With thousands of options, how do you choose the right career for you? But if you have no idea what you want to do, the task may seem insurmountable. Fortunately it is not. Follow an organized process and you will increase your chances of making a good decision. The old saying “find a job you like and never work a day in your life” puts great pressure on people trying to choose the right career path.
Can you really find a job that is so enjoyable that it doesn’t even feel like a job? Maybe that could be a bit of a stretch. No matter how much effort you put into choosing an occupation, there are days when it will feel like a job. However, there will be others that you will think “I would do this even if I didn’t get paid.” The trick is to choose a career that has many more good days than those that are not so good. Here’s how to make a good combination.
Evaluate yourself before choosing your career
Before you can choose the right career, you must learn about yourself. Your values, interests, social skills and aptitudes, in combination with your personality type, make some occupations suitable for you and others completely inappropriate. The results of a self-assessment will be revealing. A professional development professional can help you with this step, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t hire one. There are also free or low-cost professional evaluations available online. Some colleges and career offices offer their services to members of the local community. Additionally, academic programs that train professional counselors often have students work with clients at little or no cost to gain experience.
Know the occupations on your list
Your self-assessment results will include a list of occupations that are right for you based on all the factors you examined, but the search to find the right career doesn’t end here. While some of the occupations may be almost perfect for you, others may be wrong. While they fit well with your personality type, interests, values, and aptitudes, they may be inappropriate in other ways. For example, your job duties may not appeal to you, the prospect is poor, or the required education or training may be more than you are willing to complete. Make an informed decision by exploring each of the careers on your list. Read the job descriptions and ignore your preconceived notions. Unless you have personal experience or have done prior research, there is still a lot to learn before you can decide if a career would be right for you.
Educational Requirements and Job Outlook
If after figuring out what it would be like to work in an occupation, you are still interested, see what the educational requirements are. If they don’t match your goals, cross it off your list. For example, if an advanced degree is required and that is not something you can commit to complete, do not choose that degree. Likewise, if you’ve always dreamed of going to college, don’t choose an occupation for which you only need a high school diploma.
Ultimately, you will be doing yourself a disservice by not looking at the job prospects of an occupation. Investing time in training for a career only to discover that there are limited opportunities when you are ready to enter the field of your choice, you will waste your time, effort and money. After narrowing your list down to a few runs, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Continue your research by conducting informational interviews with people who work in the occupations you are seriously considering. Getting your perspectives can help you make a more informed decision. Use self-assessment tools and career tests to gather information about your traits and then generate a list of well-fitting occupations based on them. Some people choose to work with a career counselor or other professional development professionals who can help them navigate this process.
Make a list of occupations to explore
You probably have several lists of occupations in front of you right now, one generated by each of the self-assessment tools you used. To stay organized, you need to combine them into a master list. First, find careers that appear in multiple lists and copy them onto a blank page. If your self-assessments indicated that they are a good fit for you based on several of your traits, they are definitely worth exploring. Next, search your lists for any occupation that appeals to you. They may be careers that you know a little about and want to explore further. Also, include professions you don’t know much about. You can learn something unexpected.
Explore the occupations on your list
Ideally, at this point, you should narrow your list down to just 10-20 options. Now you can get basic information about each of its occupations. Find job descriptions and educational, training and licensing requirements from reputable sources. Research advancement opportunities. It uses government-produced labor market information to obtain data on income and job prospects.
Create a “short list”
Now that you have more information, start narrowing down your list even more. Based on what you’ve learned from your research so far, start eliminating careers that you don’t want to pursue anymore. You should end up with two to five occupations on your “short list.” If your reasons for finding an unacceptable career are non-negotiable, cross it off your list. Eliminate anything that has duties that don’t appeal to you. Eliminate careers that have weak job prospects. Get rid of any occupation if you are unable or unwilling to meet educational or other requirements, or if you lack some of the social skills necessary to be successful in it.
Conduct informational interviews
When you only have a few occupations left on your list, start digging deeper. Make arrangements to meet with people who work in the occupations in which you are interested. They can give you first-hand knowledge about the careers on your short list. Access your network, including LinkedIn, to find people to have these informational interviews with.
Choose your career
Finally, after doing all your research, you are probably ready to make your choice. Choose the occupation that you think will give you the most satisfaction based on all the information you have collected. Note that repetitions are allowed if you change your mind about your choice at any point in your life. Many people change careers at least a few times.
Identify your goals
Once you make up your mind, identify your short-term and long-term goals. This helps chart a course toward the eventual landing of the job in your chosen field. Long-term goals typically take three to five years to reach, while you can typically meet a short-term goal in six months to three years. Let the research you did on the necessary education and training be your guide. If you don’t have all the details, do some more research. Once you have all the information you need, set your goals. An example of a long-term goal would be to complete your education and training. Short-term goals include applying to college, internships, other training programs, and internships.
Write a career action plan based on your career
Create a professional action plan, a written document that establishes all the steps you will have to follow to achieve your goals. Think of it as a roadmap. Write down all of your short-term and long-term goals and the steps you will need to take to achieve each one. Include any anticipated barriers that may get in the way of achieving your goals and the ways you can overcome them. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is. But it’s so much easier to build a career when you know what you want. Taking these steps early will save you a lot of struggle and uncertainty in the long run.
Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting a Career
Listen to people who tell you that you should or should not do something: Many people think that they should have a say in the career you choose. In most cases, your decision will have little impact on the other people in your life. However, you will have to grapple with your choice for years to come. Make sure the career you choose is something you want to spend the day doing.
Follow in someone else’s footsteps
It is possible that your parents’ expectations will haunt you to have the same occupation that they are in. As difficult as it may be, ignore the pressure you may feel to please your parents. If necessary, remind your parents that they made their own decisions and now it is your turn. What was right for them may not be right for you. In the long run, they will likely rather see you happy in a career of your choice than unhappy in one you chose to please them.
Not doing your homework
Don’t choose a career without taking the time to learn about it. In addition to a job description, you should be sure to gather information on typical job duties, educational requirements, income, and job prospects.
Don’t talk to those who know
Your task is not complete if you omit to speak to someone who is currently working in the career field you are considering. Those in an occupation can provide you with a truthful account of what it’s really like to work in it. If possible, talk to a few people to avoid individual biases.
Go for the money
Bringing home a paycheck is important, but its size isn’t actually a great indicator of job satisfaction. In other words, you can do six figures, but if you hate what you are doing, it will be difficult for you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Find a balance between earning enough money to support yourself and a job that satisfies you.
Ignore who you are
Your personality type, interests, values, and aptitudes make you better suited for some occupations than others. These traits are intrinsic, which means that you cannot change them. If you don’t take them into account when selecting a career, there is an excellent chance that you will end up in an occupation that is not suitable for you.
Jobs in certain occupations are concentrated in specific cities, or in rural areas. If you live in a place that does not offer many opportunities in your field and you are not willing to move, you will have trouble finding a job.
Look no further than a list of “best races”
Lists that tell you which careers have the best chances of the year, decade, or whatever can be a useful guide when it comes to selecting a career. However, making a decision based solely on one of those lists is a terrible idea. Even an occupation with a great perspective may not be a good fit, so you have to dig below the surface to see if you and a career are a good match.
Ignore the future
While you shouldn’t make a decision based solely on the appearance of an occupation on a “best career list,” ignoring job prospects is an oversight. It is very likely that you do not have a crystal ball that can tell you with certainty if an occupation will grow, or at least keep you stable. However, you can do more than hope for the best. You should consider whether a career has a promising future before you start preparing for it.
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