Are you feeling lost and unsure about where to take the next big step for your career path? Don’t worry.
According to these experts, here’s what you need to do if you don’t know what career to choose.
Table of Contents
- Know who you are and who you are not
- Be curious about what brings you alive when you do it
- Take stock of what skills and experience you’ve had to date
- Explore career and personality self-assessments
- Talk to people
- Tap into the inner wisdom
- Engage in self-inquiry
- Take action and stay busy
- Remember the ultimate wisdom
- Do some research to get a clearer picture of what you would be getting yourself into
- Ask your connectors
- Take inventory of what activities give you energy
- Set hard boundaries and keep them
- Seek out people who already have the career you’re interested in
- Know what you want in your lives
- Try internship first
- Try to think of what motivates you, your interests, and your passions
- Peruse job postings online and college websites for career and field ideas that may spark your interest
- Take some time to do some inner soul searching
- Engage with experienced professionals at least 5-10 years older than you
- Start with the basics and back off your focus
- Take it for a test drive
- Turn inwards and ask yourself what is important to you
- Being very thoughtful and analytical about what you want out of a career path
- Start with a passion
- Have a baseline of what is working for you in your current career and what isn’t
- Listen to your intuition
- If you can’t figure out what career path is right for you, make your own
- See where your heart and passions take you
- Narrowing down your options to things that you’re genuinely passionate about
- Find free or even paid ways to get themselves into the various fields they’re considering
- Don’t chase money
- Choose your passion as your career path
Career Coach, Spinner Coaching
Know who you are and who you are not
Knowing yourself and spending time for self-examination is the first step to take before test driving a career path. It is the knowing who you are―your professional energy, your superpowers, and your values―that will help ease the ride and fast track it into the express lane.
Learn about the moments that light your internal fire or take you to a place that makes you feel as if you’re lost in time. Don’t forget to be aware of the times you are bored, burnt out, or feel psychologically unsafe.
Start with thinking about an experience where you felt you made a difference in a meaningful way―inside and outside of work. It could happen in a classroom, performing a hobby, participating in a discussion, or even out having fun with friends.
- What were you doing?
- What environment were you in?
- Who were the people around you?
When I think back at my moments of energy, it was helping people strengthen their skills and showcasing them. Change in people and business is what drives me. I get lost in testing apps and gadgets. Log it, talk it out, sketch it, or even use an app. The trick is to be consistent, monitor, and identify common themes.
Think of the feedback you receive from clients, customers, leaders, and co-workers. What are people saying about you when you are not in the room? Sometimes it can be difficult to identify our strengths since it feels easy, you have been doing it for multiple years, or perhaps you have a high standard for defining strengths.
I regularly hear from women who are less comfortable with self-promotion. The future of work, though, is moving toward a strengths-based culture that focuses less on weaknesses and more on identifying employee’s strengths. Build your strengths inventory well before you land on a career path.
You can also complete assessments to help you narrow your list. One of my favorites is the no-cost VIA Assessment. Here are three questions I asked my peers to identify my strengths:
- What should I continue?
- What should I start?
- What should I stop?
Values are my favorite since they are authentic, sit in your heart, and help you align with the right organizational culture. Your values influence how you show up and who you want to be. They drive your behavior. When your behavior conflicts with our values, you feel the tension.
It reminds us of who we are not.
Do you value work-life balance? Perhaps free-lance work or an organization that values family is the right career direction for you.
Do you value collaboration and working with teams? Software development or copy-writing may not be the right fit for you.
Do you value autonomy and creativity? Find out if the leaders in the organization are micro-managers.
Here is a list of values to start with:
- Meaningful Work
- Concern for the Environment
- Learning and Development
- Care for the Community
- Diverse Thought
- Work-Life Balance
I invite you to practice the exercises with a family member, trusted peer, or professional. Create a vision board of what it looks like when you put it together. Create goals to help sustain momentum.
The outcome will be a career road that is unique and reflects who you are. You will land in a place that honors your unique skills and talents, and your future self will thank you.
TED Speaker and Career Coach | Author, Be A Free Range Human
My advice would be that there’s a big difference between the ‘idea’ of a career path and the reality of it. So go beyond coming up with just an industry name or a business type or a job title.
Be curious about what brings you alive when you do it
For example, you might love being on stage or presenting. Someone else might be at their best chatting and making deep connections. Someone else might find hours fly by happily when they are solving tech problems.
Gather your core things, and with each path that interests you, ask yourself, “will it let me be this version of me on most days?”. If not, if your days are going to be spent doing the opposite of what brings you alive, then this isn’t a great choice. An idea that looks good on paper isn’t the same as an idea that fits you in real life.
If you’re hitting a wall with finding an idea, then get creative to work out how you can find or create a space within a field to suit you. For example, you might be tempted by photography but not love the networking aspect.
What else could you do to bring in clients that would be more in line with your personality? It’s this thinking that creates solutions most people don’t think exist.
Tiffany Waddell Tate
Career Coach and Professional Development Consultant
A few thoughts on what to do if you don’t know what career path to choose:
Take stock of what skills and experience you’ve had to date
What are you good at? What do you like to do? What career “wins” have you had? All of this is data – and is relevant to career possibilities in the future. Many times, career paths are not linear – meaning, the job or academic experience you have today may not directly inform what you do tomorrow.
Explore career and personality self-assessments
Uncover more in-depth details about your style and top strengths. Resources like the MBTI, Gallup StrengthsFinder, DISC, etc. are great ways to learn more about yourself and craft a language for your unique value-add.
Talk to people
Informational interviews are a great way to explore different career options efficiently. Hop on LinkedIn and find people who work in industries/job functions of interest and request short chunks of time (once you’ve done your research online to learn the landscape of the profession and curate thoughtful questions).
Volunteering with organizations can be a great way to flex and stretch your skill set and gain experience in a variety of spaces – while giving back. Consider volunteering or complimentary project work as a way to dip your toe in the water in other professional arenas that are new to you.
First, relax and be present. Be grateful for the opportunity to think through, instead of being disappointed in not knowing your career path. People have been grappling with this issue for many years, and most of them have not figured it out. If they did, employee engagement would not be stuck at 30% for the past 30 years.
One of the root causes of this situation is that most people seek fulfillment and happiness outside of their work and career. It is not very efficient to separate personal fulfillment and professional excellence since we spend at least 50% of our waking time at work. They reinforce each other in a virtuous cycle.
We feel fulfilled and meaningful when we give expression to both aspects of human motivation, i.e., self-centered personal growth and selfless contribution to a larger purpose. We must choose a career path where we can grow and contribute.
Following are some practical steps we can take to choose a meaningful career:
Tap into the inner wisdom
Quiet your mind and let insights and ideas flow in. Examine your thoughts. What excites you? What do you dream about becoming? What are you passionate about? What bothers you and upsets you? What do you not want to do? Follow your bliss!
Engage in self-inquiry
What actions give you joy? What comes naturally to you? What are your strengths? What is your gift? Everyone has a special gift, and of course, everyone is blessed with many strengths. What has the quality of yours been complimented and appreciated without being prompted?
Recall the most productive and happy times of your life? What behaviors and actions were responsible for such positive outcomes? Now recall some of the most difficult times of your life. What behaviors or actions of yours sustained you and helped you cope?
Take action and stay busy
Seek out information about different career options. Put your knowledge to practice. Take risks, try different options. Do not be afraid to make mistakes and change course. Meet with people who have satisfying careers and those who are in transition. Be curious and open.
Remember the ultimate wisdom
It is not what you do that fulfills you; it is how you do it. Any activity can be joyful when we are present and put our mind, heart, and soul into it. We can wash dishes and sweep floors with presence and derive joy from it.
We can be miserable working for an organization that manufactures life-saving medicines and instruments. This realization will help us relax and not get overly anxious about our careers. Our primary goal is to unleash our full potential.
Success, fame, and fortune are by-products, not the focus.
Goal coach, Project Catalyst, and Founder, D*E*B METHOD® | Author, Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning, and Achieving Your Goals
Exploring different career options?
Do some research to get a clearer picture of what you would be getting yourself into
Of course, you’ll want to go online to find articles and watch videos that showcase these prospective careers. However, you should also get on the phone and get out of the house to learn more.
Ask your connectors
These are the people in your network who seem to know everyone – if they can introduce you to people who have careers in the areas you are exploring. Note: If you’re going through this process while working full time, obviously ask them to be discreet.
Once you get your intros, ask each person if they would be open to doing an informational call, coffee, or lunch — workaround their preference and schedule. Have questions in mind so you get the most out of your time together. And, if you can, record the meeting, so you do not need to take notes. Be sure to send a thank-you note afterward.
While you can’t know everything about a career, you can certainly do some due diligence. Learn as much as you can from a variety of people so that you can make your best, most informed decision.
CEO & Founder, Prowess Project
Take inventory of what activities give you energy
Most people spend more time working than they do with their families. Since that is often the case, you must find a career that you’ll enjoy. We believe that the key to finding a long term career is aligning it with activities that give you energy.
To figure out what gives you energy, think about your everyday life. What activities do you avoid? What activities are you excited about? What activities are you engaged in when time seems to fly? You forget to eat. You look up, and it’s been hours.
Those are activities you want to prioritize for your new career. For example, are you the person who loves researching the latest XYZ and can’t wait to tell your friends about it? Maybe a job in public relations would be a good fit.
Set hard boundaries and keep them
To find a long term career, it’s imperative to figure out how it will fit into your life. What are the protected days, times, activities that you must be present in your personal life? Maybe it’s a long run each morning, or you feel crummy for the rest of the day.
That time is sacred; keep it so. Set expectations with yourself and potential employers that you can’t get to work until 8:30 am each morning. Inversely, what are some experiences in your past that you never what to recreate? For me, it’s cold calling.
I get a pit in my stomach every time I think about picking up the phone to sell a stranger. Even if a job opportunity comes my way that seems tempting, but incorporates a bit of cold calling, I pass. The anxious energy about the dreaded activity will only creep into other parts of my work and home life, and I’m miserable.
Seek out people who already have the career you’re interested in
Folks who have gone before you are the best resource. By chatting with them about what the career your eyeing entails, it helps you validate your assumptions about the role and create a better plan to move into space. For example, you may think that a party planner sounds fun, so you chat with a few event specialists.
You find out that they do about one event a month, and the rest of the time, they are buried in spreadsheets – think budgets, timelines, etc. If spreadsheets make your skin crawl, then it may not be in the cards for you after all.
Therapist and Holistic Coach, Moving Stretch
Clients often ask me about this, as it is so pivotal to their sense of self and life purpose. I usually recommend that people narrow down what it is they are looking to have more of. This could be material, mental, emotional, spiritual, or other – and there are no wrong answers, as long as it is real to them.
Know what you want in your lives
Whether that is responsibility, creativity, higher wages, less pressure, flexible hours, or to make more of a difference, they will have a much clearer idea of where they will find that and what they need to ask for.
Knowing what we want also opens us up to more understanding. For example, why is it that I want more money? Following that question to the most profound answer will not only tell us more about ourselves, but it may also reveal other needs that are not being addressed most directly or healthily.
Try internship first
Before you jump into a new career or potentially lengthy and expensive training, ask to do an internship or at least one day of shadowing someone who already works in that area. This is because we may like the idea of a particular job, but we may not like how someone in that role spends their day.
Also, taking the time to identify specific key preferences can help us choose the job that fits us. We can take note of the type of work we want to engage in, the kind of people we want to spend time with, if we wish to be in a team or a free agent, have regular or flexible working hours, and the jobs that make us admire people.
I recommend sitting back and having a broad look at your life, see where you have been and where you want to go.
Nowadays, we do not have to fit into one narrow box – we can create a career that is right for us, as long as there is a demand for it. So be bold, be sensible, and above all, try to be as authentic as possible in your choice. If you have been stuck for a while, knowing that taking a step in any direction will eventually set you on the right path.
Let me start with this – passion makes jobs much more enjoyable! You are likely reading this at a young age, or possibly restarting your career.
Keep in mind that you will likely work for the rest of your life – or at least a large portion of it. This is crucial to consider because it’s easy to live life day today when you are young, but things do change as you mature, and your decisions change your happiness, potential, and quality of life!
There’s a great quote by Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Choosing a career you’re passionate about does wonder in making you happy. If your day flies by because you enjoy something or are only excited about it, that’s a fantastic career to have! Many people have passions that will line up with a successful career choice, and that can make your entire life much more enjoyable.
Try to think of what motivates you, your interests, and your passions
Including the list below, add your own personal and career motivations, personal interests, and passions. Your key list of items should be things that drive and interest you. Here are some common motivations that drive a large number of individuals.
Create your list from scratch – using the below items for ideas:
- Motivated by winning or success
- Motivated by power and fame
- Motivated by money or rewards
- Motivated by recognition
- Motivated by status or title
- Motivated by helping others
- Motivated by challenges or problem solving
- Motivated by motivating others
- Motivated by making an impact
- Motivated by health or fitness
- Motivated by growing things from scratch
- Motivated by learning and personal growth
- Motivated to just live a simple and easy life
Now consider adding your interests and passions. Such as art, travel, internet, music, socializing, dining, etc. All those things I just mentioned play a part in many careers.
Now that you compiled a list to help you determine whether a career will likely satisfy your wants and interests, you need to focus on career research. With the internet, there are a vast number of online resources and research methods to help match you with career ideas.
Peruse job postings online and college websites for career and field ideas that may spark your interest
Some sites help you in career research and career ideas. Also, try talking to college job counselors or college admissions personnel for advice (don’t let them force you into a career path on your first visit – kind of joking, but it could happen).
There are even nonprofits to help, and you can attend job fairs to see a variety of career options and also search random business listings to get ideas of what may interest you. If money is a primary motivating factor, there are great websites like PayScale if you want to research and learn new career ideas with pay scale insight as well.
Now, let’s go back to our motivation list and begin a spreadsheet with the career ideas we are now starting to find. Compile a spreadsheet with the horizontal columns, including motivations, passions, and interests (i.e., money, success, job title, travel – etc.). Then in your vertical column, include careers you are locating that interest you (or vice versa).
Once you have located several career ideas – start going through each job option and compare them to your motivations, passions, and interests. Placing an X mark where your career choice and motivation intersect. You will soon find that certain careers seem to meet more of your key motivating factors than others.
This method will help pinpoint or at least narrow down your career choices. All of your options may seem exciting now, but doing a little research can help you remain happy with your choice long term.
You may be motivated by money and by job status or job title. You can always go after a straightforward degree your parents recommended when you were young, like a doctor or a lawyer.
However, if those don’t interest you, this list and these research methods can help you find more options. There are so many career choices that you can find and obtain exciting positions in. Careers come from such a vast array of industries and fields that you have a large number of options.
Ultimately finding something that motivates you and you have a passion for will lead to a much better career path since it will be something you enjoy.
Your passion could be in growing things, and you may want minimal schooling. Realistically the more education, the better for preparation. However, you could take a basic business course and marketing course.
You could entertain classes in fields you find exciting – which now equips you with some experience in business, marketing, and your unique field. This would allow you to start a career in that field (if you meet qualifications) or even start a business in your area of interest.
On the other hand, if you have an interest in growing things and want a great foundation. You could obtain a BS in Business Administration and Marketing. This would allow you to fine-tune all your business management and marketing skills and be able to use your newly learned abilities to start a company or land a great career helping grow companies.
We live in a day and age of endless opportunities. Two hundred years ago, you would have had ten career choices almost predetermined for you based on where you were born, your family’s social status, and education. Now, you can do or be anything – which is a fascinating but daunting realization!
You need to place a lot of thought into your career choice – but realize that you are human. Life requires hard decisions, but if you educate yourself properly and perform due diligence – you will be just fine!
Matthew Warzel, CPRW
President, MJW Careers, LLC
Take some time to do some inner soul searching
Jot down passions, things that excite you, inspire you, motivate you, things that leave a tingly feeling when you start to think deeper about the possibilities.
Maybe a nonprofit where you can feel like you’re making a difference? Perhaps an educator to help elevate young minds. Maybe something you do all the time and enjoy?
Try not only to think about your hobbies but also types of jobs are popular and needed for long-term success. Also, take note of the financial responsibilities of that job.
Maybe you want to start up your own pillow production company. Now you need overhead and product, and overhead and product equal money. Perhaps you want to start a service business to sell your wonderful content.
Now you will need to put some money into marketing, or at least take time to think about how you will get noticed in the sea of online content creators. Not to deter you from trying, but know that there will be hard items to contend when pursuing your new career path.
However, every venture, big or small, starts somewhere. Every billion-dollar corporate had to start with $5 and a small loan, more or less. Every entrepreneur or CEO had to begin with their first sale or internship, respectively. So my advice is to stick with it.
Don’t give up. Don’t stop pounding the pavement and making this new career work for you. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. You will most likely have to go months before gaining some traction and momentum in your new job search/career path.
You must continue to learn what you are good at and can present value as to a potential employer or client. What makes you unique? What makes you different? What excites you? Now let’s blend all of this and try to get you on a new path towards success and happiness.
Vice President and General Manager, Lucas Group
In the Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, the cat is helping the children find a lost item, and he gives them some profound advice: “To find where something is, you must first find where it is not.” While you probably wouldn’t expect such sage wisdom from a children’s book, this same advice can also help indecisive job seekers.
Think about tasks or roles you’ve done that you did not like or enjoy and write them down. Then, do the same for those you did like and continue to enjoy.
Engage with experienced professionals at least 5-10 years older than you
Ask them to describe what they do, what they like, and what they don’t like. After doing this with 5-7 people in different industries and functional areas, you should have a decent idea where the best path might lead.
All of that said, you will make mistakes along the way. Don’t be afraid of that. Make them quickly, learn from them, and move on.
Believe it or not, I opened a fortune cookie over 15 years ago that is still taped to my computer monitor so I can read it every day: “You don’t have to know where you are going to be headed in the right direction.”
If you are early in your career, guess what? You have NO IDEA where you are going! My advice to you is to keep heading in the right direction!
Vice President of Operations Southeast Region, Post Modern Marketing
Every year, high school and college graduates are faced with their first real career dilemma. More than likely, it will not be their last. So, what is a person to do if they don’t know what career path to choose?
Start with the basics and back off your focus
All too often, we get caught up in titles and specific occupations before we establish our basic parameters. Before we decide if we want to be an engineer, a lawyer, a nurse, a doctor, or a construction supervisor, we should answer some basic questions.
Do we like to work with the public, or do we prefer to work in private? Do we want to work with a certain age group of people? Do we like to work indoors, outdoors, or both? Do we like to work with our hands, with computers, with teams, etc.?
Before we try to narrow the thousands of careers down to one specific path, we need to determine the basics. It is not uncommon to find a working professional in an industry that does not satisfy them because the basic parameters of the occupation do not align with their tastes.
Once we determine our basic inclinations, we can begin to narrow our path.
Take it for a test drive
One excellent option for determining your career path is all too often ignored. There are many ways to take your top career directions for a test drive to see which one is truly the best fit for you. There are formal internship programs where you can apply to a company of interest for paid or unpaid exposure to the field.
It is also possible to reach out to your sphere of influence to identify someone working in a profession of interest. These contacts can be excellent resources to show you the day-to-day functions in their field of work in a shadowing capacity. They may also provide precious insight into the pros and cons of a particular career.
One significant benefit of test driving a career path can be summed up in a common expression: It is not what you know; it is Who you know. After you decide on your career path and you complete your education, license, certification, and training, you will still have to find a job.
Make a good impression on the connections you made during your internship or shadowing, and you might earn yourself an employment opportunity.
Here are five ways to do what you love while you choose your career path:
- Knowledge of career planning is something that does not come easy to everyone, so speak to as many people as you know in several different fields.
- Do what you love by determining how you can make a living at what you love doing.
- Don’t worry about what you do as you explore your career choice, but make sure whatever you do that you do it well.
- Remember everyone that you know and be open to accepting help from them while you keep learning and growing your career competencies.
- Remember SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – go with your strengths, always.
Catherine Palmiere, SHRM-CP, CSP, CSC
President, Adam Personnel, Inc
Here are my tips/suggestions:
- Start by assessing what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. If you come up blank, speak to the people who know you best and ask them what your strengths are. Maybe you can take your strengths and turn them into a career.
- Know your personality, and this can also help with choosing a career path. If you know you don’t want to be tied down to a desk, explore careers that won’t tie you down (i.e., outside sales)
- Attend networking events and meet people who work in different careers. Ask what they like and dislike about their careers.
- Attend job fairs, talk to recruiters, and explore the roles they are looking to fill.
- Take advantage to Career Centers at colleges
- Do temporary work. By working in different industries and working in different roles could help narrow your focus.
- Make a list of occupations, read the job descriptions, if something looks interesting to try conduct Informational Interviews
The bottom line is this: “The bottom line is this: Don’t fret many times we fall into careers by just living our lives.”
Clarity Coach and Founder, Empowered Achievers
Turn inwards and ask yourself what is important to you
As a coach who works on this exact problem with clients, I often see this lack of clarity manifesting itself in the form of career paralysis – taking no steps because we’re terrified about making the “wrong decision.” Often, when people are faced with paralysis and feeling unsure, they look externally for the answers.
They take every assessment under the sun, from Myers-Briggs to Enneagram, they start collecting self-development books, or they start asking others for the answer. Mostly, they want something or someone outside of themselves to show up and say, “Ta-da! The answer was social worker all along.”
They want something to tell them where to go from here.
The problem with this approach is that no one knows you as well as you know you, and if you’re trying to look externally, you’re likely not going to find a job that is truly meeting your deeper needs for fulfillment. You’ll probably be back to square one in a year.
That’s why my best advice in this situation is to turn inwards and start asking yourself what is important to you, what kind of things make you feel excited and engaged at work, and how to do more of it. Once you know that and have greater clarity, career decisions become much easier.
President, Total Engagement Consulting
Being very thoughtful and analytical about what you want out of a career path
Even if you may not know what career path you may want, you can analyze and write down what is important to you in a career and give it a weighting of how important it is. Answer to yourself how certain important aspects are of a career path:
- How important are salary and potential future income?
- How important it time flexibility?
- How important is intellectual stimulation?
- How important is doing something that helps make the world a better place?
- Do I want a career where I manage people and teams, or do I do better at being an individual contributor and write down some other things that are essential parameters to you at work?
The second step is to take a skills inventory. What skills do I have to take into a career? As you look at positions to start the career progression, analyze them against your parameters and your skills list to assess a good fit. Be thoughtful and analytical about it.
Resume Expert and Career Advice Writer, Zety
When you don’t know what career is right for you, things can go south in double-quick time. The worst part is, you know you need to find a job but you have no idea what it is you could do for a living and where to start. But things aren’t hopeless.
Start with a passion
That’s because every job comes with roadblocks and passion slices through them like a Swiss-army knife through paper. So grab a coffee and figure out what makes you tick. Next, come up with a list of passion-driven jobs you might like.
The easiest to do is to run the following Google search “list of jobs + your passion,” and you’ll get presented with tons of options. Note down at least 20-30 passion-fueled jobs and rank them on a scale of one to 10.
I also recommend you try to eliminate low-paying jobs using an online salary search tool like Glassdoor. While a passion-driven career is essential, chicken breasts are $3.18 a pound.
Lastly, do your research. Figure out how much training each job on the list requires and what it’s like to be in that position. Sites like Reddit and Quora will be of great help.
The takeaway: If you don’t know what career is right for you, don’t despair. Treat it like you’ve got a clean slate and take the above steps to find your dream career.
HR Manager, Maple Holistics
With our quickly advancing society, choosing among endless career paths may seem daunting. When you find a career that sounds suitable, the only way to determine if you’ll enjoy it is by experiencing it, even for a short period.
Internships in various work settings allow you the advantage of observing what the job entails, noticing your interests, and pinpointing your dislikes. All your college classmates may be heading towards the same career paths, but that doesn’t mean that you share in their journey.
If the career path you’re interested in does not offer internships, try going to the office for the day, speaking with a member in the field, or asking for recommendations for other internship opportunities.
The key to finding a career that you will not only be successful at but enjoy as well starts with a self-interview. Think back about the past few years and jot down moments where you felt the happiest. Whether it was organizing a party, meeting up with friends, or fixing an old bike, the list should have it all.
Once you’ve compiled a record, you can start noticing personality traits associated with each event, such as being a team leader, personable, independent worker, dexterous, etc.
When you begin to find a pattern of your happy moments, you can narrow your focus on different types of positions, such as desk jobs, fast-paced environments, and leadership roles. No matter what career you choose, if you’re happy doing it, your chances for success are limitless.
Life & Mindset Coach and Energy Worker, The NET Life
Have a baseline of what is working for you in your current career and what isn’t
The first step is to make a list of everything you love with your current job and would like to take forward and everything you are ready to let go of. It can also help you pinpoint what is making you unhappy. Then consider all the strengths and skills that you have accumulated over your lifetime.
Whether you’re struggling with this or not, it’s worth asking your friends, family, and workmates to add to your list. We are often our biggest critic, and you might miss some of your qualities. Exploring your passions, what motivates you, what makes you tick is the next best exercise as it might highlight themes that can indicate the type of career that best suits you.
For example, if you get a kick out of helping others, then a career in service might be worth considering. Finally, I know that might sound a bit hippie but dream big. If you could do anything you want, what do you see yourself doing? What does a day look like? What are you doing, saying, and seeing?
Once you have collected all the information above, try and find careers that fit your required criteria. Read blogs about that specific industry and connect with people who have similar jobs and pick their brains. See if you can volunteer in similar roles to get a feel for this new career.
Consider attending training sessions if you need to. My advice is to take small steps whenever you can. You will never know which career path is right for you unless you take little risks and give it a go.
Listen to your intuition
There are a million tests you can take that will spit out your strengths, your personality traits, the careers best suited for you. I don’t buy it. I believe that the only way to find a career path that will fulfill you, that will feed your soul, that will nourish you is to listen to your intuition.
You know what you want to do, even if it won’t come out in words. It might be hiding inside of you, but it’s in there, somewhere. Reconnect with the deepest parts of yourself. Meditate. Journal. Dream. Be honest with yourself.
If the ‘how’ just happened, if you could trust the money piece would figure itself out, what would you choose? Even if you only have a hunch, follow it. Take baby steps towards it. Trust that by following that hunch, you’re listening to your inner compass, and you’re getting closer to your purpose.
The only career path worth choosing is that one.
Founder, The Work at Home Wonder
My career path was chosen for me at the age of 18. I became a registered nurse because that was the thing to do in our family. However, I ended up unhappy and burnt out. I wanted a new path to follow, but couldn’t see spending another four years in college and repeating that whole process.
Instead, I choose a new career path based on my interests and what I liked to do. I knew I loved connecting with other women and helping them figure out the hard stuff in life.
I started my own business by creating a website and providing useful information based on what I loved talking about. At the time, it was pregnancy and even crafts. It’s amazing all the self-made opportunities that are out there.
I also found out that tons of businesses needed content creators.
So making crafts and recipes became big money makers for me! I just made them, took their pictures, and sold the photos and recipes to websites.
If you can’t figure out what career path is right for you, make your own
If you can figure out a need for a certain type of person, and provide a useful solution, you can create your career on your terms. I believe there is even someone out there who has made a killing snuggling people who need snuggling!
It’s all about getting creative, finding something your good that can help fix other people’s problems!
That’s how you become successful.
Sam Basu, MBA
See where your heart and passions take you
Shortly after college, I enrolled in an MD/Ph.D. program for Neuroscience.
After that, I was a musician and nomad in India.
After that, I was an Analytics Project Manager with Abt Associates.
After that, I did my MBA in France at a top international business school, INSEAD.
Today, I have combined my expertise in business, agile methodology, neuroscience, analytics, and even the ARTS to help companies accelerate organizational change and improve culture.
While this career path looks crazy to some, to me, it just exemplifies who I am: someone with a wide range of interests, passions, and skills. And luckily, we see more and more in the world how multidisciplinary careers are cropping up in importance, as well as becoming popular majors in academia.
For example, my sister probably wouldn’t have thought ten years ago that after studying Computer Science at Cornell University, she’d be working at one of the top Cancer Centers in the USA in Computational Biology, helping to find a cure for breast cancer.
I didn’t think, when I was examining cognitive behaviors in a lab at NIH and publishing research, that one day, I would be applying these skills to businesses, looking at how behaviors can directly impact business performance.
My tip to those who are confused is to follow your own heart and passions and see what unusual path they take you on. Fuse all of your passions into a career that works for you – the sky is the limit.
Career Expert and Content Strategist, Resumelab
Narrowing down your options to things that you’re genuinely passionate about
This might be the best thing you can do for your career. You want to at least give it a shot at doing something that you love, following your bliss. But how do you know what to expect when choosing a career path? Well, you ask. And you talk to the right people.
One way is to browse through industries, find people that inspire you, and reach out to them. LinkedIn is a good and safe place to start. Professionals are usually more than happy to help out with advice if approached with a genuine inquiry.
Start by approaching managerial level professionals; the C-suite contacts might not be as available. Informational interviews are great, too, when you want to learn about a company/ industry or specific job.
Such conversations will help you learn inside secrets and lever you into the right career like a nuclear-powered crowbar. Through informational interviews, you can also broaden your network and enlist insiders in your job search, when you decide which path to take.
Author, The Size of Your Dreams
When I didn’t know what career path to follow, I did the dumbest thing imaginable, I went to law school. Twenty years later, I’m still paying off the educational debt, even though I’ve left law far behind.
It’s natural not to know what you want early on, but far too many try to resolve the issue the way I did, but getting an expensive education in an area we’re not passionate about. That is the wrong way.
The right direction, as I advise people all the time, is to ask, “What information am I currently lacking to make a meaningful career path decision, and what is the fastest and cheapest way to get that information?” I firmly believe that even undergraduate education is a waste for those who don’t know the direction they want to take their lives.
Others argue that school can be a strong place to figure out what you want, but rarely is it the fastest and cheapest way to get the answers you need.
Find free or even paid ways to get themselves into the various fields they’re considering
Internships, starting a business, taking a job, these are all excellent ways of finding answers. Don’t do what I did and spend years of your life and hundreds of thousands of dollars because some path you’re not drawn to might be a fit. Get your answers first, then get your education if you need it.
CEO and Owner
Other people will try to help you, and though they will probably have good intentions, their advice could hurt you a lot. The thing is, we’re all different, and career good for one person might not be right for another. It might prove to be a disastrous choice in the long run.
So, when someone offers you advice: listen. But don’t let yourself be nudged into something you’re going to regret later.
Don’t chase money
When you don’t know what you want, you’ll often be tempted to pick a career that pays the most. So you know that when you finish, you’ll end up with a job that pays a tonne of money.
Don’t do that, for three reasons:
- Money is not a strong enough motivator. If you don’t have anything else pushing you forward- you will give up
- You’re competing against passionate people who’ll always be able to out-do and out-perform you. It’s because they enjoy the grind while you dread it.
- you probably won’t be getting the money you dream of, because the money goes to the best of the class, cream of the crop that rises to the surface.
And who rises to the top?
The passionate ones.
You’d be left fighting for scraps with other folks who chose money instead of pursuing their passion, which leads us to…
Choose your passion as your career path
When you chose what you’re passionate about, you’re likely to succeed because you won’t ever give up. You won’t give up because your passion is a part of you, so giving up will be like giving up on your dream and your life.
So you won’t be doing that, especially since choosing something that interests you means you’ll love doing it when going through rough patches. After all, rough patches are aplenty whatever career path you pick.
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