A Student’s Guide to Choosing the Right Career in Westchester

Deciding which career path to follow can be quite the challenge. Here's how to get started locally.

As graduation approaches each spring, high school students get ready to decide what their next move is. For some, it may be trade school, four years of college, or a full-time job. There are a variety of ways students in Westchester County can figure out which career is right for them.

Joshian Fernandez, a high school counselor at Peekskill High School, suggests that students start by asking themselves personal questions such as “What do I enjoy? What am I comfortable doing?”

Fernandez finds that these are important questions because someone introverted may prefer to work behind a computer while an extrovert may prefer to work a hands-on job with human interaction.

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“It all starts with the local community service in school,” Fernandez says. “Some avenues that our students take include BOCES, the division’s honors program, and the Wise internship program.”

During these experiences, students get real hands-on training in hospitals and businesses. Students at BOCES pick a focus that matches their interests and can gain skills in carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, cosmetics, and more.

Peekskill High School tries to help provide resources and career guidance for students before it’s time for them to choose a job path. For those interested in college, it holds FAFSA nights to help students apply for financial aid. It also has chapters of national organizations such as My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which promotes safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color.

Students at Peekskill and many other high schools are also required to use Naviance. The online platform provides students with a variety of features, including college research and matching tools, course planning, career assessment, and personality tests. For students who are unsure about their career path, Naviance can help provide a broad guide for their strengths and interests.

Do an Honest Assessment

Sherry Bruck, a career center operator at the Westchester-Putnam Career Center Network, advises students to do an honest assessment of themselves before picking a career. She also wants young people to remember that they will still face work challenges even if they decide to do what they love.

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“A young person has to assess themselves as to what they love, but then also look at the type of lifestyle that their chosen career will deliver,” Bruck says. “They have to be really honest with themselves about what they want.”

When looking at career options, Bruck suggests that students start by getting experience in their local community. They can get a job at a grocery store or work as a lifeguard during the summer to learn responsibility, time management, and new skills.

Tap Into Local Resources

Students can also use local resources outside of school to launch their careers. A variety of organizations and sectors hold job fairs throughout the year, including ones specific to growing industries like clean energy.

Clean energy is one of the many growing career fields in Westchester County. Students can advance their job search by looking at in-demand jobs in New York State and across the country. There are also other online resources for students such as O*NET OnLine, which can be used as a resource to find occupations, skills, and career information.

For students who are struggling to choose a career, Fernandez says there is no need to panic. When Fernandez was leaving high school, he didn’t know he would end up working as a guidance counselor. His advice to students is to stay flexible, make a plan, and set a goal.

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“Remember that not everybody knows what they want right away,” Fernandez says. “Surround yourself with people that are like-minded and going through the same things. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

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