By Sinmarie Pieterse

Choosing a career is a big deal. It is much more than just deciding what you will do for a living. Besides choosing a life partner or clarifying what your life philosophy is, (that is what you believe in); choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you are going to make in your life. With more than 400 000 different occupations to choose from, it is not surprising that many young people are undecided about what they want to do with their lives.

The facts are that the amount of time you spend at work is about 71% of a year!  This means about 45 years of our life beginning from starting to work up to our retirement. Therefore, I can’t overemphasise the importance of choosing a career that satisfies your needs as a person.

While some just know from an early age what they would like to become, for others it is not so easy. Many choose a career for the wrong reasons or only take into account one aspect of career choice (such as only considering aptitude or financial security and not taking into account the equal importance of personality, interests and values).

Also in the past a person chose a career and continued to work in that field for the rest of their lives. So they did not find a need to study further in that field. Today though, change has been so rapid that that jobs change regularly. The job itself may not exist after a year or two. In addition, the speed of new technology and new information means that information that was relevant when we graduated or were trained can become redundant extremely fast. It is therefore important to view your choice and involvement in a particular career as an evolving and dynamic process rather than a fixed event and a once-off decision.

What does this mean for a young person thinking about a career choice? It often means that job requirements will force people to study further, to obtain new skills and to continue to remain relevant long after graduation. Think of it as a 40 year degree or diploma rather than just the duration of your formal tertiary program at your university or college. Also, many people will have more than one job. As people become more interested in different activities, they may find work in a completely different field after working hours (what is sometimes referred to as a “composite” career).


It is extremely important that you must KNOW YOURSELF BEFORE CHOOSING A CAREER.

The career planning process is comprised of 4 steps:

It is much easier to make a career choice if you have self-knowledge which you can gain through self-reflection, asking the right questions and being honest regarding yourself.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions: What are….

1. My Values

What is important to you? Status, having enough money, knowledge, recognition, helping others, religious beliefs….

2. My Natural Talents

Are you naturally good with words, good with numbers, sports, or getting on well with people?

3. My Abilities & Skills

These are the abilities and skills that you have developed. There are six areas which you should consider:

  • Mental ability: how good is your verbal and nonverbal reasoning ability, your working memory and your processing speed?
  • Verbal & Written skills: do you communicate well? Which comes easier to you, communicating verbally or through writing?
  • Numerical skills: do you have the ability to work with figures and do well at Maths?
  • Practical ability – Are you good with your hands, using tools or doing craftwork? Can you repair cars and or work with computers?
  • Creative ability: Are you musical, artistic, a dancer?
  • Social ability: Are you a natural leader? Do you enjoy helping or motivating others?

4. My Interests

What do you enjoy doing?
Being with people, reading, writing, playing sport, being in nature, doing numerical calculations etc

5. My Personality & Character

What are your traits? How would your family and friends describe you?
Are you patient, kind, bossy, generous, friendly? Are you more of an extrovert or an introvert? How do you handle change? When it comes to making tough decisions, are you more emotionally detached or does your heart rule your head?

6. My Self Esteem

How do you see yourself? How do you view yourself and your ability in managing life’s challenges? How have you overcome disappointments up till now?

…. Now let’s get started on this discovering journey ….


  • Your Parents
  • Your Teachers
  • Yourself
  • Your best friends and….
  • Psychological tests like aptitude, interest and personality questionnaires. This can be done by private psychologists, psychometrists or counsellors at Varsities.  All of the Psychologist at our Claremont Practice are well equipped to just that and even more for you. Some have years of experience in this field, please check us out!



Consider the enormous benefits of having yourself assessed.  It always is helpful to talk to experts in the field! Then…after that has been done the next step would be….


Explore the career options that seem to be a good fit based on the results of your assessment. Read about them on websites such as and others.
Research the industries that you would like to work in.
Explore other occupations that interest you.
Research the labour market
Go to career exhibitions


VERY IMPORTANT! Go and work in fields that you are interested in as an intern, volunteer or part time work and informally interview people in those fields.


During this phase you will decide which occupation is best for you. This is based on what you know about yourself and the career fields that you have researched.
Then you will act upon it by apply at the institutions which offers these courses.

Guidelines for parents during this process

  • Don’t push your child into any career for your reasons.
  • Be supportive and patient. Listen to them.  Talk to them. Have them assessed.
  • Acknowldge that they are going through the following process…indecisiveness…a fantasy phase…an exploration phase…decision phase

Guidelines for students in your process of deciding
There will always be a sense of uncertainty….it is ok…nothing is always as it seems to be…there will be the x factor…

Remember girls, don’t be steered away of considering certain careers because of your sex….women work as successfully as men in many fields.

Don’t settle for second best…due to finances or whatever reason….choose according to who you are and want from life! IT is for the rest of your life!

Wishing you all the best on your journey!


  • RAINBOW: YOUR GUIDE TO A BRIGHT FUTURE 1993:Motivation Guides on Education Lyndhurst
  • The Career Planning process:  by Dawn Rosenberg