How to Choose a Career
February 26, 2019
One of the most difficult challenges people face is deciding on which career is the right fit for them individually, especially if you’re young with your whole life in front of you. Take a look at our definitive guide on how you can choose a career that’s right for you!
Many will choose a career path based on what their friends go into while others are pressured by family to pursue a particular craft. In addition, other factors play into their decision like how much money they can potentially earn or what the career prospects will be available to you upon graduation. Picking a solid career doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your happiness for stability. There should be a delicate balance between the different factors you’re using to evaluate which career is right for you. Before you make any concrete choices about your future, you ought to stop and consider what you truly want.
Its a complicated thing to unravel, but failing to do so could lead to a lot of wasted time and money in the pursuit of something that ultimately leaves you unhappy and wanting for more. Your career will have ebbs and flows like anything else in life, but you shouldn’t be forced to completely restart from the bottom because you realize halfway through that you’re no longer happy doing what you’re doing. Instead, you should feel confident from the beginning that you’re selecting a career that you can grow and develop in while being happy.
Our methods below will help you choose a career that is right for you and will set you on the right path to ensure that you’re happy with your career choice moving forward.
How to Choose a Career that’s Right for You:
Step 1: Introspection
Choosing the right career for you begins with knowing yourself, what you truly want out of life, what you need to feel fulfilled, and what you want to achieve in the long-term. Discovering these things about yourself is not an easy thing to do though. Some people struggle for years, looking for the right path to follow, and others have known their whole lives.
Regardless, before pulling the trigger on a major life decision such as this, being sure of yourself is an absolute must. Many have gone through the steps to building a career only to finally land a position and realize that they aren’t happy with what they’re doing. This can leave a person with a feeling of running in place, and ultimately to unhappiness.
The best way to use introspection is to assess who you are, what you’re skilled in, and what you ultimately bring to the table. Understanding that will help you realize how you can bring that value to an organization, employer, or company.
Identify What You Value
The first thing that you should evaluate when you’re doing an introspection or evaluating yourself is to identify what you value. What are the things that are important to you? When you identify what you value, you can choose a career that aligns with both your personal life values and your ideal work or professional values.
• Personal Life Values
The things that you value will come from your personal life, and your professional life. What are some things that you truly value in your personal life? For example, do you have a passion for helping others, do you enjoy helping people find their way or understand complex topics? Do you have a mission to help society or enjoy being creative?
Work or Professional Values
Understanding what drives you internally based on your intrinsic and personal values will help you figure out which external values and work values matter to you as well. For instance, what are some career aspects that you value or want to find a career in? We’ve highlighted some things that you might value in your professional life. Take note of the things below that interest you, as they will ultimately help you determine what you value in your professional career.
• Achievement and Recognition — Do you want to do work that highlights your achievements or you get recognition for your work? If you want to have a career where you’ll receive daily recognition for the hard work you’re doing, then you would find solace in a career that provides that recognition.
• Autonomy — Do you find that you enjoy working under limited direction or enjoy taking charge on your own? If so, you value autonomy and would be best suited in a career that gives you an opportunity to lead on your own and pave your own path.
• Leadership — Do you want to find a career where you have an opportunity to lead initiatives or others? Do you take pride in helping lead teams or units you’re a part of? If so, then you clearly value the opportunity to be a leader and would be best suited for a leadership role in your future career.
• Structure — Do you enjoy following the same routine each day? If so, then you would be best suited for a job that provides you with a similar routine or structure each day.
• Variety — If you like having a different day or enjoy some variety in whatever you do, then you should potentially pursue a career where you will have unique challenges each day. This ensures that you don’t get bored over time by doing the same routine tasks.
These are just some of the things that you should consider when attempting to identify what you value in both your personal life and what you might value in your professional life. The next thing that you should evaluate when you’re conducting your introspection is to evaluate what interests you. Identifying what interests you will help you determine what might interest you professionally.
Identify Your Soft Skills
Soft skills are skills that most people naturally have, but can be developed over time as well. The more soft skills individuals have, the more well-rounded individuals typically are and the more they can fit into different types of environments or work responsibilities. When you know what soft skills you’re naturally gifted in or have an interest in, you can choose a career that will allow you to succeed in a role where those soft skills are necessary or critical to achieving.
Take note of all the soft skills you possess. Taking note of all the soft skills you possess will allow you to identify what jobs or careers might be well suited for you if they place a strong emphasis or rely on those soft skills as part of their daily routine.
- Interpersonal Skills
- Problem Solving
- Verbal Communication
- Active Listening Skills
- Team Player
- Time Management
Step 2: Use Self-Assessment Tests or Self-Assessment Activities
Another fantastic step to take when you’re attempting to figure out how to choose a career is to use self-assessment tests or engage/participate in self-assessment activities. These self-assessment tests or self-assessment activities help you identify certain things that you didn’t know about yourself. For instance, these quizzes or tests will help you evaluate what you might be naturally gifted in, what careers you might potentially be suited for, and much more.
Luckily, there are resources out there for you to utilize that can help. Aptitude and personality tests can be found around the web and even offered by university career centers as a method of evaluative your strengths and weaknesses if you’re not already aware of them.
- What Career is Right for Me?
- The Princeton Review Career Quiz
- GetMyFuture Interest Assessment
- CareerFitter Career Test
- 16Personalities Personality Test
- Psychology Today’s Career Personality & Aptitude Test
Some career aptitude or career personality tests will require that you pay money to take them. Sometimes these charges are based on how long the test is, what kinds of questions will be asked, the accuracy of the test, and more. The more questions or scenarios that are presented in these personality assessments, career assessments, aptitude assessments, the more likely accurate answers are going to be provided when the testing or assessment is completed.
Each one of these career personality tests typically identify different things. No two career personality tests are the same, and you should take a couple or several of them to evaluate what your hidden talents or career aptitudes are.
It’s important to remember that these assessments are designed to identify some of the personal qualities that you have and the innate strengths you might possess or don’t realize that you possess. In other words, these self-assessment tests, career aptitude tests, and assessment activities are a great way for you to discover things about yourself that you didn’t realize when you’re evaluating how to choose a career that is the best fit for you.
Step 3: Conduct a Personal SWOT Analysis
When you were in school, you might have conducted a SWOT analysis and didn’t realize it. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT Analyses are a great way for you to take a step back and think critically about things you’re passionate about, careers you’re interested in, what opportunities you’re potentially interested in, and more.
SWOT analyses are used in every trade or industry, and more people are using them in their daily lives to identify potential career paths or career opportunities. SWOT analyses are really useful for job seekers and individuals who are considering their career options might be.
For instance, conducting a SWOT analysis will help you evaluate things like: 1.) What your personal strengths are and how that might impact your future career, 2.) What your weaknesses are and how they might prevent you from achieving your goals in your career, 3.) Evaluate what opportunities could potentially become available to you based on your career interests, and 4.) Evaluate what threats or things could prevent you from achieving success in your career.
• Identify Your Strengths
The first step in conducting a SWOT analysis is to identify and then list some of yoru strengths. Strengths are things that you’ve noticed you’re more naturally talented at or have a stronger propensity to do than some of your peers or friends. The important thing you want to remember when listing your strengths in your SWOT analysis is that you want to be realistic about your strengths. It can be extremely easy when it comes to overstating your skills and highlighting how talented you are in a host of different things. Take the time to answer these questions to evaluate your skills and strengths part of your SWOT analysis.
What do others see as a strength in you? What is some specialized knowledge that you have? What advantages do you have that not everyone else has? What do you do better than most people? What are some of the proudest achievements you possess?
Understanding your strengths is a great way to choose a career that will set you up to succeed. In addition, it will help you avoid careers that aren’t best suited for you or that will place you at a disadvantage compared to some of your peers or future co-workers.
• Identifying Your Weaknesses
You might have a natural ability communicating with others, but you find that you constantly need guidance when it comes to projects or tasks that you’ve been assigned. If this sounds like you, then you might not be very well suited to a leadership role or being the project manager on a team.
One great way to evaluate your weaknesses is to write down things that others might see in you as a weakness. Do you have any negative habits that you’ve noticed when you’re studying, working, or carrying out your daily routine? Do you tend to procrastinate things that you’re working on until the last minute? Have you been told that you’re abrasive by others or confrontational? Do you tend to keep to yourself or be shy in situations that require you to be outgoing or social?
Conducting a SWOT analysis is a great way for you to evaluate what weaknesses you have, and then think critically about how those weaknesses might not make you the best fit for the position that requires leadership and management. An important thing to remember is that you need to be realistic when you’re filling out your weaknesses as you’re conducting your SWOT analysis. You might think that you don’t have any weaknesses, but the reality is that every single person has their own set of weaknesses and you’re only working against yourself when you fail to identify what they are from an outside perspective.
Conducting a SWOT analysis and analyzing your weaknesses is critical when you’re conducting a self-assessment and trying to identify what careers you’d be suited for and evaluating how to choose a career.
• Identify Potential Opportunities
The next step in the SWOT analysis is to evaluate what potential opportunities you will have for your future career and potential future career paths. Opportunities are things that are out of your control, but you can seize to help you advance your career quicker than before. Are thre certain things that you can take advantage of now, which you couldn’t have taken advantage of before? Understanding what opportunities exist when you’re getting ready to choose a career will help you evaluate how much of an uphill battle you will face when you begin your career.
Unfortunately, not every career choice is going to be an easy journey, some of them are uphill battles. Answering some of these questions below will help you determine whether or not there are any potential opportunities you can take advantage of when you’re trying to choose a career.
Are there any potential things or tasks that competitors or industries aren’t doing which you could take advantage of? Do you have a network of people who can vouge for you and your work ethic for a new opening in an interesting career field? Are there any potential internships or work-study programs that have recently opened up that were not available before or existed prior? Is there any new technology or software that would allow you to highlight your strengths in a new role that didn’t exist before? Are there potential new scholarships that would allow you to fund your education to start a new career?
Answering these questions will help you identify key opportunities where you can enter a new career where you had previously thought yourself unqualified or unable to enter based on certain barriers. Sometimes choosing a career is being able to spot opportunities as they’re becoming available.
Think of the internet back in the early ’90s. Nobody knew what it was going to be like or how it was going to become a vital piece of our daily routine. Asking the critical questions above would have helped someone back then identify a potential career working in the emerging world of internet and world wide web. What other opportunities can you spot?
Opportunities don’t have to be some massive shift or change, they can also be small things that you hadn’t considered before like a potential internship that could lead to a full-time position as we’ve mentioned above. Figuring out the potential opportunities you can take advantage of is a critical step to conducting a successful SWOT analysis.
• Identify Potential Threats
Threats are things that might potentially impact your ability to pursue the careers that you’re interested in. These might be industry trends, education barriers, financial barriers, skill barriers, and more.
For instance, you might be really passionate about working in the retail industry, but trends have indicated that the retail industry is in decline as more people shift their buying and purchasing trends to online distributors. Therefore, one threat that you could potentially face is working in a super competitive industry that is currently declining and might not provide some of the most stable job prospects. Threats are things that you need to consider when you’re trying to choose a career.Answering the questions below will help you provide some critical feedback as to what threats you’re looking to avoid in a potential career and the jobs or career dangers that you’re considering.
What potential industry trends could endanger your future career? What are some of the entry barriers or financial barriers that might prohibit you from obtaining an education or pursuing additional education for your future career? Are any of your weaknesses going to significantly hold you back in the pursuit of your career? Are things changing in the career that you’re considering? Do you have any weaknesses in your skills that would affect your ability to adapt in a changing career or profession?
The key to having an effective Threat section as part of your SWOT analysis is to be realistic about the potential threats you might be exposed to with certain careers and the introspection of your personality and abilities. You’re only doing yourself a disservice if you’re looking at everything with rose-colored glasses. Be realistic about the potential threats or challenges you will have to face, and you’ll do just fine.
• Evaluate Your SWOT
Once you’ve completed all the individual sections of your SWOT analysis, the next thing you need to do is to take a step back and critically assess your SWOT. Take some time to go through it and make sure that you included everything you can think of and you’re not trying to cover up anything or downplay some of your concerns. Using a SWOT analysis is a great way to ensure that you’re taking an introspective look at yourself, and using it to evaluate potential career options you’ll have in the future.
Step 4: Write Down Careers That Interest You
The next step in choosing a career is to write down careers that interest you. When you do this, you not only taking into consideration the potential careers that were generated or mentioned to you based on the career aptitude tests or personality tests, you’re also taking into consideration careers that you’ve heard about in the past and are potentially interested in.
The best way to write down and keep track of the careers that are interesting to you is to keep a large list. The best way to do this is to write the title of the job, position, or career, and then write a brief two or three sentence description below it.
When you do this, you’re putting it to memory and can then look back at it at a later time if you happen to forget something and need a refresher on what it is and why you potentially listed it as a career you’d like to look into pursuing.
One example is like this:
Description: Provide care for patients and assist Physicians in treating patients based on the diseases or ailments they have.
Even if you have a career that you’re hesitant about adding to the list, you should add it regardless. You never know what might be of interest to you in a week or two when you’re doing your research and beginning to choose a career to pursue. Take the time to add potential careers to your list that you might not have considered before like creative careers, mathematical or engineering-based careers, healthcare careers, and more.
Avoid feeling like you have too many on your list and intentionally leaving ones out because you’re worried the list is too long. The ultimate goal in choosing a career is to eventually narrow down the list of careers over time, so you shouldn’t feel like you have to narrow it down immediately.
Step 5: Explore What Subjects Interested You In School
Another way to identify what careers might be interesting to you to help you choose a career is to explore what subjects interested you in school. Almost everyone can relate to something that they found interesting in their education. Perhaps you related to math, science, or some of the other extra-curricular activities that available to you. One thing that you could potentially consider is looking into some of the careers that put an emphasis on some of the subjects that you were interested in back when you were attending school.
The key is to take note of some of the things that you were passionate about in school, but not get bogged down by particular subjects. For instance, you might have really hated your science classes, but you didn’t enjoy one particular activity that you engaged in when you were attending the class. If you can find a career that potentially has the main focus in that particular activity, then you can still consider that a subject that might be interesting to you when you’re deciding which careers to pursue.
Step 6: Identify Your Goals
The next step in choosing a career is to identify your personal and professional goals that you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime. Identifying your goals will consist of figuring out what your long-term goals are in addition to your short-term goals. This is an important step in trying to figure out which career you should pursue because in some cases the career you choose will directly impact your ability to achieve personal goals that aren’t aligned with your professional goals. More than ever, working professionals and job seekers are trying to find jobs and careers that help them maintain a healthy work-life balance, so they can accomplish their goals.
The best way to identify your goals is to write them down in the different categories. For instance, you want to make two separate columns. One for short-term goals that you can accomplish between six months to three years, and the second for long-term goals that you can accomplish between three to five years.
When you’re writing down your goals, what are some things that you hope to accomplish in your personal life? Do you want to give back to others? Do you want to have the ability to purchase a home? Do you want to provide stability for your family? Do you want to take a vacation every couple years? Do you want to start a family? Do you want to go back to school and further your education?
Once you’ve completed writing down what your personal goals are and have separated them into the appropriate columns for short-term and long-term prospects, the next thing you want to do is ask critical questions about your professional life. What are you hoping to accomplish in your career? Are you looking to pursue a leadership or management position and progress through the corporate structure? What sort of occupational achievements are you hoping to accomplish? Are you looking to change positions in the next several years? Do you plan on working towards new salary or benefits packages? Do you have any plans to pursue additional certifications, licensure, or skills that would be beneficial to you in your career?
Asking these questions is a great way to evaluate what kind of short-term and long-term goals you might have and think critically about which ones are most important to you. You can evaluate which ones are most important to you by sorting them in the columns. With the most important being towards the top, and the less important towards the bottom.
In doing so, you can figure out what you truly care about, and then use that to identify potential careers that will help you achieve those short-term and long-term goals you have outlined in both your personal life and your professional life.
Step 7: Explore Your Options
With some careers, there is only one way to get there. For example, if you want to become a Physician, you’ll have to complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, and a residency program. However, many entry-level, lower-, and mid-level positions have different paths to completion, so explore all of the options because some will fit more closely with your individual circumstances and the stage of your life. This is where you want to start narrowing down the list of jobs that you have outlined earlier based on your interests, introspection, and goals. As you begin exploring your career options, you want to slowly eliminate a couple at a time that aren’t a considerable match with your interests, goals, and introspection that you’ve completed earlier.
Discovering your personality type will go a long way to narrowing down your list of potential careers. If you’re very introverted, it would not be wise to pursue a career that hinges upon interacting with the public or otherwise dealing directly with people. However, if you’re extroverted by nature, a position that only interacts with others rarely will not be satisfying you in the long run.
Matching what you do to your nature is the most important aspect of choosing the right career path for you. Beyond that, you should factor in the quality of life you’re aiming for, growth opportunities, family goals, your future work-life balance, and time you want to spend in school into the equation.
Slowly narrow down the list of careers that you’ve highlighted above and reduce your list to about half.
Step 8: Get A Bird’s Eye View of the Job and Career
The next thing that you want to do when figuring out how to choose a career is to get a bird’s eye view of the job and the career that you’re considering. A bird’s eye view essentially means that you look at the career and job from a broad perspective and get a better understanding of what the career entails. One great way to do that is to use resources that provide a little bit more understanding of what you can expect throughout your time in the career. For hospital jobs, healthcare careers, hospital jobs, and medical careers we’ve got some of the most comprehensive bird’s eye view and career job descriptions and career profiles.
If you’re interested in pursuing a healthcare career, take a look at our extensive list of Over 100 Healthcare Career Profiles. In addition to helping you understand what is expected for bird’s eye view job description and career profile, we have also provided Career Pathways to help you understand what it takes to become a healthcare professional for the Career Profiles that we’ve outlined above.
When you take a bird’s eye view perspective on the potential careers that you’ve already narrowed down, the next step is to remove the careers that you’re not particularly interested in after researching them some more.
Step 9: Conduct an Informational Interview
The next step in evaluating what careers you should pursue is to conduct an informational interview. If you’ve never heard of these before, it’s just another way for you to evaluate whether or not you’re potentially interested in a career by asking for an interview with someone who currently works in that profession or career.
You can arrange to have an information interview as an informal meeting at a coffee shop or ask to shadow them for a day to see what their career iss like. Most people are happy to do it if they have time because they enjoy helping others. You should always come prepared with questions that you have regarding the career, things they enjoy and dislike about the job, and more. Informational interviews are a great way to learn firsthand what it’s like working in that career and evaluate whether or not that’s the career that you want to choose and pursue.
Step 9: Seek Advice
Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential careers down to a small list, reach out to those you know with experience in the field, or related experience, and pick their brain. The best kind of advice comes from actually doing the work itself. You can read web articles until you can no long keep your eyes open but, unless they’re written by professionals who’ve already gone through the training required, it likely will not give you the most accurate representation of what the work will be like.
Network first within your established contacts and acquaintances for advice. Social media sites that you participate and are fairly active on are a great place to start searching for like-minded people who’d love to give you their opinion on what they do.
After that, there are a plethora of career forums around the web for every type of job on the market that you can seek out. Find the forums and web communities most relevant to th;e positions you’ve narrowed down to and ask any questions you may have.
Common concerns from students deciding on their future include things like “What type of work environment can I expect?”, “How many hours per week should I expect to work each week?”, “What is the general outlook of other career professionals about the position?”, and “Will this position be in demand for years to come, or is there another, similar job that’ll experience more growth in the future?”
Search for as many opinions on the subject as you can before making a concrete choice. A good approach is to look for the biggest drawbacks of the position you’re considering and decide whether that’s a dealbreaker for you, and use the process of elimination to narrow your list even further.
Another thing that you want to do is to potentially seek the assistance from a career coach. Career coaches are a great way to evaluate whether or not you should choose one career over another. In addition, career coaches can help provide some critical insight from a third-party perspective about some of the challenges that you might face if you decide to choose one career over another, and the steps you need to take to begin pursuing a career in the career that you’re considering.
Step 10: Create a Plan that Works for You
Everybody’s circumstances are different, and yours are definitely something you should take into account. A student who’s about to graduate from high school and looking into colleges has a vastly different set of circumstances than a single mom that needs to further her education, or a mid-level professional who’s had a change of heart about their career and is searching for new options.
With this in mind, be sure that the path you choose is compatible with your current and future situation over the next several years. Someone who works a typical 9-5 throughout the week obviously cannot purse a traditional, in-class college degree. However, educational institutions have continually been adopting new paths for non-traditional students with distance/web learning at the forefront. Others offer night courses and accelerated paths that allow them to complete their education while minimizing any sacrifice they may have to otherwise make with their lives.
Step 11: Execute Your Plan & Reach Your Goals
The logical last step is to put your plan into action! Seek out programs that work well with your individual circumstances, gather the necessary materials for your application, and start your future. Whether you’re a traditional student, take night classes, or are an online distance-learner, be sure to have all of your bases covered. One of the largest being your financial situation. Seek out scholarships and grants specifically for those seeking a career in the field you’ve chosen. Websites like Scholarships.com and FastWeb.com serve to connect students to the funding they need to get by.
If you’re going to school while continuing your career, check into your company and see if they offer a tuition reimbursement program or any other type of assistance, training, or flexibility that will ease any tension in your schedule. Some of these programs require that you work for the company for a set number of years after graduation, however.
Above all else, stay ahead of the curve and plan for things in advance. If you know you’re going to have to continue on for a graduate degree, get started with the admissions exams and process at least 1 year in advance. Taking this approach will save you headaches and ultimately lead to better results in the long run.
( Article / Content Updated 2019 )