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Choosing a Career Path.

Updated on August 22, 2017
Odewoye Francis profile image

Odewoye,Graduate Electrical Engineering,Registered member, Engineering Council U.K,Registered member(COREN) Nigeria. Professional Engineer.


Career is defined as a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling. It is the totality of work one does in one’s life, from cradle to grave and from one educational level to another. It was Cicero who made a statement many centuries ago and today the statement is still valid as it was when it was first made. He said: “…We must decide what manner of men we wish to be and what calling in life we would follow, and this is the most difficult problem in the world….”

There is no gainsaying the fact that young peoples in all ages and in all cultures wrestle with conflicts in their choices of careers with a good number of them carrying the problems to adulthood. Cicero was therefore right in his assertion but if career decision was difficult in Cicero’s time it will be far more difficult today due to increase job opportunities as well as the sophistication of work descriptions and requirements.

The effects of technological advancement and high rate of unemployment especially in a country like Nigeria cannot but compound the problem. More than ever before, the choice of a career or a career training programme requires a lot of thinking as well as taking into consideration several factors before choosing, planning and entering into a particular career. Hoppock 1963 puts forward five reasons why the wise choice of an occupation is important. The choice of a career may determine whether one will be employed or unemployed.

1.Theories of career choice:

All the theories of career choice shed light in one form or the other on the variables involved in career decision-making process. It is therefore pertinent to examine a few of them in terms of relevance, adequacy or comprehensiveness in leading to career decision-making skills. This article will examine four of such theories.

i. Accident theory:

In this theory, career choice is based on the chance factor. The choice often occurs as a result of a series of unseen circumstances or events. The dangers of leaving a career choice to chance rather than adequate planning are too glaring. Dangerous as it may look many people have chosen their careers through this approach. It is therefore expected that anyone who finds himself in this situation can still follow the choice process. He/she must receive adequate training to qualify him/her on the job.

ii. The economic theory:

This theory emphasizes the anticipated size of pay packet and other fringe benefits as the determinants of career choice. While it is important to consider the possible net advantage that may accrue to an individual before entering a job, this alone should not form the basis of choice. Indeed, other facts such as the level of required education, experience and the relative degree of freedom in choice due to the economic laws of demand and supply may not have been enough focus during the consideration.

iii. Social-cultural theories:

These theories emphasize the influence of one’s cultural background, family aspiration, attitudes values, social class, one’s religious orientation and the kind of school and curricular contents to which one is exposed on the choice of career. While these theories have highlighted some crucial factors which centre into career choice decision making, they, like the accident and economic theories have only considered factors which are external to the individual leaving out innate factors which are essential to real decision making.

iv. The trait and factor theories:

These theories according to Crites (1969), “emphasize the relationship of an individual personal characterizes to his selection of an occupation.” The following is the “Rarsonian” three step process of choosing a vocation (Crites 1969, 90-91).

I. A clear understanding of self- abilities, interest, ambitions, resources, personalities.

II. Knowledge of the requirements and conditions of success, advantages and disadvantages, compensation, opportunities and prospects in efficient lines of work.

III. True reasoning on the relations of these two groups of facts. In brief, an individual compares his capabilities and disposition with those demands by occupations and selects the one he matches best.

This theory seems logical but it’s not flawless for instance it pays little attention to social-cultural factors. Be that as it may, many scholars recommend it for anyone willing to make the realistic and enduring career choice. A careful consideration of the process below may take care of some if not all the flaws.

How the choice of a career influences almost every other aspect of life.
How the choice of a career influences almost every other aspect of life.

2. How the choice of a career influences almost every other aspect of life?

The choice of a career may determine success or failure. Many things affect success. They include effort, luck and knowing the right people. They include also the ability of the worker to perform satisfactorily the tasks assigned to him/her. People differ in both the nature and the level of their abilities. Careers also differ in the abilities required for their acceptable performance. By choosing a career which will utilize his/her strengths and make only minimal demands on his/her weaknesses, one may increase the possibility of his own success.

1. The choice of a career influences almost every other aspect of life:

i. It affects one's chances of marriage.

ii. It determines where the family will live, where the children will go to school and how often they will move.

iii. It determines the persons with whom the worker will associate during much of the day and thus affects his choice of friends.

iv. It changes the values, the ideals, the standards and the daily conduct of the worker and helps to determine the kind of person he/she will become.

v. It helps to determine both the economic and the social status of the entire family.

vi. It may also affect the worker’s health, both mental and physical; the frequency with which he/she sees his/her family; and the amount of time he/she spends with them.

2. Career choices determine how a democratic society will utilize its manpower.

The modest young person who is choosing his own field of work may not think much about the impact of his choice upon human welfare, but the aggregate of thousands of such choices may determine where serious shortage and surplus of manpower will occur. Economic rewards, public policy and military conscription all affect the distribution of manpower, but in a democratic society, the final determinant of what any one person will do is the person himself.

Please note, when too few persons choose to be teachers, the education of a whole generation may suffer. When too many persons prepare for a few popular professions and fail to find employment, precious human assets are wasted, and powerful future leaders begin to wonder about the political and economic system under which they live.

Career decision-making process.
Career decision-making process.

3.The three steps career decision-making process:

Step One:

Consider the career / identify the decision to be made.

Making a career decision, or any decision for that matter can be very easy or very difficult depending on the amount of information you have about your choices, in choosing your career path many factors that are important have to be considered . he/she should first find out relevant information about the job from books, employers, employment agencies, counsellors, workers and significant others in one’s environment.

Recently the internet has become the authentic source of information. This step is important in order to take a well-informed decision.

This step should be guided by the following considerations:

1. The past, present and projective future status (population and level of development) of the establishment or career. In short, is the population of workers increases and the establishment expanding or declining?

2. The nature of work generally and specifically performed in the intended occupation.

3. What are the pleasant and unpleasant things workers have to do?

4. A detailed analysis of the work environment. Is work mostly done outside, inside or both; on the high seas, under the ground, where there is a high temperature or in a place that is always cold; where there is always terrible odour, where there are dangers of explosion, or electric shocks etc.?

5. Find out both written and unwritten qualification and requirements for entry into the career. These include academic, professional, age, sex, height, physical ability, quality of eye sight and hearing, the level of intelligence, special abilities, aptitudes, values, attitudes, interests needs, temperaments, personality types. The method of entry into the career. Is it by examination, application and interview or just by knowing significant people? Most good establishments conduct aptitude test for selection of their new intakes.

6. . Find out the current salary structure, grade and anticipated future trends. Be interested in knowing other fringe benefits such as leave bonus, study leave with or without pay.

7. Staff accommodation and transportation. Know details about the procedure and rate of advancement in the establishment.

8. Find out the status, the employment permanent, temporary, pensionable or part-time. It may be necessary to consider if the establishment is localized, nationwide or international. The possibility of transfer should not be ignored.

Step Two:

Consider the person (Yourself):

To make an informed career decision and prior to any exploration of the world of work, it is important to
have a good understanding of your own personal attributes. Have a comprehensive “knowledge about self”.
The following questions may guide this exercise.

Each person trying to make career decision should answer the questions frankly and objectively.


1. Do I want a short or long term involvement in this occupation?

2. Do I sufficiently like the work environment?

3. Do I like to work in a fixed place or be transferred as occasion demands?

4. What kinds of people would I like to work with?

5. What kind of job settings would I most enjoy?

1. What are my strengths and weaknesses?

2. What are my strongest skills and abilities?

3. Is it the best offer I can have?

4. What skills do I want to use on the job?

5. What skills would I like to acquire?

6. Do I want all the requirements and possess the qualification for the career under consideration?


1. Can the pleasant things in the job compensate for the unpleasant ones?

2. Will my home not suffer at the expense of my work and vice-versa?

3. Will my religious affinity allow my effective performance?

4. Will I be contented with the procedure and rate of advancement within the establishment?

5. Are the salary and other benefits commensurate with my qualification,experience and status?

6. What kinds of things are important to me in a career?

7. In what ways must I be challenged and rewarded on the job?

8. What types of work environments would make me happy?

This list of questions is by no means exclusive it can be modified subject to individual traits and peculiarity of the job.

Step Three:

Integrate steps 1 and 2 above:

In this step, one should integrate the knowledge about work and self. In doing this there is a suggestion that it may be necessary to itemize each information in steps 1 and 2 above and prepare a Likert kind of rating scale (i.e. Agreed, Indifferent and Disagreed).

The degree of congruency should determine the choice since the degree of congruency may determine the degree of success and satisfaction on the job.
However, it should be noted that keeping the following rules will enhance success in using this method of career choice.

1. One must be prepared to explore and seek authentic information about the career under consideration.

2. One must be prepared to subject him/herself to a thorough analysis through the use of the relevant psychological test. You need the service of a professional counsellor.

3. One must be emotionally detached and be determined to face reality when integrating the job and the self.

 The service of a professional counsellor. is needed in Career choosing
The service of a professional counsellor. is needed in Career choosing



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