Deciding on a career is quite an exciting, albeit intimidating, proposition. There are numerous options abound and the correct choice is not always an obvious one.
So, how do you decide?
While there is no foolproof method, adequate amounts of introspection, research, and guidance should enable you to be confident in your decision.
Here are seven steps to get you started:
Have there been projects that really inspired you to go above and beyond? Were you inspired by the topic, by the type of work that was required, or both? What about topics or tasks that you dislike? Make a list.
What are your natural talents? Think about the things you excel at and what you’re complimented on most frequently. Next, be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. You might love to sing, but it will be next to impossible to be a career singer if you sound like an American Idol reject. Compare this list to what you enjoy. Look for overlap between what you enjoy and what you excel at, then start your career search from there.
Some jobs are marked by frequent overtime, extensive travel, irregular hours, low pay, and so on. Decide what concessions you’re willing to make and where you won’t budge. Don’t like to travel? You’re likely not meant to be an airline pilot, public speaker, or athletic recruiter.
Talk to others about their experiences. Be sure to ask the probing “why” questions so you gain deeper insight. Next, think to yourself if you align with their viewpoints and remember what stands out to you most. Perhaps your siblings thrive in a highly competitive and confrontational corporate setting, but you shudder at the thought. This is precisely the kind of thing you need to think about.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides extensive information in its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) and in its Career Guide to Industries (CGI). The OOH provides up-to-date information on hundreds of jobs; use it to learn about education requirements, typical earnings, job prospects, and job descriptions. The CGI has much of the same info, but is focused on industries rather than specific jobs.
Once you know which careers you might to pursue, find people job shadow for a day or two. Job shadowing requires fairly minimal time and commitment, while still providing good insight into the day-to-day of given jobs. Even more ideal is to job shadow at more than one company for a similar position — for instance, at a for-profit company and a not-for-profit, or at a large company and a small one. You can also job shadow virtually to a certain extent.
This is NOT meant to bring you down, but rather to help you be realistic. Deciding on a career is somewhat analogous to deciding who to marry. You’re bound to find flaws in a career just as you do in your significant other. What’s important is there are flaws you can live with, and the overall good significantly outweighs the bad.
When it comes to picking a career, what factors have influenced you most?