Choosing a career path can be a stressful and challenging task. We spend an enormous amount of our lives working. So ideally, we want to choose a career that keeps us busy and fulfilled while earning us enough money to meet our needs and pursue our interests.
This can seem like an awfully big decision. You may have a hard time finding a field that interests you enough, or you may find multiple career paths exciting. Perhaps your career of choice can’t provide for your projected financial needs, or your family may pressure you to choose a particular field. For these and other reasons, some people find the entire process of choosing a career overwhelming. However, if you think through the process logically and systematically, you can determine the career options that best suit you.
Choosing a career path is a journey, not a destination
A career path is not just one job. It is the sum of educational and professional choices, responsibilities, experiences, titles, and positions. It is the path you take from your first job, degree, or professional qualification that ideally leads you to your larger career goals. Some people identify these goals early on and choose positions and opportunities that build towards those, while others discover them as they work, grow, learn and experience new things. As for how you choose your career path, consider the following questions to help you pin down the perfect job match for you.
1. What do I enjoy doing and do well?
Make a list of your interests, aptitudes, skills and values. Don’t neglect the importance of soft skills – undergo an honest, realistic appraisal of your appetite for dealing with people and the qualities that come with it, such as tact, diplomacy, patience and empathy. This will help you identify which career is right for you. This is a good starting point, as it will make you think more actively and constructively and make the task ahead of you seem less intimidating.
You can use any of a number of different online tools to match your personal information to appropriate occupations, or you can use a comprehensive tool like the Career Fit report. This report combines a 21st-century occupational interests inventory with three aptitude tests matching your information with criteria from more than 1,200 occupations, ranging from semi-skilled to management level. From this, it generates a detailed list of 16 suitable fields for you, along with related jobs and education or training opportunities.
2. What do I want to achieve?
Ask yourself what you want to achieve in five, 10, 15 or 20 years. What are the lofty, ambitious things you want to have accomplished one day? Then work backward from these goals. Research typical ways to get there, talk to people who have achieved similar things, and evaluate whether or not the steps along the way are appealing and doable for you. Try to connect to people you respect and get as many perspectives as possible so you can identify common ground and set a realistic path to success.
3. How healthy is the job market?
Don’t make assumptions about the type and demand for potential jobs. With the Covid 19 pandemic, the job market is in flux, with high-contact, low-skill jobs shrinking and the impact of e-commerce, automation, and remote work accelerating and amplifying. Research the occupations you have identified as a good fit for you on Google, LinkedIn, and YouTube. How many people enter these occupations each year? Are there opportunities for advancement, or is the ceiling relatively low? Recruiters can help you with this information, as can professional associations in the industry.
If your skills point to a particular occupation for which demand is low or declining, consider parallel or related industries. As the world moves toward a skills-based economy, remember that transferable skills can make for a more dynamic career.
4. What are my salary requirements?
Money isn’t everything, but it is a lot of things. Part of realistic, responsible career planning is being aware of what you are likely to earn along the way to achieving your career goals. This can vary from company to company, job title, and location to location. So search a variety of local and international sources for appropriate information. Remember that you are not necessarily tied to jobs at local companies in today’s increasingly decentralised work environment.
Pay attention to which social or technological changes threaten jobs and which are expected to experience increasing demand in response to those changes. Analysing historical trends can provide valuable insights here, as can talking to hiring managers or recruiters.
5. What lifestyle do I want?
It may seem a bit premature to start thinking about work-life balance now when you want to work as hard as possible to achieve your goals. However, while all professions involve hard work (everything worthwhile in life does), the hours and level of commitment vary. Working as a chef or long-distance lorry driver, for example, might require many nights or weekend hours, as might a job in auditing or finance.
For this reason, it’s important to balance your professional interests with your personal interests because a fulfilling life means finding a satisfying balance between work, desires, and responsibilities.
Not sure how to choose a career?
Yes, there’s a lot to think about, and yes, it can seem daunting. But by methodically and honestly assessing yourself, your interests, and the job market, you can get the best start on a fulfilling, satisfying career. If you need help choosing a career choice, consider a personalised report from Career Fit. Our scientifically validated method has helped thousands of people with their career choices. Contact us to find out how we can help you make the right career choice.