You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
With thousands of options, how will you pick a career that’s right for you? If you don’t have any idea what you want to do, the task may seem insurmountable. Fortunately, it isn’t. Put enough thought into it, and you will increase your chances of making a good decision.
There is an old saying that if you’re trying to choose a career, you should think about what you would do if you didn’t have to work. If you had a million dollars and you could do anything, what would you do? Your answer to that question, while maybe not literally the best career choice for you, may give you insight into what you should do.
Figuring out what you should do with your life may sometimes require you to get to know yourself better. If you want a career that will really make you happy, you have to have a very good understanding of what you want and what you enjoy. For some people, this means taking some time off to decide what’s important to them.
Before you can choose the right career, you must learn about yourself. Your values, interests, soft skills, and aptitudes, in combination with your personality type, make some occupations a good fit for you and others completely inappropriate.
Use self-assessment tools, often called career tests, to gather information about your traits and, subsequently generate a list of occupations that are a good fit based on them. Some people choose to work with a career counsellor or other career development professionals who can help them navigate this process.
Make a List of Interests
It is very easy to turn your hobbies or something you love doing into a future career. Many hobbies correspond to real world needs and positions. Consider what you like to do and how that might fit into a career. Remain humble as you work toward your goal. You may want to work part-time as you get referrals and experience in your desired career.
Academic subjects translate well into future careers but may require more schooling than other types of careers. Your favourite class in high school could very well launch you into your future career but you have to be willing to work for it.
You probably have multiple lists of interests in front of you at this point—one generated by each of the self-assessment tools you used. To keep yourself organized, you should combine them into one master list.
First, look for careers that appear on multiple lists and copy them onto a blank page. Your self-assessment indicated they are a good fit for you based on several of your traits, so definitely consider them.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the areas in life where we excel. If you don’t think you’re good at anything, ask your parents, other family members, friends, or teachers what they think you’d be good at. Their ideas might surprise you!
Explore the Career List
Now get some basic information about each of the career suggestions on your list. You will be thrilled you managed to narrow your list down to only 10 to 20 options! Consider what career options are available for you to easily move into. These would be careers in which you have both the necessary skills and an “in.”
Find job descriptions and educational, training and licensing requirements in published sources. Learn about advancement opportunities. Use government-produced labour market information to get data about earnings and job outlook.
Create a “Short List”
Narrow down your list even more. Based on what you learned from your research so far, begin eliminating the careers you don’t want to pursue any further. You should end up with fewer than two to five occupations on your “short list.” A dream board is a wonderful tool for organizing your aspirations. It can also help you hold yourself accountable as you work toward reaching your goals.
If your reasons for finding a career unacceptable are non-negotiable, cross it off your list. Remove everything with duties that don’t appeal to you. Eliminate careers that have weak job outlooks. Get rid of any occupation if you are unable to or unwilling to fulfil the educational or other requirements, or if you lack some of the soft skills necessary to succeed in it.
One of the most important things to consider is if the career path you’re choosing will provide you with an acceptable level of financial security. Job markets fluctuate as society needs different things at different times. Certain jobs are also always in demand or frequently unstable. You will need to consider if the career you choose is stable enough for you and your desires for the future.
Conduct Informational Interviews
When you have only a few occupations left on your list, start doing more in-depth research. Arrange to meet with people who work in the occupations in which you are interested. They can provide firsthand knowledge about the careers on your short list. Access your network, including LinkedIn, to find people with whom to have these informational interviews.
Make Your Career Choice
Finally, after doing all your research, you are probably ready to make your choice. Pick the occupation that you think will bring you the most satisfaction based on all the information you have gathered. Realize that you are allowed do-overs if you change your mind about your choice at any point in your life. Many people change their careers at least a few times.
Identify Your Goals
Once you make a decision, identify your long- and short-term goals. Doing this will allow you to eventually work in your chosen field. Long-term goals typically take about three to five years to reach, while you can usually fulfil a short-term goal in six months to three years.
Let the research you did about required 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 completing your education and training. Short-term goals include applying to college, apprenticeships, or other training programs, and doing internships.
Write a Career Action Plan
Put together a career action plan, a written document that lays out all the steps you will have to take to reach your goals. Think of it as a roadmap that will take you from point A to B, and then to C and D. Write down all your short- and long-term goals and the steps you will have to take to reach each one. Include any anticipated barriers that could get in the way of achieving your goals and the ways you can overcome them.