Some people figure it out early. But I was for sure not one of them.
The school system is not designed to expose you to such knowledge and I myself did not know any better or where to start and I was all about enjoying life (I mean its college life). I am talking about understanding your strengths and how the industry work at a very young age. Something I was not very equipped with and wished I could have done better job. The story of secondary school students here in Malaysia, typically, you get through an examination at the age of 15 to determine whether you are more of an art, science, economics, technical, accountancy, Islamic major or a mix of either. Pick your poison, whatever it is, it’s fine. The only issue is, most students do not know any better where those subjects will lead them later in life. To make it worst, there is this very orthodox stigma that for you to be in the smart zone you have to be in the science major category where you would take the scary 4 subjects (additional math, physics, chemistry and biology).
To add, the typical fallback of trying to understand the future are usually these three categories 1) ‘The Classic’ (ie if you take science subjects you are either a doc or an engineer, if you take art you are a writer, take Islamic studies you are either ustazs or ustazahs or just take anything and be a teacher and 2) ‘The Norm’ are those who follow parents or surrounding footsteps ie if they are government servant aha than that shall be it. And finally 3) ‘The Dare Devil’ (ie those who just wing it and has no clue and eventually if all fail we just find the government or the opposition to blame – I am not saying they are not responsible, but we have some part to play as well in our lives).
With the same issues and level of understanding, these students move on to college life and then to the industry, mostly feeling lost and frustrated. Some can be corrected by gaining foot on desired industry different from what you study in college or take another loan to further study but most of the time these ex-students are debt or commitment ridden the minute they step out and end up on survival mode. Not a healthy way of building a society especially if you want them to be forward thinker, critical, out of the box, entrepreneurial, positive and having good virtues. What you create is a time-bomb filled with fatigue people trying to make ends meet, urban poor society with high pay and high debt, those with shortcut and corruption preferences for easy money, socially ill youngsters and etc. And you think younger generation should be well verse in information because they have smart phone? Think again. Too many info and their mind are not equipped to filter/synthesis/conclude let alone innovate so they rather spend time catching Pokemon and trying to be famous in social media to fit in, somewhere. Their interest to seek inspiration, learn new skill, learning new language, geopolitical news, finding idols or mentors, success stories, all will lapse by the flash of Pikachu on the street.
Therefore, having longwindedly set the context. What I wished I did before? 1) Discover successful people with proven records from various industry and find out their journey to success. From their strength, weaknesses, the industry that they are in, ups and down, their inspiration, their future plan. All that. As many as possible so I can learn from them. Be it online, or be it in person. Because the only people I knew were the people in history books and most of them are not living or in some kind of war. 2) Secondly, to take my time to go through job description available. Go through Jobstreet and find out what management really looks for from an employee and rethink my position and the job availability out there. 3) Thirdly, to be strong at basic till you can teach others. This is so important and I wished I could have not play around so much back in school (although I am a little conflicted when it comes to this cos I love having fun and I am too serious I get annoyed). Whatever your interest may be, be it exercising or playing instrument or debating, do it to a point you can impart knowledge to others. If you feel like you don’t have any, well, it’s more than important for you to start building one because you will not have that much time later if you put it on hold, it will be a good business start or additional income opportunity to get rid of those fatty financial issues later in life and also good for networking purposes. For example if you like to sweat, than be a certified yoga, Zumba, dance, cycling instructor.
I am sure there many other things to add in the list but having these three steps embedded in me back when I was 15 would be more than great, probably life changing.