How did you find your job? Did you have a divine calling? Did you choose your career because that’s what one of your parents did? Did you pick it because you thought that’s where the money would be? Or, are you still looking for the right niche?

Aside from the "divine calling" scenario, too many people pick a career for the wrong reasons. Those mistakes can be costly, both in terms of money wasted on the wrong college major, time wasted changing careers, or putting off other life experiences like marriage or parenthood.

I began my own career as a teacher in Hungary and then moved to the United States 30 years ago. I went back to school and changed careers, and have worked specifically in career counseling with young people and adults for the past 20 years, 12 years in my own private practice. My decision to become a career counselor was driven by seeing people who had degrees from wonderful schools but were very unhappy and unfulfilled in their jobs. My heart broke for them, because they went through all those years of training and spent thousands and thousands of dollars on their education. After all that, they were questioning why they were doing what they were doing. I then realized that there is a tremendous need for students to get good career counseling at a young age, and I don’t think that middle school is too early to start.

The statistics support that theory:

Fifty percent of students drop out of college and many take 10 years to finish their education. Many people end up changing careers seven-to-nine times in their lifetime.

While many schools have excellent guidance departments, more often than not, guidance counselors do not have the time nor financial resources to provide the kind of one-on-one help that many students need to choose the right career path. Even guidance counselors in private schools are often overburdened or don’t have the proper background.

What is the cost of this type of service, when privately sought? In general, it is less than the cost of an SAT prep course. While SAT courses have become accepted practice, early career counseling is even more important. Sending a child to college can be a $50,000 to $150,000 investment. That’s a lot of money to spend on someone who is not sure of what college to attend, what major to seek as a course of study, and what career to pursue. And college may not be the right choice for everyone. About 80 percent of jobs don’t require a four-year degree, although they do require some specialized post-secondary training. I help students make that decision and then guide them to the right type of school. I advise students to DO what they ARE. See what’s out there and find the job that fits them. Since most jobs in the 21st century will require a high degree of technical expertise and training, it is vital to ensure that time and funds are judiciously spent. The SAT is only one day out of a student’s life, while his or her whole life could be ruined by ignoring the need for career counseling.

Guest post by: Judit Price, Berke & Price – Chelmsford, Massachusetts

Judit Price has a master’s degree in counseling and is a certified guidance counselor and career coach. She focuses on educational and career counseling and provides services that help students and parents make more informed decisions. She also works with local community colleges; conducts workshops on interviewing skills, career development and life-goal planning; and tutors teachers and guidance counselors.