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What steps you can take toward committing to a career path?

What is a step you can take toward committing to a career path?

Imagine you're at an ice cream shop, faced with a dozen new flavors you've never tried. You can read the descriptions, look at the colors, even smell the aromas, but will that really tell you which one you'll enjoy the most? The only way to know for sure is to taste them!

Your career journey is similar. You can read about a job, watch videos, and even talk to people in the field, but until you "taste" it yourself, through work experience, internships, or volunteering, you won't truly know if it's the right fit for you.

Test-Drive Your Future: How to Explore a Career Before Committing

Do you have a dream job in mind but aren't sure if it's the right fit? Imagining a career is one thing, but how do you really know if it's for you without trying it out first? Before you commit to years of studying, there are ways to explore a career path to ensure it aligns with your passion and goals.

Why Experiment First?

Think of it like sampling ice cream flavors before choosing a scoop. You wouldn't buy a car without a test drive, so why commit to a career without trying it out?

Testing different paths allows you to understand what you love and what might not be a match. It's an empowering way to make informed decisions about your future.

 Why it's crucial to try out a career before making that commitment

The allure of a specific career might seem exciting at first glance, but without taking the time to explore it properly, you may find yourself facing unexpected challenges, disappointments, and setbacks. Here's why it's crucial to try out a career before making that commitment:

1. Mismatched Expectations and Reality

Careers often appear different from the outside than they are in reality. Job descriptions and academic curricula might paint a rosy picture, but the day-to-day experience could be far different. Committing to a career without understanding its real demands and challenges can lead to disillusionment and dissatisfaction.

2. Wasted Time and Resources

Studying for a career requires significant investment in terms of time, money, and energy. If you discover that the career doesn't align with your interests or values after you've already started your education, you may find that you've wasted valuable resources. Changing paths can be costly and time-consuming.

3. Impact on Mental and Emotional Well-being

Finding yourself in a career that doesn't suit you can lead to stress, anxiety, and even burnout. The constant struggle to fit into a role that doesn't resonate with you can affect your mental and emotional health, leading to a lack of motivation and enthusiasm.

4. Limited Career Growth and Satisfaction

Without passion and alignment with your chosen field, you may find it challenging to excel and grow. Lack of interest can hinder your performance and limit opportunities for advancement, leading to a stagnant and unfulfilling career.

5. Missed Opportunities

By committing to a career without exploring other options, you may miss out on discovering a path that could have been a perfect fit. Exploration helps you uncover interests and talents you might not have known you had, leading to more satisfying and fulfilling career choices.

6. Difficulty in Transitioning Later

Realizing that you've chosen the wrong career after years of studying and working in that field can make transitioning to a new path difficult. You may face barriers such as additional educational requirements, lack of relevant experience, and starting from scratch in a new field.

7. Effects on Personal Life

A career that doesn't align with your life goals and personal values can impact your relationships and overall life satisfaction. Work-life balance, personal fulfillment, and the ability to pursue hobbies and interests may all be affected if you find yourself in a career that doesn't suit you.

While committing to a career path is an essential step toward your future, jumping into it without careful exploration and consideration can lead to a host of challenges. From mismatched expectations to wasted resources and potential negative impacts on your well-being, the decision to pursue a career without first trying it out can have lasting consequences.

Taking the time to explore, test, and reflect on various career options ensures that you make a choice that aligns with your interests, values, and life goals. It's a proactive approach that empowers you to create a fulfilling and successful career that truly resonates with who you are.

By recognizing the potential pitfalls of committing too quickly, you're better equipped to make informed, thoughtful decisions about your future. It's an investment in yourself that pays dividends in happiness, satisfaction, and success throughout your life.

What the Research Says 

Our natural ability to predict what we'll enjoy in the future is surprisingly limited. This phenomenon has been explored through various scientific studies:

  1. Professor Timothy Wilson's Study: Wilson and his colleagues found that people generally struggle to predict how they will feel about something in the future. Their research shows that our imagination often fails to capture the full experience of a situation. 

  2. Gilbert and Ebert's Research on Miswanting: Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Ebert coined the term "miswanting," referring to the tendency to mispredict our future desires. Their work suggests that our expectations often don't align with our actual experiences. 

  3. Career-Specific Research by Herzberg: Frederick Herzberg's theory of job satisfaction shows that factors such as achievement, recognition, and work itself play a significant role in job satisfaction. Understanding these factors requires engaging with the work environment rather than merely contemplating it. 

These research findings collectively reinforce the idea that imagining a career can't give you the full picture of what it's like to be in it. Whether it's a misalignment of expectations, the rich complexity of real-world experience, or the nuanced factors of job satisfaction, research consistently emphasizes the need to go beyond mere thought and into active exploration of your career interests.

Ways to Try Out Careers - Before You Spend Three Years+ At University Qualifying for the Job  

Informational Interviews

  • What it is: Conducting one-on-one interviews with professionals in the desired field, asking specific questions about their career experiences, day-to-day responsibilities, and insights.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Personalized insights into the career path from experienced professionals.
    • Opportunities to clarify misconceptions and gather honest feedback.
    • Building connections and expanding the professional network.
    • Enhancing communication and interviewing skills.
  • Time Required:
    • Preparation, conducting the interview, and follow-up may take several hours.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify professionals in the desired field who may be open to an informational interview.
    • Reach out via email or social media, expressing interest and requesting an interview.
    • Prepare thoughtful questions that reflect genuine curiosity.
    • Conduct the interview respectfully and professionally, taking notes.
    • Send a thank-you note, expressing gratitude for their time and insights.

Read our detailed guide to Informational Interviews here to learn how to do them. 

Job Shadowing/ Work Experience 

  • What it is: Spending time following a professional to observe daily tasks involved in a specific job.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Direct insight into daily job activities.
    • No long-term commitment required.
    • Builds relationships with professionals.
    • Helps clarify expectations and realities of a job.
  • Time Required:
    • Usually short-term, ranging from a single day to a week.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify professionals in the desired field who might allow shadowing.
    • Contact them via email, phone, or through networking connections.
    • Prepare thoughtful questions to ask during the experience.
    • Coordinate with school if needed (some schools offer job shadowing programs).
    • Be professional and respectful throughout the experience.

Read our detailed guide to work experience and job shadowing here. 

Career Fairs and Networking Events

  • What it is: Attending gatherings where professionals from various industries come together, such as career fairs, conferences, or networking meetups.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Exposure to a wide range of careers and industries.
    • Opportunity to ask questions and gather insights directly from professionals.
    • Building connections that may lead to future opportunities.
    • Enhancing communication and networking skills.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically, a few hours for a single event, but preparation and follow-up might add extra time.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research local career fairs, conferences, or networking events related to the desired field.
    • Prepare questions and an elevator pitch to introduce yourself.
    • Attend with an open mind and actively engage with professionals.
    • Follow up with connections made, expressing gratitude and interest in staying in touch.

Read our detailed guide to Careers Days here to learn what to watch out for.


  • What it is: Working as an intern to gain hands-on experience in a specific field and understand daily responsibilities.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Real-world exposure to the chosen career.
    • Opportunity to learn and apply skills.
    • Builds a professional network.
    • Enhances resume with relevant experience.
  • Time Required:
    • Can be quite time-intensive, ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the internship.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research companies that offer internships in the desired field.
    • Prepare and update a resume tailored to the internship.
    • Apply to multiple opportunities.
    • Reach out to school counselors or career centers for assistance.
    • Follow up on applications and prepare for potential interviews.

Read our comprehensive guide to internships here. 


  • What it is: Offering time to organizations related to the desired career field, providing insights and connections.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Gains hands-on experience without formal employment.
    • Encourages networking with industry professionals.
    • Enhances personal growth and community engagement.
    • Often offers flexibility in time commitment.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies widely, from a few hours a week to more extensive commitments, depending on the organization and role.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify organizations that align with the career interest.
    • Research volunteer opportunities online or through community centers.
    • Apply or express interest through appropriate channels (website, phone, email).
    • Commit to the agreed-upon schedule and responsibilities.
    • Reflect on the experience to understand how it relates to career goals.

Part-time or Seasonal Jobs

  • What it is: Taking on entry-level positions related to the field of interest, even if only for a short time, to provide real-world experience.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Earning money while gaining experience.
    • Opportunity to develop relevant skills.
    • Understanding the work environment and culture.
    • Building a network within the industry.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies, but typically requires a commitment of several hours per week for a part-time job or full-time during a specific season.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research companies hiring for part-time or seasonal positions in the desired field.
    • Apply online or in-person, following application guidelines.
    • Prepare for interviews by understanding the role and responsibilities.
    • Be consistent and responsible in the role to gain the most from the experience.

Student Organizations and Clubs

  • What it is: Joining clubs or organizations related to the career of interest, providing exposure, networking opportunities, and hands-on experience through projects.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Opportunity to explore interests in a low-pressure environment.
    • Collaborating with like-minded peers.
    • Enhancing leadership and teamwork skills.
    • Building a network with professionals through guest speakers or events.
  • Time Required:
    • Generally flexible, ranging from a few hours a month to more regular weekly meetings and project work.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research and identify clubs or organizations at school or within the community that align with career interests.
    • Attend meetings and engage actively in projects and activities.
    • Consider taking on a leadership role for more immersive experience.
    • Network with guest speakers and other industry connections through the organization.

Read our comprehensive guide to student clubs as work experience here. 

Online Courses and Workshops

  • What it is: Participating in online educational platforms to gain knowledge and skills related to a desired career. These can include formal online courses, webinars, or workshops.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Convenient and flexible learning from home.
    • Access to experts and industry leaders.
    • Building foundational knowledge and skills.
    • Often offers certificates or recognition for completion.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies widely, from short one-hour workshops to multi-week courses, allowing for customization to fit individual schedules.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research online platforms offering courses or workshops in the desired field (such as Coursera, Udemy, or specialized industry websites).
    • Select appropriate courses that align with interests and goals.
    • Plan a schedule for completing the course or workshop.
    • Engage actively in the learning, including assignments and interaction with instructors or peers if available.

Read our guide to online courses here. 


  • What it is: Establishing a relationship with a mentor in the desired field, who can offer guidance, insights, and encouragement based on their professional experience.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Personalized guidance tailored to individual interests and goals.
    • Access to an experienced professional's network and insights.
    • Development of soft skills like communication and professionalism.
    • Support and encouragement in exploring the desired career.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically a longer-term commitment, ranging from a few months to a year or more, with regular check-ins.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify potential mentors in the desired field (e.g., teachers, family friends, professionals met at events).
    • Reach out with a thoughtful request, explaining interests and goals.
    • Set clear expectations for the mentorship, including frequency of meetings and communication preferences.
    • Engage actively in the relationship, seeking advice, setting goals, and reflecting on progress.

Freelancing or Small Projects

  • What it is: Taking on freelance work or small projects related to the desired career field. This might include creating websites, writing articles, designing graphics, etc.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Real-world experience on actual projects.
    • Opportunity to earn money and build a portfolio.
    • Flexibility to choose projects that interest them.
    • Development of entrepreneurial skills and self-management.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies depending on the project scope, from a few hours for small tasks to weeks for more complex projects.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify skills that can be offered in a freelance capacity.
    • Research platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or local networks to find projects.
    • Create a profile showcasing skills and previous work if available.
    • Apply for suitable projects, and manage time and client expectations professionally.
    • Seek feedback to continuously improve and grow.

Project-Based Learning

  • What it is: Creating personal projects related to the career field of interest, which allows hands-on experience and skill development.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Practical experience in applying theoretical knowledge.
    • Flexibility to design projects that align with personal interests.
    • Opportunity to create a portfolio to showcase to potential employers or educational institutions.
    • Enhancing problem-solving, creativity, and project management skills.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies widely depending on the project, from a weekend to several months for more complex projects.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify a project that aligns with the desired career and is challenging yet achievable.
    • Plan the project, including goals, timeline, resources, and budget if applicable.
    • Execute the project, seeking guidance or collaboration if needed.
    • Reflect on the learning experience and how it connects to the desired career.
    • Consider showcasing the project in a portfolio or sharing it with mentors or professionals in the field.

Virtual Job Experiences

  • What it is: Participating in online simulations or virtual job experiences that provide a glimpse into different career paths. Some platforms and companies offer virtual tours, interactive tasks, and scenarios that emulate real job roles.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
    • Safe and low-risk way to explore various careers.
    • Opportunity to engage with real-world tasks and scenarios.
    • Can be a starting point before pursuing more intensive experiences.
  • Time Required:
    • Ranges from a few hours for a brief tour to several days or weeks for more comprehensive experiences.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research platforms that offer virtual job experiences in the desired field.
    • Sign up and follow the guidelines or tutorials provided.
    • Engage fully with the virtual experience, taking notes and reflecting on impressions.
    • Consider following up with further exploration, such as informational interviews or real-world internships.


TAFE or University Introductory Courses

  • What it is: Enrolling in introductory or exploratory courses at TAFE (Technical and Further Education) institutes or universities to test interest in a particular field. These courses often provide hands-on learning experiences and insights into professional practice.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Exposure to tertiary education and the field of interest.
    • Opportunities to develop specific skills and knowledge.
    • Building connections with educators and fellow students.
    • Access to facilities and resources specific to the field.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically requires a commitment of a full term or semester, involving weekly classes and study time.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Research local TAFE institutes or universities offering courses in the desired field.
    • Consult with school career advisors or counselors to select appropriate courses.
    • Enroll in the chosen course, following the institute's registration process.
    • Attend classes, complete assignments, and engage with the learning community.

Research and Read Industry Publications

  • What it is: Keeping up with industry news, trends, and professional publications to gain insights into a specific field. This self-directed approach helps to understand the dynamics and developments in a chosen career.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Awareness of current events, technologies, and practices within the industry.
    • Development of a broader perspective on career opportunities and challenges.
    • Enhances critical thinking and analytical skills.
    • Can be done at one's own pace and tailored to specific interests.
  • Time Required:
    • Flexible; can be done regularly in small increments, such as weekly or monthly reading.
  • Action Steps for Making it Happen:
    • Identify reputable industry publications, blogs, magazines, or journals.
    • Schedule regular time for reading and reflecting on the material.
    • Consider joining online forums or groups related to the field to engage in discussions.
    • Apply insights to personal goals and career exploration activities.

More Resources

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Careers That Matter provides online programs to teenagers across the globe. The organisation is based in Melbourne Australia. We have students from across Australia including Sydney, NSW 2000, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Perth, WA 6000, Adelaide, SA 5000, Hobart, TAS 7000, Canberra, ACT 2600, Darwin, NT 0800. We also take students from The United Kingdom including London, Europe, and the United States including New York , Canada, New Zealand including Auckkland and Wellington, and Asia including Singapore and Malaysia.