With thousands of options, how to choose a career that’s right for you? If you don’t have any idea what you want to do, the task may seem insurmountable. Fortunately, it isn’t. Follow an organized process and you will increase your chances of making a good decision.
How to Choose a Career That Suits You Best
Perform a self-assessment
Before making any important decision, it’s a good idea to take time for self-reflection. Choosing a career is no different. In this step, you’ll reflect on what kind of work environment you want to be in, what type of work you enjoy, who you want to work with, and more.
As you’re reflecting, you may want to write down your notes. These can be helpful references as you’re evaluating job descriptions later on.
Here are a few questions to get you started. Try not to dwell on the questions but rather, write down the first thoughts that come to mind. If you’re not sure of some answers, trusted friends or family may be able to give guidance.
Make a List of Occupations to Explore
You probably have multiple lists of occupations in front of you at this point—one generated by each of the self-assessment tools you used. To keep yourself organized, you should combine them into one master list.
First, look for careers that appear on multiple lists and copy them onto a blank page. Title it “Occupations to Explore.” Your self-assessments indicated they are a good fit for you based on several of your traits, so they’re definitely worth exploring.
Next, find any occupations on your lists that appeal to you. They may be careers you know a bit about and want to explore further. Also, include professions about which you don’t know much. You might learn something unexpected.
Explore the Occupations on Your List
At this point, you’ll be thrilled you managed to narrow your list down to only 10 to 20 options. Now you can get some basic information about each of the occupations on your list.
Find job descriptions and educational, training, and licensing requirements in published sources. Learn about advancement opportunities. Use government-produced labor market information to get data about earnings and job outlook.
Figure out what you want — and don’t want
People end up on the wrong career path for many reasons. They may choose a job to please a friend or family member, to achieve a certain status or salary, or simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
“We are taught that if we are good at something, we should do it as a career,” said Joanne Sperans, owner of Volo Coaching. “The problem is, we’re often good at several things, and we’re passionate about several things. It’s where those two meet that we should look.”
Jane Sunley, CEO of employee engagement company Purple Cubed and author of “It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer” (LID Publishing, 2014), said it’s best to be specific about your end goals when deciding on a new career direction. You can discover those goals by asking yourself the following questions:
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What skills do you use when doing the things you enjoy?
- What means a lot to you?
- What are you good at?
- What do others admire about you and why?
- What things do you do that you’re better at than others?
Once you’ve answered these questions, it will be easier to determine where you want to be and what you need to do to get there, Sunley said.
Be open to all possibilities
No matter the stage of your life or career, the most important thing to remember when choosing a job is to keep your options open, career experts say. If you’re just entering the job market, take the time to explore your interests and learn about different career paths.
“Trust your own instincts, and refrain from being swayed by naysayers,” said Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, owner of The Career Success Coach. “Know that trial and error in choosing a career path is part of the process.”
The same can be said for individuals making a career change; it’s never too late to achieve your professional goals, Kang said. Even if you’ve been on the wrong path, you can still switch to a job that you may not have considered but that will make you far happier than the one you have now.
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