Career choices present challenges looking into future


Afsah Khan

Art by Michelle Zhuang
For Noor Khreis, a passion is a key that unlocks a path of life. Every potential path leads toward a different career, but the countless possibilities lead to confusion for her.
Because of her various interests, ranging from photography to psychology, she has debated many careers that could branch off of each of these passions. She often considers the fine arts, but thinks a career in medicine would be a more stable choice, though it would come with more work and stress.
“After seeing my sister suffer through what they call med school, I don’t know if I can deal with that kind of stress, like having to do board exams, not having any social life, getting married very late because you don’t have time to meet a guy,” Khreis said. “You don’t have time to have your own life.”
Anywhere between 20 and 50 percent of new college students are undecided about their future, according to the National Academic Advising Association. Although Khreis hopes she will sort out her goals before college, she is wary of making a wrong decision.
“When I was going through that [confusion], I would talk to a lot of art students, because they usually go through that kind of trouble,” Khreis said. “There’s another AP II student, and her parents aren’t very fond of her doing art, … but she’s doing it because she knows that she doesn’t want to regret her past.”
Although Khreis is among those who take time to choose the right career, some of her peers focus on a single passion throughout high school. Junior Katie Hurdle is one such student, deciding what she wanted to do at a young age after much deliberation.
“When I was little, I was really, really interested in interior design,” Hurdle said. That “kind of translated into architecture later, and then into engineering.”
Hurdle stuck to her passion while many of her peers still weigh the possibilities and find it difficult to decide on a career. In fact, according to the Junior Achievement 2012 Teens and Careers Survey, only 43 percent of teenagers think they will someday have their dream job, while most believe factors such as money and time will prevent them from doing so.
Hurdle is part of that 43 percent. She puts in quite a bit of effort to prepare for her dream job. Like Khreis, she thinks advanced classes are beneficial to take in preparation for a certain career, even though they are not necessary.
“Math and science are essential, and [for] most of the colleges I’ve looked at, you have to have extra math and extra [science],” Hurdle said. “But as for the other ones, such as autoCAD … those are just beneficial. It gives me a heads up on the other kids that don’t have the opportunity to take those classes and don’t learn the things that I do.”
Even though Hurdle approves of career-related high school classes, many students think such opportunities only add confusion to the decision. Khreis herself believes some of the art and psychology classes she took made her appreciate fine arts, but also elevated the stress of choosing one passion to pursue.
“Last year, I went through this whole phase because last year I took AP Art I, and I’m just like, OK, wait a minute. Right now my life is just art. I’m not doing anything to help me with med school, I’m not doing anything that will help me at all when it comes to that,” Khreis said. “The problem with that is I really think I could make a good doctor, but I’m also really passionate about art and design and philosophy and all those things that you really can’t make a career with.”
Some of Khreis’ peers, including Hurdle, who figured out their career path early on, say it was because of the influence of others.
“Growing up, my dad owned a construction company, so I grew up around a lot of the terms that I use in engineering,” Hurdle said. “I grew up around it … so a lot of things that are in the field are familiar to me, so it’s comfortable.”
Senior Guidance Counselor Jane Piester said students choose their career paths according to exposure from teachers or parents, just as Hurdle chose hers. A 2009 study at the Utah Valley University shows that 88 percent of parents who held at least a bachelor’s degree expected their children to finish college.
Piester also pointed out that teachers can have a profound effect on their students’ careers as well. As a guidance counselor, she believes her job is to “provide students with information and guidance regarding course options” and “try to encourage them to take courses in areas that they’re interested in.” But she says that “often times parents are just as influential with helping their students determine their career choices.”
Piester said advanced classes, especially those specifically geared towards preparing students for achieving their career goals, are very helpful for high school students because they allow them to get a taste of what a future in that career might be like.
“Sometimes students are initially thinking that they want to go into a career field such as medicine when they come in as a freshman or a sophomore, but by the time they’re a senior, they may change their mind because they’re realizing the amount of work that it takes,” Piester said. “If you’re in AP Calculus or AP science classes, often that’s a real wakeup call for students because they realize that that’s just kind of the tip of the iceberg for what they would have to study in college.”
Khreis said teachers are very important in the process of deciding a career, because they can prevent you from making a mistake in choosing the right career.
“Students and teachers influence you because they can help … make sure you won’t regret what you’re about to do,” Khreis said. “The career path that you’re going to pick is your life, so you have to make sure you enjoy that.”
By Afsah Khan