Choosing a career or major

Confused? Uninterested? Unmotivated? Unsure?

What can you do?

Firstly, remember that the average person goes through 12 jobs in a lifetime! So the career path that you embark on now is not something you are stuck with for life.

Secondly, remember that your university degree does not necessarily equate directly with the job you end up in, so you need to ensure that your degree is broad enough to encompass a wide range of possibilities and passions.

Thirdly, work through the steps below and make use of the free help that is available.

To start...

Start by reading the article What (really) makes you happy? (see below) You might then decide that you need to get an objective assessment of your interests, skills, abilities and values. There are several ways you can do this.

One useful web-based programme is Prospects Planner - look for "Where do I start on this website" and follow the links to a number of career development self-assessment tools). This can help you clarify your career choices and identify jobs that might suit you. It offers a range of tests and assessments generally based on your abilities, interests, motivation and values. By undertaking such assessments, you can then develop your own career development action plan. Using these tools is free of charge.

You can also use the Career Services Rapuara programme CareerQuest to help generate some further career options. They are located in many centres around the country and can be contacted by calling 0800 109 901 or via the Kiwi Careers website (

The Student Counselling Service on all campuses can also assist with face-to-face career counselling and appropriate assessments. While the various career tests used by the counsellors and on the web cannot provide you with specific jobs that will be ideal for you, they can help by providing clarification of what you really want, suggesting a wide range of appropriate jobs, and providing information about the chosen options. You will generally need to make an appointment to see a counsellor on one of the Massey campuses who can assist you. However, you can work with a counsellor on one of the campuses in conjunction with the web-based assessment tools, especially pathfinder on the Kiwi Careers website.

What next?

Gather information about possible majors by checking the "Introducing" booklets available for all degrees from the Information centres on each campus, scan the University Calendar, browse the Career Services Rapuara publication ‘Courses Galore’ available in most libraries, including the Massey Library, look through the course and programme information at Kiwi Careers, and talk to lecturers and other students.

Learn about different occupations by looking through ‘Jobs Galore: The Occupational Information Handbook for New Zealanders’ (available in the Turitea campus library - NZ/Pacific section and in most public libraries) or by exploring the job information at Kiwi Careers, and by talking with people in the world of work.

You can get free career and training information and advice from CareerPoint, which is a service of Career Services rapuara. Contact them free from any phone including public telephones and mobiles on 0800 222-733 anytime from 9am-9pm, Monday-Friday or 10am to 2pm, Saturday. You can also Fax (04) 801-2731 or email them at .

You may also like to talk with Massey University Careers Advisors. They can help with information about graduate destinations and statistics, job search strategies, writing CVs and cover letters, interview skills, what you can do with your degree, employment opportunities and much more. There is also a range of career resources available including books, videos and other literature.

What really makes you happy?

Your Rainbow
The reason that career decision-making posses such difficulties is that most of us do not know how to go about making these decisions, or even, in reality, what decisions have to be made. Most of us (and our parents) seem to end up asking the wrong question! We usually wonder "what job can I do?" - This is a somewhat unhelpful question given our normal lack of awareness of the full range of jobs available and our limited knowledge of what they involve. The "job" of (let us say) "lawyer" can be so broad - attorney, barrister, corporate consultant, diplomat, international relations... the list goes on.

What is a more helpful question then?
Perhaps it is generally more helpful to ask "what makes me happy?" - Often this is a harder question to answer, so one which we tend to avoid. But if we can work out what it is that makes us happy in our lives, as opposed to just in our work, perhaps we can then begin to make decisions about what work (and what degree) will fit in with this picture we have of ourselves as people. Although our happiness in our jobs is integral to our happiness in our lives, we remain more than our work.

We would do better to begin to decide who we are and then explore the alternatives that fit us rather than trying to make ourselves fit some job we have decided upon.

These need not be different processes but too often they are!

The prescription for creative minority

Borrowing freely from the book What color is your parachute? by Richard Bolles, we should begin by exploring the work options we are aware of. Not a bad starting point, actually! Then we need to expand our alternatives by taking stock of our transferable skills and special knowledges. These are all the things that make us who we are - as distinct from all the other people in our class/degree/etc.

Traditionally psychologists have used psychometric tests to do this, and this has worked up to a point. However there is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that tests should be supplemented by a more personal approach which recognises the expert nature of the client rather than of the counsellor or the test.

We can begin by looking at the things that we like doing, the things we are good at doing, the hobbies we have and the films/TV programmes we watch, the types of books we read, how we spend our weekends and holidays, the achievements we are proud of, and so on, and on and on. In short it is those things that make us come alive. Psychometric tests can help here, but are by no means the only way of proceeding. Our friends, our teachers, and our family can assist, as can a counsellor who can help us look at what really matters to us.

We then prioritise these activities and interests - not in a strict hierarchy but just to get a sense of this more than that and this somewhere between. By doing this we can describe what might be called our rainbow. It is a rainbow for three reasons.

A rainbow is not something we actually reach, but it can guide us as we move towards it - so your rainbow can provide a yard-stick against which you can make decisions ("would a BA or a BBS take me closer to my goal - or should I travel for a year?").

A rainbow contains opposites - it has light colours and dark colours but nobody tells it that it's not permitted! So you like working alone but you also like working with others - that's fine, just put it all together! We are looking at the "allness" of you, and at the wholeness of your life not at only one facet.

A rainbow changes as we move and as we look at it from different places and as time passes. So too our rainbow - it is not "cast in concrete" and must change as we grow and develop and learn.

In this way we develop a RAINBOW STATEMENT which is something like -
"Most of all in my life I would like to ....", or "what makes me really come alive and feel good/ fulfilled is..."

NOW we can go ahead and look at the options in the world that open up for us on the basis of our Rainbow Statement. This is where we can ask that original question - "What job ...?" and can do research in libraries or talk to people. A counsellor is helpful here too, as he or she can bring a wealth of information into the process and can name a variety of alternatives that we can consider (and reject, once we have considered and explored them, if they do not meet our Rainbow Statement adequately).

The options that we now consider are based on some internal reality and there is material with which we can work in exploring alternatives and in guiding the search for relevant information. If we know what it is we are looking for we are much more likely to find it!

The final step, and the one that concerns us least at this point, is the Job Hunt (or the hunt for the most appropriate course, degree or institution). Often the Career Advisers and Student Advisers on the campuses can be most helpful here.

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