Are you feeling lost when it comes to choosing a career path? Do you ask yourself, “What career is right for me?”
With countless options out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. But fear not because, with a little guidance and self-reflection, you can find the perfect career path that aligns with your interests, skills, and values.
Keep reading to discover how you can identify the perfect career for you.
How Well Do You Know Yourself?
Before figuring out what career is right for you, you must ask yourself several other questions first. Be honest with yourself. Once you understand what you want and need from a career, you can begin narrowing down your options.
What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
Playing to your strengths is smart. For example, consider starting your own business if you have strong leadership abilities, self-motivation, and creative thinking.
But it’s also important to acknowledge your weaknesses, as they may influence which careers to avoid. For instance, if one of your weaknesses is that you are never on time, you’ll want to avoid professions where punctuality is necessary.
What Education Do You Have?
Many professionals earn college degrees, then wind up working in an entirely different industry than the one they went to school for. (Myself included.)
However, your level of education and particular field of study might help you determine what type of job suits you best. If you have a specific degree, it’s logical to focus your career search on that industry.
If you did not attend college, you can rule out the career choices that require a college degree. Or consider adjusting your plan to take classes to achieve the degree, certification, or license you need to pursue your chosen career path.
Related: 50 of the Best Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree
What Are Your Core Values, Convictions, and Interests?
Having an interest in something or wanting to be part of a particular industry is often a key factor in determining what career is right for you. People tend to have more drive, ambition, and motivation to succeed in their areas of interest.
So what do you want to do with your life? How do you spend your free time?
It’s also important to consider your belief system, values, and convictions when discerning which type of career best fits your needs and goals. For example, you wouldn’t want to work for a company that goes against your moral convictions or for a boss who doesn’t respect your beliefs.
Take a Career Test to Help Refine Your Choices
Another valuable tool to help you find your dream job is a career personality test. There aren’t right and wrong answers; it is a personality test that helps evaluate your job skills and interests.
Whether you’re beginning a career search for the first time or looking into changing careers, taking a career quiz can help you determine which type of career you want to pursue and find the best fit.
Tap Into Free Local Resources
Check a community calendar for trade shows or job fairs that feature career vendors. Visiting various booths and speaking directly to people currently employed in the industry you’re considering as a career is an excellent way to obtain information. You can get answers to your questions and get a feel for that type of work.
Do you have a career center or employment service center near you? By scheduling an appointment with a career coach, you’ll have time to prepare a list of questions and ask about the types of jobs you’re most interested in and want to learn more about. They will also know about current job opportunities in your area, including those in the hidden job market.
Additional Ways to Uncover Your Ideal Career
Have you tried everything but still feel stumped? Here are some additional tips for uncovering your ideal career path:
- What’s your work style? Do you prefer to work with data and figures or create new ideas?
- Ask people what they think you should do
- What do other grads from your program usually do?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What charities and organizations do you admire?
How to Choose the Right Career
Once you have an idea of careers aligning with your goals, you’re ready to take the next steps. The most important thing is finding a career you’re passionate about that will help you achieve your long-term goals.
Research Your Career Choices Online
When researching a specific career online, conduct a broad search first, then refine your search to obtain answers to more specific questions.
For instance, if you want to become a chef, you can research what types of chefs there are and what a typical day is like in the life of a career chef. From there, you can explore available jobs in your specific location and salary information, benefits, and other related matters.
Related: 30 Jobs Projected To Grow the Most in the Next Decade
Create a Shortlist
Think of a career shortlist as the hub of your discernment process. When creating a shortlist, include columns for immediate goals, long-term goals, financial needs, etc. A thorough list can help you rule out jobs that don’t align with your plan or needs.
Once you have written your list, you can use it to guide your search for the perfect job or to make a career change.
If you’re entering the workforce for the first time, your list might look quite different from someone who has been employed for years.
If you’re in the latter group, remember that all job changes typically move you in one of three directions: forward (or “up” the ladder, so to speak), laterally, or backward. Your specific priorities and goals can help you determine the move you want to make, which can then help you direct your search.
If it’s a lateral move or a promotion you’re seeking, opportunities may be available within your current company. If you want to slow down or enter a less stressful or time-consuming career, this might be a reason to seek a “backward” transition, such as choosing a job with a lower income, title, or position.
Look Into the Demand
You know exactly what type of career is best for you? That’s great! Unless there is zero demand for it.
In other words, determining which career is best for you includes checking out the job market to see if jobs are available. Will it earn an income? What’s the projected growth potential?
If there is low demand, then it’s probably not the best choice; the whole point of choosing a career is to gain employment!
On the other hand, if there’s a high demand for the career you’re leaning toward, you should start updating your resume and submitting applications. The more competitive the field you try to enter, the more valuable a well-written resume will be.
Repeat As Many Times As Necessary
The choice you make isn’t permanent. While it’s possible to find a career that’s right for you and to stick with it until you retire, it’s far more common to experience several career changes throughout a lifetime.
Nowadays, people change jobs several times throughout their lifetime. While job security and stability are still desirable in a career, economics, life events, and numerous other issues often lead to career changes.
A career search can be started and re-started as often as necessary.
It’s a good idea to create a new shortlist each time because your priorities, needs, and goals might have changed from when you made your initial list. Various life changes, such as marriage, having children, relocating, or even getting older, may impact your shortlist and influence your decision.
Keep a digital file to save each of your career search plans. Reviewing previous plans may help you create a new shortlist or direct your path if you decide your career is no longer right.
Narrowing Down Your Top Career Choices
No matter how specific you are with the career you want to pursue, there are still a thousand directions you can take.
Say you want to be a nurse. Do you want to work in a hospital or doctor’s office? Would you be happy as a nurse’s assistant or aspire to be a nurse anesthetist? Can you work the night shift, or are you only available during the day?
When it comes time to apply for these jobs, look at each job ad that interests you. You can further narrow down your list by asking yourself:
- Does the position suit me?
- Am I excited about it?
- Am I qualified?
- Do I understand the role and industry?
- Does it fit my schedule?
- Does it meet my salary needs?
- Is the workplace easy to get to?
Find Your Calling
A successful career is not just about financial stability and job security but also personal fulfillment and satisfaction. Life will be miserable and boring if you spend 40 hours every week doing something you don’t like.
So, don’t be afraid to take risks, pursue your passions, and always be open to learning and growing. With the right tools and strategies, you can find the perfect career path.
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Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.