In today’s day and age, the saying ”the world is your oyster” could not be truer. With so many career choices to choose from and plenty of work opportunities, making an actual decision is not only exciting but daunting, too.
If you’re a little unsure about the direction you want your career to go in, making a choice can seem almost insurmountable. But the great news is that there is no shame in changing your career down-the-line. In fact, it’s considered admirable by many people.
Whether you’re making a mid-life career change, or you’re fresh out of high school or college, here’s a little advice on how to choose a career.
The Best Place to Start Is With Yourself
When it comes time to choose a career, you have to make the decision for yourself. The worst thing you could possibly do is choose a career based on what other people want or expect of you. Ultimately, this could lead to career failure or becoming desperately dissatisfied in your job and life, overall.
That’s why the best place to begin is with a decent amount of introspection about yourself, your values, interests, aptitudes, intelligence, soft skills, and more. Remember that what may suit your sibling or parents as a career choice, may not necessarily suit you.
Whether you choose a career in finance, dentistry, business, or the medical field, this decision is deeply personal. Check out the Institute of Medical and Business Careers for brilliant career options and training.
Your job will become a large part of your life. In fact, most people spend a huge portion of their lives at work — a third of it to be exact! Your job commitments and stress can also spill over into other aspects of your life. That’s why it’s so important to make a carefully considered choice based on what you want for your future.
How to Choose a Career: 7 Important Steps to Take
If it seems like a lot of pressure to make the decision, that’s because the course of your life hangs in the balance. So before you dive into it, here are a few tips to help make your career choice:
Step 1: Self-Assessment
As mentioned, you need to do a bit of homework on yourself, first. In this first step, you’ll need to figure out the subjects that interest you, the type of work you’re interested in doing, as well as the work environment you’d like to work in.
Some important questions to ask yourself during your self-assessment include:
- What do I value the most from a career? I.e. financial freedom, supporting your family, etc.
- What are my top soft skills? I.e. communication, organization, attention-to-detail
- What type of technical skill and training do I have?
- What am I like, as a person? I.e. do you have an outdoing, reserved, confident personality?
- What topic/s interest me the most, as a career? I.e. business management, law, medicine, journalism, etc.
By getting to know yourself better, you’ll get a clearer understanding of what is most valuable to you in terms of a career. Write down your career interests in a journal, which you can use as a reference when you’re scanning through job descriptions later on.
Step 2: Identify Non-Negotiables in Your Career Choice
This is an important step to help you narrow down your choices when it comes time for job hunting. These non-negotiables can be things you want out of a job/career, and things you absolutely don’t want, too.
Remember to be flexible though — you must be willing to make compromises on certain non-negotiables otherwise your career search could become very frustrating and limited!
Some non-negotiables may include:
- A minimum earning threshold — not settling for a salary lower than a certain amount
- The type of benefits that a company offers, i.e. healthcare, maternity leave, etc.
- A job that does or does not involve traveling
- A job that is located in a certain area or specific location
- Job flexibility with regards to illness or a handicap
- The type of work environment you want to work in
- Certain job tasks you are not willing to do
Just bear in mind that when it comes to salary as a newbie in your field, you often have to take what you can get, initially. It does not look good walking into a new career demanding a certain wage. Remember to be humble from the outset, and you can work your way up the earning payscale — like everyone else.
Step 3: Outline Your Career Goals
Once you have narrowed down your career choice a little, you want to consider your short and long-term career goals. Outlining these types of goals, even if they’re super simple, can help you land your dream job in your chosen field.
Short-term goals usually take 6-months to 3-years to achieve. While long-term goals take anywhere from 5-10-years to achieve. Be realistic when planning out your goals and try to keep these timeframes in mind.
A good example of a short-term goal is simply applying for an internship or apprenticeship. A long-term goal could be working your way to a management position, or even finishing off a degree or doctorate.
Step 4: Compile Your List of Career Options
If you’ve used any of the self-assessment tools you can find online, you’ll probably be faced with a bunch of career choices that you may not have considered. Remember that these tools are often fairly general, and just because it says you should pursue a career in dentistry, does not mean you have to!
Take a look at your list of career options and strike out the ones that do not appeal to you. Then put the rest of the options in a list of ”occupations to explore”. Place the career options that appeal to you the most at the top of this list.
Step 5: Explore Your Preferred Occupations in Detail
If you started off with a list of 20 career options, or even if it was just 10, your list should be at sitting at half this number by now. Once you have identified the career options that appeal to you and suit your personality/skillset, it’s time to explore them in detail.
You should conduct a fair bit of research on each career in order to narrow down your choice even further. This way you can reach a shortlist of career contenders. Here’s what to consider with each career option while doing your research:
- What is a typical ”day in the life” like for someone based in a particular career?
- What is the typical salary within a certain career/industry and what does the earning potential look like?
- What are the job requirements for a particular career, i.e. education, training, certifications, experience, and other credentials?
- Are there legitimate career growth opportunities in each chosen field?
Finally, another important factor to consider is the job outlook of a particular industry. You want to research the state of the labor market in terms of hiring trends and industry growth.
You can find information on this by searching for news stories about the career/s that interests you. It’s always wise to favor a career choice if the job market is steady or growing.
Step 6: Compile Your Career Action Plan
Identify your most sought-after career choice, from the least. In other words, create a list of career choices, beginning with your first choice.
After this, you should begin compiling a career action plan. This is a basic document that outlines all the steps you need to take in order to reach your career goals. Plan it out like you would with a travel itinerary — how do you get from your starting point A to B, then C, then D?
Include all of your short-term goals first, and the necessary steps to achieve them. Then move onto your long-term goals and the steps you’ll need to take to achieve those.
Don’t forget to include any potential roadblocks that could prevent themselves and impact your career progress. Include possible solutions on how you could overcome these roadblocks.
Taking these steps in planning out your career path may seem like petty work. But it’s a great way to truly get a feel for what you want out of a career, which can benefit you in the long run.
Step 7: Get the Training You Need
If you’ve come to a final decision or narrowed your list down to a couple of options, you’ll need to assess whether you have the actual skill to do these jobs.
Do some research on the training and credentials required for your chosen career path and make a plan to extend your skillset if necessary.
Many employers offer on-the-job training if you have the right education under your belt. But some employers look for a specific amount of skill and other requirements. It’s up to you to review the job posting and decide whether you need to upskill or not.
Grow Your Knowledge, Grow Your Career
We hope this guide on how to choose a career has provided some valuable insight into how to make the right choice, suited to you and your skills. Taking the time to do your research and plan your career path can have a huge impact on the course of your life.
If you’re looking for more on career growth, business, courses, and finance, be sure to explore the rest of this site for more. We offer a plethora of articles to help you grow your knowledge in order to advance your career.