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What’s the plan, Stan?

June 7, 2010

A lot of you are probably making some very hard decisions about where you want your life to be in the future. Your folks are probably “helping” you to decide, recommending courses or schools or plans of action. It might look like your friends have everything sorted out for a bright future and you’re thinking “Urk! Why can’t I make up my mind about what I want to do?”

Well now, here’s the thing… you don’t need to know exactly what life is going to hold for you for the next 50 years. It’s perfectly normal not to know what you want to do as a career, or to be uncertain if you will be really suitable for a certain kind of career.

Let me tell you, when I was in school, all I wanted to do was work with horses. That was all I could think about morning, noon and night. So much so, that I kind of let my schoolwork slide, if you know what I mean.

After school I did a diploma in stable management. I had been there all of one week when I realised I’d made a colossal mistake. That kind of work just did not suit my personality at all! So it was back to plan B. Only I didn’t have a plan B at the time.

So, what is the moral of this story…?

After the run in with horses I did all sorts of other things before I landed in journalism. When I was at school, I hated the idea of becoming a journalist. I thought all I would get to write about would be tea parties and pet deaths. But that’s not journalism at all. I didn’t know that then. I wish I had.

All through my school life I had been given aptitude tests, and most of them suggested I be a journalist – S’prise!

Maybe I should have listened to them.

But on the other hand, I’m not sorry one little bit that I took the long road to where I am now. I think for my kind of job and my kind of personality I needed to walk along that path. I have written about horses as a journalist. It has opened career doors for me. As have other experiences that would seem irrelevant.

Choosing a career is not a lifetime commitment. It’s not like choosing a partner. So don’t panic. If you don’t have a definite plan, maybe you need to take one of those aptitude tests, and see where you general interests lie. Then at least you can get a sense of direction. At least you’ll know whether you need to take a Bsc or a BA. That will give you as wide a choice as possible.

While you’re studying your undergraduate degree, revisit the aptitude tests every so often and a picture will eventually emerge.

There are thousands of different careers out there, and by the time you’re ready to join the workforce there will be some we don’t even know about yet. When I was studying we had never heard of a “geo-engineer”. The closest I could have come would have been to study geography and maths.

So don’t panic if you don’t have a definite route map of your future. The point of life is not the destination, it’s the journey. A “general idea of the direction” is good enough for now.

Susan Ramsay is the Young Post editor. Through this column she shares her life experiences in the hope that it will inspire Hong Kong teenagers.

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