Head vs heart – what path to take?

Just when you think you’re starting to get a handle on things, a genuine dilemma rears its ugly head

Do you follow your heart and choose a path based on your passions and interests, or do you follow your head and choose a ‘practical’ job path that offers great career and salary prospects?  

There’s no easy solution to this really good question, but let’s face it, if you do decide to pursue a career you don’t enjoy simply because of practical considerations or parental expectations, you’re setting yourself up for future unhappiness or an early career crisis. 

Remember to keep your options open; life after school need not necessarily mean stepping out of the classroom and into the lecture theatre. If your heart just isn’t drawn to the idea of further study, then consider alternatives like apprenticeships, vocational education or even a gap year.  

Whatever your decision, remember that most people change career paths three to five times during their lifetime. Recalibrating your career direction is certainly not unusual, and can make for an even more interesting and stimulating journey. 

Get to know yourself 

  • Taking the time to carefully assess your interests, aptitudes and personality type goes a long way towards identifying a possible career pathway. Career development experts believe that conducting some form of self-assessment is an excellent starting point, helping identify careers which would make good use of your strengths, interests and talents.  
  • There are several ways you can get to know yourself. Consider what subjects you enjoy, and which you excel in. Do you do any extracurricular activities? What are your values and your worldview?  
  • Figuring out your personality type, strengths and interests is the first step in getting your career compass pointing in the right direction. 

 Seek advice 

  • Although it’s important to pursue your passion, it’s also worthwhile getting a second opinion from someone you respect, someone who has valuable life  experience.
  • Sourcing some first-hand industry knowledge will help you decide how realistic your prospects are, expose for you the perks and the pitfalls, and open your eyes to new possibilities.  
  • Finding the course that best suits your hoped for career path, and the sort of learning, training or study method that best works for you can be a mammoth task. Add in the jumble of diplomas, certificates and bachelor degrees that are maybe your tertiary options, you can be forgiven for feeling a bit disoriented! Again, the important thing to remember is that help is always available.  
  • Don’t feel pigeonholed by your decisions – a marketing qualification could lead you to a number of roles in the communications industry besides marketing, just as a degree in theology doesn’t brand you a minister.
  • If you get part-way through your course and realise it’s just not for you, it’s not all over. There are a huge number of options for transferring or deferring your studies. Think of further study as broadening your horizons, not as boxing you in! 

Work Out What Your Skill Set Is

  • Careers New Zealand have a great device to help you see how the skills you have can apply to real life occupations. Skill Matcher helps you to generate job ideas based on what you enjoy or are interested in, and helps identify steps to take from there.
  • Use Skill Matcher to help work out what sorts of jobs may suit you best, then explore these roles using their links. It’s best to use a desktop or laptop for this exercise.


Find out more about your choices once you leave school