Picking the right career is tricky enough as it is, and the current job landscape is not making it any easier. And if you are struggling to figure out how to choose the right career path, know that you are not alone.
There are countless new and enticing career options available today, and about just as many factors to consider before making a decision. New fields and disciplines are coming up every day, and jobs that were non-existent just a decade ago are now major career options. Moreover, due to technological advancements, the job duties in different positions are changing more rapidly than ever before, adding further complexity to the quandary.
Choosing a career is a major life decision, and you can never be too careful with it. You ought to do all the research you can as meticulously as possible before coming to a decision. And if you are reading posts like this, good for you—you are on the right track.
So then, how do you choose the right career path? Well, technically, all you need to do is find something that aligns with your interests, abilities, and values and pays well at the same time. But, of course, it is easier said than done.
There are just so many things to consider, and you don’t really know which factors merit how much importance and what to prioritize. Without a systematic approach, you can easily find yourself in an indecision loop where you keep returning right back to square one over and over. And the last thing you want is to be overwhelmed into making a hasty decision.
In this article, we share insights and highlight points that should give you some clarity on how to make a smart decision without wasting a bunch of time on irrelevant concerns. (You might also want to read How to Find Your Passion in Life for a Rewarding Career.)
So, here is how to choose the right career path in 5 steps.
Someone once said "If Napolean was as intelligent as Spinoza (a Dutch philosopher) he would have lived in a garret and written three books".
The point is, what is a worthy ambition for one may or may not be a worthy ambition for another. So, I’d say the first step towards finding a career is to make sure you are not one of those rare ones who are actually not suited for a conventional career. You need to rule out the possibility that you are an artist or potential entrepreneur and the nine-to-five is not for you.
And even if you are, there is no reason you cannot pursue your dream in a safe, practical way. You could get a day job and work towards pursuing your dream in your time off. Especially, if you have got an entrepreneurial bend, working in a corporate setting before you get into a position where you can provide jobs to others can be an enriching experience.
Refer to our another article How to Be Self-Employed for useful insights on working for your own self.
The only difference not being cut out for the nine to five would make for you is that you would not have to consider the long-term growth potential in the job while choosing one as you would only be doing it to get by till you find your dream within arm’s reach.
Pro tip: Practice calling it a goal rather than a dream, even in the conversations you have in your head. Take it from a psychology major, your words have as much effect on your thoughts as vice versa.
Once you have decided to have a conventional career, the first step is to analyze your interests. An ideal job is one where your interests meet your qualifications and capabilities.
First, you need to ask yourself, what is something I wouldn't mind doing 9-5, five days a week? And if you find something, you need to see if you are qualified for the job and if not, whether there are courses that you can take to be qualified.
Start with making a list of things you would like to do for work. Now, trim down the list to the things you can get paid to do as a job. For this, you will need to do a bunch of research on the Internet. And I don’t mean just googling it, you should try talking to people too.
Make optimal use of social media technology and connect with people not only on professional platforms like LinkedIn and Coursera (you can ask questions to chat assistants to clarify your doubts on the pretense of looking for an online course).
It can also be very useful to articulate, or better yet write down, your motivations and preferences for a job. To get the most out of your list, consider answering questions like these in writing:
It is highly advisable to sit down with yourself and conduct what is called a SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunity and Threats) of yourself as a third person. The method is usually used to identify the right business moves but can be very useful to identify the right career options for yourself as well.
You need to put all the motivational quotes aside and be realistic during this kind of self-inquiry. For instance, if you’d like to be a doctor but didn’t graduate high school in STEM cell subjects, you cannot join medical school. Or, you cannot play in the NBA if you are just 5’ 6’’.
First of all, you need to realize that you are lucky if your interests and abilities intersect with a profession and one that you can join at that. Then, there is the element of talent and the debate of talent vs hard work.
We going to go out on a limb and say that talent cannot be replaced by hard work in most professions where talent is needed. For example, no matter how hard you study, you cannot be a quantum physicist without a certain level of i.q. even if you are deeply interested in the subject.
The ideal answer to what job should I have would be ‘’a job that doesn't feel like work’’. However, the truth of the matter is that not all of us are privileged to be intrinsically interested in something that can turn into a full-time job that pays decent money.
So, try not to be too idealistic and take more practical concerns like being able to support a family into consideration while assessing your value in the job market.
The field of employment opportunities is growing really fast and today, you can make a full-fledged career in sectors that didn’t even exist two decades ago. This should motivate you to carry out thorough job market research to find what jobs out there align with your preferences and requirements.
In your research, try going beyond established industries like energy, consumer goods, and media and entertainment and exploring relatively novel industries like social media and e-commerce.
Look for job openings, job descriptions, and required qualifications in the industries you are interested in. You can use job search websites like Synkdup, LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder to find job openings and research the job market.
You should also consider talking to professionals in the industries you are interested in. You can connect with them through LinkedIn, attend industry events, or ask for informational interviews. Ask them about the job market, career prospects, and required qualifications.
Once you have narrowed your list down to a few industries, analyze job trends in those industries. Look for the growth rate, the demand for jobs, and the future job outlook. You can use job trend websites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get information on job trends.
You can use salary comparison websites like Glassdoor and Payscale to get salary information. Look for the average salaries, the salary ranges, and the benefits offered.
As they say, more is lost by indecision than a wrong decision. So, don’t just dwell on ‘’what career should I have?’’ and succumb to analysis paralysis. Once you have got a couple of jobs that could be the right fit for you, just start writing cover letters and/or resumes for the available job openings in each of those jobs.
No matter the response you get, it would be an educational experience that you can derive valuable lessons from to help with your job search. And don’t sit around waiting for a response either, meanwhile, you can browse online courses and certifications related to your field of interest that would enrich your resume.
There are many online resources that you can use to improve your credentials while applying for jobs, such as:
By taking advantage of these online resources, you can improve your credentials and considerably increase your chances of landing a job even if you have no work experience.
Some of these courses may come with a cost as most valuable things do. But you should not see it as an expense, rather, you should see it as an investment in your future and go ahead and take a promising course if you find one.
As to where to get the money for paying the fee, you could join our headhunter program and earn commissions working on your own time and convenience. One of the good things about online courses is that they don’t charge outrageous amounts and so, your headhunting commissions should be more than enough to cover your fee.
Finally, it is important to get rid of the notion that work is supposed to be fun. Being guided by what is fun for you is how you find a hobby, not a career. And so, if you are serious about carving out a rewarding career for yourself, you need to come to terms with the fact that it usually works the other way around – you do something with diligence and get good at it, and when you get good at it, you develop a passion for it.