Choosing a Career

Taking jobs without having a career plan can make reaching goals difficult, but if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, you can’t make a career plan. Choosing a career can be overwhelming, especially if you are not quite sure what you want to do with your life. To some, it can feel like you are limiting yourself to narrow options. To others, it can feel like a long process of self-discovery. Whatever your feelings towards finding a career, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Here are some easy steps to make deciding on a career easier and more manageable.

Choosing a Career

Find Out What You Like

One of the first steps in determining what career best suits you is to think about what type of fields interest you. Start with a large focus on your individual traits, and try to think in terms of broad industries you might be interested in.

Your interests should play a strong role in deciding on the best career path. You should also think about what you want out of a job. Is your personality better suited for a 9-5 office job, or do you want to be working at various times or in various environments? Think about what you do well, and what you could bring to a job. If you have any special skills that you enjoy using, such as graphic design, you might consider finding a job that uses that skill. You may want to make a list of personality traits and skills and another list of factors you want to consider in your job choice.

Try to think about all of the different aspects of your personality and abilities and come up with a list of possible fields you want to explore. It is okay to have several very different possible paths. The most fulfilling work should be chosen because it excites you, interests you, and leverages your strengths, so try to come up with potential industries based on those factors.

If you aren’t sure what your skills and interests are, or how they relate to careers, you may want to visit a career resources center. Most of these centers have access to tests that help you identify your strengths and passions and correlate them to specific careers and industries. It may also help you think of connections you didn’t know of before and give you ideas for industries you may not have thought of as possible options for a career.

Research Options

Once you have a list with a few potential industries or careers that interest you, research each option on your list to narrow down prospects. You should start by doing basic career research on the internet. By searching for job titles or industries, you should find information on your industry, such as expert resources, blogs, magazines, forums, and professional organizations. Look around at the various sources, and try to find information about the day-to-day duties of the job, the lifestyle, and the outlook of the career. You will also want to look at certifications and degree requirements for each position. You may find that certain jobs require more time at work than you are willing to dedicate, or you learn about a degree you are not interested in pursuing. Find factors that help you limit your selection, and try to narrow your choices to one industry or skillset you want to focus on.

Once you have narrowed your choices down to one industry or skillset, you will want to research careers that utilize those skills or are in that industry. For example, if you want to use math skills, you can focus on engineering, teaching, or chemistry. If you know you want to work in publishing, you can look at jobs as an editor, a public relations consultant at a publishing house, or even in print layout.

You should start looking at specific options more closely by searching for career paths in your industry. As you research, your focus should narrow to finding a specific job or path you think you would love. Once you have that, you need to start making contacts in your industry.

When you have an idea of what you want to do, or even have narrowed your choices to a specific industry, you should reach out to professionals in that field and try to set up informational interviews. These interviews will allow you to ask questions about anything having to do with the job that go beyond information you found online. People will be your best resource for finding out the truth about jobs that interest you. If you don’t have any contacts in your industry, reach out to professors, career resource center staff, and people in your individual network to see who they know and how they can get you in touch with professionals in your field.

Try Options

When you are deciding on a career, it isn’t a bad idea to try some of your options with internships or part time jobs. On-the-job experience is a great way to learn about every aspect of a job and to try it without committing to a career. Internship experience can also be helpful in earning experience that goes toward getting you a job in the field after your semester of work, and you build contacts with an employer in your industry. If your internship goes well and you know you want to pursue a career in that field, you may even find yourself with a job offer and a great start on your career.

Make Your Plan

Once you have decided on a career, you still need to continue your research in order to make a career plan. Plans help focus your job searches while putting emphasis on required qualifications, such as degrees and certifications. They can be a great way to motivate you to continue working towards moving up in a field and reaching your dream job.

If you are unsure of what to do or where to get information during any point of choosing or planning your career, talk to a professional in your field or your career resource center staff. These are people in your network, who can help guide you through the process and help you focus on the specific needs of your industry.

Peggy Carouthers

Author: Peggy Carouthers

In a previous life Peggy worked as a human resources and hiring manager for a major national retail chain. Her expertise is in job hunting, hiring, and HR. These days Peggy works as a writer, crafting content for a range of publications.
Peggy Carouthers