How to Choose a Fulfilling Career


In Nigeria, every year, senior secondary school students in the first year (SS1) make their career choices before setting for the final Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE), The result of this final examination determines who joins university since admissions into various careers are determined by the grades obtained from the SSCE. When these students are then admitted to the universities, based on the career choices that they had made some of these students drop out of school without graduating while some of them enter into occupations that are totally different from the ones they had chosen or trained for. This is an indication that the students may have been pressured by their parents to choose what their parents desired simply to please them. This, in the researcher’s opinion is what brings about career choice conflict. The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine how to choose a fulfilling career among secondary schools students.


Career choice has become a complex science with the advent of information technology, the emergency of post industrial revolution and job competition. And as such, education is universally recognised to be the answer to socio-economic problems of the world. Nation and individuals look up to education to provide a clue or possibly, a cure for poverty, ignorance, joblessness, hunger, bad governance, poor communication system and inadequate shelter among other things. Every nation of the world aspires towards quality of life and social status.

Most student who are in secondary schools do not have adequate information about occupational opportunities to help them make appropriate career choice. This has led to so many swing of career path after graduation from the university. Hence, this has highlighted career selection as one of many important choice students make in determining future plans; these decision will impart them throughout their lives. Hence it is important to figure out the factors or determinant of career choice among secondary school student; so as to see if it can help to guide student to make the right and rational career choice.

Thus, choosing a career, simply means choosing a life job. However, all career have their subject requirement, personality characteristic and personal abilities while are supposed to be fully assessed before individual can be deemed to be qualified to go into specific career (Onayase & Onayase, 2009). Career choice is influence by multiple factors include personality, interest, self concept, identity, globalization, socialization, role model, social support and available resources such as information and finance (Kerka, 2000). Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, Pastorell, 2001) cited that each individual undertaking the process is influenced by several factors including the context in which they live in, their personal aptitudes, social contacts and educational attainment.


Career can be conceptualized more broadly in terms of individual development in learning and work throughout life and this includes voluntary work and other life experiences. Popoola (2004) refers to career as a job or profession for which one undergoes regulated education and training over a period of time and which one intends to follow for the whole of one’s life. It is thus a chosen pursuit, life work and success in one’s profession.

A career is now broadly defined as the unfolding sequence of a person’s work experience over time (Arthur, Khapover & Wilderom,2005) or in more detail as` the sequence of employment related positions, roles, activities and experiences encountered by a person (Amoid, 2001). According to Dawn (2013) define career is that it is an individual vocation or trade or how he/she makes a living.  Examples of careers or occupations are engineers, accountants, and veterinarian etc. The following definitions are also very important to an understanding of career as a concept and they might be used interchangeably in the course of this study.


When experts talk about career choice, they are usually referring to someone deciding what he/she wants to do to make a living (Dawn, 2013). A career choice is the process of determining a field of learning that requires certain knowledge and skills, acquired through a specific educational program which results in a certificate or degree attesting to your accomplishment (Powers, 2013). Since the average person works 45 to 50 years in his or her lifetime, finding a satisfying career and not just a job is important.

Career choice has therefore become a complex task today as one has not only to make the career planning but also to do an exhaustive career research before making career choice so as to adjust with the evolving social economic conditions (wattles, 2009). However most students who are in secondary schools do not have accurate information about occupational opportunities to help them make appropriate career choices.


  1.  Knowing yourself

Begin by thinking about where you are now, where you want to be and how you’re going to get there. Once you have thought about where you are at now and where you want to be, you can work on getting to know your skills, interests and values.

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Where am I at now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • What do I want out of a job or career?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What is important to me?

At the end of this step you will have a clearer idea of your work or learning goal and your individual preferences. You can use this information about yourself as your personal ‘wish list’ against which you can compare all the information you gather in Step 2: finding out.  Your personal preferences are very useful for helping you choose your best option at this point in time, which you can do in Step 3: making decisions.

  1. Finding out

This step is about exploring the occupations and learning areas that interest you. Once you have some idea of your occupational preferences you can research the specific skills and qualifications required for those occupations.

  • Explore occupations that interest you and ask yourself how do my skills and interests match up with these occupations?
  • Where are the gaps?
  • What options do I have to gain these skills or qualify for these occupations?
  • What skills do I need?
  • Where is the work?

At the end of this step you will have a list of preferred occupations and/or learning options.

  1. Making decisions

This step involves comparing your options, narrowing down your choices and thinking about what suits you best at this point in time.

Ask yourself:

  • What are my best work/training options?
  • How do they match with my skills, interests and values?
  • How do they fit with the current labour market?
  • How do they fit with my current situation and responsibilities?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What will help and what will hinder me?
  • What can I do about it?

At the end of this step you will have narrowed down your options and have more of an idea of what you need to do next to help you achieve your goals.

  1. Taking action

Here you plan the steps you need to take to put your plan into action.

Use all you have learnt about your skills, interests and values together with the information you have gathered about the world of work to create your plan.

Begin by asking yourself:

  • What actions/steps will help me achieve my work, training and career goals?
  • Where can I get help?
  • Who will support me?

At the end of this step you will have:

  • a plan to help you explore your options further (e.g. work experience, work shadowing or more research); or
  • a plan which sets out the steps to help you achieve your next learning or work

Decide which step is relevant for you right now and start from there.



  • Career affects all aspects of our life — Personal, Social and Career forms our identity.
  • Daily routine is decided by the kind of career one has.
  • Our social status, friends, way of living, neighbourhood, social circle – all depends on our choice of
  • The time that we spend with our family, friends and ourselves depends on the choice of our
  • The money available for food, clothing, shelter, entertainment etc. depends on the earning we get from our work/job.
  • The happiness or comforts and unhappiness or discomforts we face at our work place depend on the job/profession that we
  • If we choose the work of our liking we do it with perfection and get encouragement and rewards which boost our self.


  1. Listening to People Who Tell You That You Should, or Should Not, Do Something: Many people think they should have a say in what career you choose—your parents, your friends, your significant other. They don’t. In most cases your decision will have little impact on the other people in your life. You, however, will have to deal with your choice for years to come. Make sure the career you choose is something you want to spend your day doing.
  2. Following in Someone Else’s Footsteps: You may be haunted by your parents’ expectations to go into the same occupation they are in. You may know it as the one that helped put food in your mouth, kept a roof over your head and even paid your way through school. As hard as it is to do, ignore the pressure you may feel to please your mum and dad. Remember, and if necessary, remind your parents, that they made their own choices and now it’s your turn. What was right for them may not be for you. In the long run, there’s a good chance they’d rather see you happy in a career of your own choosing than unhappy in one you picked to please them.
  3. Not Doing Your Homework: Don’t choose a career without taking the time to learn about it. In addition to a job description, you should make sure to gather information about typical job duties, educational requirements, earnings and job outlook.
  4. Not Talking to Those in the Know: Your homework isn’t complete if you skip talking to someone who currently works in the career field you are considering. Those who are engaged in an occupation can provide you with a truthful account of what it’s really like to work in it. If possible talk to a few people to avoid individual biases.
  5. Ignoring Who You Are: Your personality type, interests, values and aptitude make you better suited for some occupations than others. These traits are intrinsic, which means you can’t change them. If you don’t take them into account when selecting a career, there is an excellent chance you will wind up in an occupation that is unsuitable for you.
  6. Not Considering Location: Jobs in certain occupations are concentrated in specific cities—Lagos or London for example—or in certain types of locations—such as cities versus rural areas. If you live somewhere that doesn’t offer many opportunities in your field and you aren’t willing to relocate, you will have trouble getting a job.
  7. Not Looking Beyond a “Best Careers” List: Lists that tell you what careers have the best opportunities of the year, decade or whatever, can be a helpful guide when it comes to selecting a career. However, making a decision based solely on one of those lists is a terrible idea. Even an occupation with a great outlook can be a bad fit, so you have to scratch below the surface to find out whether you and a career are a good match.
  8. Ignoring the Future: While you shouldn’t make your choice solely on an occupation’s appearance on a “best careers list,” to ignore employment outlook is careless. There’s a good chance you don’t have a crystal ball that can tell you with certainty whether an occupation will grow, or at least be stable, during the course of your career. However, you can do more than hope for the best.  You should consider whether a career has a promising future before you begin to prepare for it. You can at least eliminate something if its future looks bleak.



Factors such as interest in field, academic ability, familiarity, economic stability, and influential people can all play a role in the in choosing a fulfilling career.

  • Interest in Field: Some students grow up knowing what they want to do in life. These are the students who will go the extra mile to reach their dream job. However, students often settle on a different path due to many factors they can’t control.  Most students today are more concerned with the amount of money they can earn. However, there are a few students who pursue their dreams (Mcglynn, 2007).
  • Academic Ability and Aptitude: Many students choose their major based on their academic ability (Beggs et al., 2008). However, some students do not have the ability or the work habits to succeed in some majors that may require more study than other fields of studies. These students may find a better fit in a less work intensive major that requires fewer difficult classes. This affects the career paths of these students. Other students have the ability to handle majors with greater workloads and choose the career path that will lead to a job requiring more education. Examples in this category include doctors, engineers, architects, surveyors, accountants, or lawyers.
  • Personality: Personality is another important factor in career choice. Studies have shown that students will choose a major that they think will fit their personality type (Mihyeon, 2009).The confidence that a student has can determine how far a student will go with their education. Students who believe in themselves have more confidence and are more likely to go for what they want instead of settling for something that is comfortable.
  • White Collar vs. Blue Collar: Most parents want their children to go to universities and get great jobs. However, not all high school students want to or have the ability to go to universities. Some students want to be carpenters and construction workers. The workforce will always need the blue collar people who do manual labor jobs (Stamps, 1998). Even though technology continues to evolve and grow, there will always be a demand for trade centered who want to work straight out of high school.

Some high school students join the armed forces after graduating. Such students may want to follow the path of their parents or find that military service is a way to pay for more education. The armed forces can help students who struggle with structure and motivation, something that students need when continuing on to college or trade school (Gilroy, 2007).

Some students will go to trade schools instead of attending college. Trade schools can provide training in fields such as mechanics, welding, electricity, or plumbing (Stamps, 1998). The short school year allows students to go to work more quickly after graduating from high school instead of having to stay in school for four or more years. Trade schools also allow students to work in a field of interest while going to school.

  • Gender: In the past, gender roles in the work force have been uneven and unfair (Bronstein and Farnsworth, 1998). Women usually had lower paying jobs than men (Bronstein and Farnsworth, 1998). Currently the playing field between the two are more even. However, when looking at the workforce you can still find men and women in stereotypical job fields (Greenwood, 1999). Studies have shown that young men and women have different styles when it comes to choosing a career (Mihyeon, 2009). Men have a more liberal and progressive style of thinking. Women prefer a hierarchical style of thinking (Mihyeon, 2009).



Students’ career choice are influenced by numerous factors including parents’ age, parents’ qualification, parents’ type of education and socio-economic status of parents. The most influential factors among others are parents’ qualification and parents’ type of education while parents’ age and socio-economic status of parents were found not to be significant. The study concludes that factors like type of school and location of school attended, peers influence, environment and parents’ level of education influenced career decisions among students.



Based on the findings, the following recommendations were made.

  1. Significant career influencers such as friend, parents, members of the community and media personnel need to be equipped with correct career information for them to guide students appropriately.
  2. Career counselors should provide students with experiences that expand the exploration process and a wide range of career information on all the available careers so that they can explore widely before making their choices. In this case, after initial career decisions have been made, career counselors can continue to encourage successful career development by identifying sources of psycho-social support available to students.
  3. There is need to revamp the career guidance programme in schools especially where there is a significant lack of career information.


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Originally posted on February 13, 2021 @ 7:51 am

About Peter Lawson 2732 Articles
Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.

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