interests and hobbies, and how they might possibly intersect with your career,” advises Ms Helen Lim-Yang, principal consultant at ROHEI Consulting. For instance, if you’re into acting, you might wish to apply for a job with an arts organisation. If you enjoy writing, you can venture into the publishing industry. “Your job becomes more enjoyable when it aligns with your interests,” she adds. 

Job-specific skills are also important – more so if the career in question is highly technical. For instance, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to carve out a career as a lawyer if you don’t have the relevant training. “As such, be sure to find out what sort of knowledge and certifications are necessary to start out, as well as progress, in that particular career field,” says Helen.

Do take into account your financial situation. If you already have hefty student loans to pay off, it might be more difficult to pursue a career path that requires additional schooling, like a Master’s degree. That being said, however, there are many grants and scholarships out there that you can apply for. 

Moreover, consider the job’s earning potential. Would you be able to lead your desired lifestyle with the salary you can expect to draw? “Talk to people already in the industry to find out how your career might look like several years down the road, in terms of finances and prospects,” suggests Helen. 

Motivational focus
According to author and psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, we tend to be motivated to achieve our work and life goals in one of two ways – with a promotion focus, or with a prevention focus. 

If you’re promotion-focused, you’re primarily motivated by opportunities for advancement, achievement and reward. If that sounds like you, Dr. Halvorson recommends looking for jobs in fast-paced industries, such as technology and social media, where qualities such as creativity and risk-taking are valued. 

At the other end of the spectrum, prevention-focused individuals are motivated by security and responsibility. These people should look for jobs that offer stability and require analytic thinking, which are usually found in fields such as law and engineering. 

Take action

Prepare your resume 
Before you start applying for jobs, make sure that you have an effective resume on hand. The best resumes are clear, concise and formatted wisely; check out useful websites like for pointers.  

Begin the application process 
There are many platforms out there that you can use. “Popular job portals like JobsDB, JobsStreet and JobsCentral are constantly updated with new openings. Plus, they offer a wide variety of search criteria, which makes it easy or you to whittle down your options,” recommends Helen. LinkedIn is also an excellent job search tool, so it’s worth setting up a LinkedIn profile and updating it with your skills and qualifications. 

Attend networking events whenever possible, such as workshops, forums, tea sessions and seminars. You’ll get to rub shoulders with some of the best and brightest in each industry, and gather important insights. Plus, you’ll get to exchange contacts with the right people, thereby enhancing your chances of snagging a job at their firm. 

If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, you can test the waters first with an internship or a part-time job. Try out different roles and industries before committing to a decision. 

Practice your interview skills 
If you’ve nailed an interview, congratulations! It’s now time to brush up on your intercommunication skills. Ensure that you conduct enough research on the employer and job in question, and that you prepare adequate responses for common questions. Also, be sure to dress appropriately for your interview, and turn up on time. Most importantly, remember to be polite, relaxed and genuine during the interview – a little confidence goes a long way. 

Embrace the journey

Now that you’ve successfully landed your first job, it’s crucial that you make a good impression. Here are three important work etiquette rules to observe when starting out in the workplace. 

Dress for success 
Adhering to your company’s prescribed dress code helps you to look professional and credible. Even if there isn’t one, you can’t go wrong with smart shirts and elegant dresses. Avoid short hemlines and low necklines, which can be distracting and inappropriate, even if you’re in the creative industry. You are what you wear!

Build your personal brand
Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and make yourself heard. “Also, focus on personal branding. Be diligent, responsible and accountable for your actions. Treat your colleagues with respect, too – whether they’re your superiors or your peers,” says Helen. These will help you to reinforce a positive impression in the mind of others. 

Use social media appropriately
“Don’t let social media be a disruptive presence in the workplace,” advises Helen. While millennials are the biggest users of social media, you shouldn’t be scrolling through your Facebook and Instagram feeds every hour while at your desk – this affects your productivity, and also makes you look like you’re slacking off. Additionally, refrain from posting comments online that could potentially compromise the reputation of your company. 

Not the right fit? 

If your new job isn’t quite what you envisioned it to be, don’t panic. No job is perfect, and it’s normal to feel out of your depth in the first few weeks. “Discuss with your supervisor or human resource manager about the discrepancy between your expectations and reality, and determine if the issues that are troubling you can be resolved,” suggests Helen. “Additionally, speak with your parents and significant other, too – they deserve to be part of the conversation, and might be able to offer sage advice.” 

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to seek out another job opportunity, whether it’s in the same industry, or an entirely different one – after all, short-term stints are common (but not ideal!) in the working world. Consider other career options and conduct thorough research on prospective employers to avoid making the same mistake twice. “If you’ve embarked on a particular path, it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with it for life,” assures Helen. 

I Love Children thanks Ms Helen Lim-Yang for her valuable input.

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