Choosing a career path is no easy task!

My girlfriend asked me the following question the other day: If you had to start all over again and choose a field of studies, would you do the exact same thing? To be honest I can’t really answer this question. I like what I do and I think regret is just a terrible emotion that I try to avoid. But I am sure that there are many other jobs that would have satisfied me. I was always very curious about everything and good in school in all disciplines so choosing a career path was not easy for me. I was accepted to medical school but I decided to go into computer science instead. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had taken the other route. For one thing I would make a lot more money! But would I enjoy being a doctor? Would I enjoy it more than what I currently do? It’s hard to say because even though I kind of have an idea on what doctors do, I cannot really be sure unless I am one, which is a chicken and egg dilemma.

I have so many friends who have spent multiple years in Cegep trying to figure out what they wanted to do. At least in Québec we have Cegep to give us a little bit of extra time before university. Elsewhere you need to decide in high school. A lot of people I know have done multiple bachelors and masters degrees, switching fields completely each time. This ought to cost a lot to society, at least in Québec where education is heavily subsidized. It is estimated that about 20% of elementary or secondary school professors starting their careers abandon the field completely in the first five years. This occurs after studying for four years to get their university degree in education studies. In some fields, students simply cannot find a job because there are none. I am all in favor of experimentation and broad learning. And changing one’s mind about career path can happen. In fact nowadays we often hear that there is no job for life and that people will change careers multiple times through their lives. But it is worth trying to better inform our youth about career choices, especially early on. Unfortunately, high schools have reduced their career counselling services.

So this question gave me an idea. A program in which all high school teenagers could be matched with a volunteer working in a field that they think they may like. I would envision a website where the pairings could occur and where students could ask questions to their mentors on message boards. The students would also be able to go and spend a day with their mentors in order to better understand what the profession really entails and what a typical day looks like. Of course, it may be hard to recruit all these volunteer mentors, and security and safety issues would need to be thoroughly considered. I am convinced that such a program would reduce the amount of switching between fields of studies and that this benefit alone would far surpass the program’s costs. I, for one, would have loved to participate in such a program when I was in high school…

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