It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and confused when contemplating your career path. Most people finish their formal education without having a clear picture of what career path to take.
You might feel pressured by family or peers into making a decision quickly. If possible, you should resist this urge, as it might lead to rash decision-making, resulting in a choice you might regret further down the road.
Deciding what you would like to do professionally in life should be a fun and exciting process. It gives you the opportunity to reflect and learn about yourself and the world of professions around you.
You get to examine your hobbies, interests, skills, and aspects of your personality to assess what career path you would most like to explore. It also gives you the chance to try your hand at some of the options you are considering as a career.
Let’s dive into some action points that can help you explore, narrow down, experience, and ultimately help you decide on a career path.
Self-assessment and reflection
The first step in figuring out what career is best for you is getting to know yourself better.
Examine your hobbies and interests. What are the things you are interested in? What hobbies do you have outside of school or work? What is it that you love doing in your free time?
Are you passionate about social media? Great! You could explore content creation or digital marketing as a potential career path. Talented at drawing? Why not look into different types of design?
Taking some time to reflect on what you are interested in will give you an idea about potential career paths.
Connect your interests to the skills and knowledge you already have, or wish to gain.
If you are majoring in business and you are also up to date with the latest Instagram algorithm changes and best strategies for growing your account, chances are that a career in marketing would be a good fit for you.
Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as well.
Understanding where your strengths and weaknesses lie can help you rule out some career paths that may not be the best fit, while allowing you to hone in on jobs you could be great at.
For example, your strength of being creative and talented at drawing could enable you to consider graphic design as a career option.
However, your weakness could be that you hate creating on a deadline. This could prevent you from working efficiently and meeting crucial professional expectations with your work, so it might be better to explore other areas that play to your strengths better.
Self-assessment and reflection will help you understand yourself and prepare you for the second step in choosing a career path.
Learn about your career options
After you’ve reflected on yourself and gained a broader idea of what you would potentially be interested in doing, it’s time to launch yourself into research mode.
Browse career path examples
Take some time and browse career path examples in the fields you’re interested in. Find out as much as you can about different industries, career paths, and specific jobs within the field.
Find job opportunities near you
Make your research even more specific by exploring job search engines and finding job opportunities near you. Who knows, maybe the local creative agency is looking for a creative writing intern? This could be a great networking opportunity, as well as a chance to experience what creative writing in a professional environment looks like.
Make the best of career fairs and talk to people you know. They might introduce you to someone who is already in the field you would potentially like to work in. This is a great opportunity to create new contacts and ask questions about that specific career path.
Write a list of interesting career ideas
Now that you have a good idea of what is out there, make a list of all the attractive career options that you would like to explore further.
For example, in the field of marketing, your list might contain items such as:
- Digital Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Marketing
- Product Marketing
- Content Writing, and so on.
Once you’ve written everything down, narrow your options to a list of the top 5 career paths you would like to explore that also match your strengths.
If you simply can’t decide, make a pro and con list for your options based on criteria that are important to you. For example, if you are leaning towards a more creative job, Content Writing might rule out another job that is heavier on analytics.
Experience the field first-hand
One of the best things you can do to help you answer the question “What career is right for me?” is professional experience.
Find internships or apprenticeships
While looking through job search websites, you might spot an ad in which an agency is looking for a copywriting intern. This is a great opportunity to get some first-hand experience on what it means to be a copywriter and work in a professional environment.
It also opens up potential networking opportunities and further exploration in other jobs in the field.
Internships and apprenticeships are often essential to get you started in your career, and they offer the perfect opportunity for you to evaluate whether the job and industry are something you want to continue as a career path.
Volunteer and job-shadow
If internships or apprenticeships are not available, volunteering might be a good option. Reach out to businesses you would like to work with and ask for volunteering opportunities.
Not only will this allow you to enter the business environment of the field, but it will also help you develop some interpersonal skills that are valuable in a professional setting.
You could also reach out to friends and family working in a field that you are interested in and ask to shadow them during work.
This is a great way to see what working in that field and position entails on a day-to-day basis, and you can quickly determine whether you’d be interested in it or not.
Take a course
Even though first-hand experience is far more valuable in helping you decide what career path to choose, taking a course in the field(s) you are interested in is a great way to gain new knowledge, develop your professional skills, and learn more about your career opportunities within that specific industry.
Career and personality tests
If you are having trouble narrowing down your career path list, or you simply have too many interests to start with, taking some personality tests and career assessments could be a good way to go.
Most often in such assessments, you are required to fill out a questionnaire, which, based on your answers, determines what career paths best match your personality and interests. They are a great first step for many on their way to choosing a career path.
Career aptitude tests
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a career aptitude test. Your school or university probably offers one at their career center. However, there are some great and free career personality tests you can take online as well:
- The Princeton Review Career Quiz
- 123 Career Aptitude Test
- O*NET Interest Profiler
- Myplan.com Career Tests
- Truity Career Personality Tests
Exploring these tests will most likely give you some career guidance and help you in your decision-making process on which career paths to explore further.
The results you get are not meant to limit you to a certain field or path, rather, they are meant to guide you and inspire you to consider career options you perhaps had not considered before.
Personality tests can help you understand yourself better. The kind of person you are can have a great impact on your career choice.
An extrovert who loves being around and working with people will thrive in a big team. An introvert, on the other hand, might prefer a job they can execute by themselves, without constant interactions with colleagues.
Some of the most popular personality tests out there are:
Finding career paths that are in line with your personality will help you discover some good matches that are worth further exploration. Also, it is always fun to learn more about yourself and the personality quirks you might have.
It’s a process
Choosing a career path is no small feat. It often requires a lot of thinking, lengthy discussions with guidance counselors, friends, family, and people in the field. It is a process that takes time, and should not be rushed.
However, whatever career you choose to pursue, it is important to keep in mind that you can always change your mind and go in another direction.
This decision will not determine the outcome of your entire career. It is merely a starting point for networking, gaining new knowledge, developing soft skills, and exploring career options along the way.
Choosing a career path today is your first step towards entering the professional job market and exploring what it has to offer.