A lucky few people know exactly what career path they want to follow, for the rest of us it’s more complicated. With hundreds of different options to choose from, how do you choose a career that’s the right fit for you? If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, figuring it out can seem impossible.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this difficult. Following an organised process and asking yourself some searching questions can increase your chances of making a good decision, whether you’re considering which degree to study at university to further your future career, or are a graduate wondering which positions to apply for.
Before you can choose the right career, it’s a good idea to take some time to get to know yourself better. Consider your strengths, weaknesses, interests, soft skills, values and even your personality type, and think about the types of career that you would be a good fit for.
You can find many online career tests, quizzes, and self-assessment tools that will help you gather more information about your traits and present you with a list of options that are a good fit for you based on the answers that you give. You might also find it useful to work alongside a career development professional or career counsellor when navigating this process.
Make a List
Perhaps you have multiple career ideas at this point, especially if you have been using online career tests and self-assessment tools. Combine them into one master list to help keep yourself organised. It’s also a good idea to look at your career tests results and find careers that tend to appear on several lists rather than just once. These are careers that have been suggested to you as a good fit based on various factors, so they’re definitely worth learning more about. You should also find any career options on your list that appeal to you; perhaps they are careers that you already know something about and would like to learn more about. Include career options that you’re unfamiliar with, too – you might learn something unexpected when you explore them.
Consider Your Field of Study
Whether you are exploring your options for going to university, are already a university student or a recent graduate, the good news is that you don’t always have to find a career related to your degree subject.
Sometimes, our goals can change over the time that we spend at university and if that sounds like you, you’ll be glad to hear that you can always change directions. However, if you are just starting out applying to university, it’s always easier to have a solid career goal in mind. You might find it helpful to use websites like University Compare, a comparison site for UK universities and courses, to look at job descriptions of where graduates are working after finishing a certain degree. Reading job descriptions can help you get a better idea of where certain degree courses might take you and help you determine which are the best for you. And while it’s not something we often think about, it can be worth looking at the crime statistics for different universities. As this guide to 50 of America’s most dangerous campuses shows, while most universities have low levels of crime there are some with literally thousands of criminal events each year, so chose wisely.
Create a Shortlist
Once you have explored your career options by reading job descriptions and speaking to people who work in these positions online, it’s time to start narrowing your list down even further. Begin by eliminating any careers that you are no longer interested in pursuing now that you have been able to learn more about them. Ideally, you should have no more than five occupations on your shortlist. Remove anything that involves work that doesn’t appeal to you, and careers that you are unlikely to get based on your education and experience – unless of course, you have your heart set on one of them, in which case, you might want to consider looking into opportunities to make yourself a more suitable candidate. Remove any careers for which you are unwilling or unable to fulfill the educational requirements or any other criteria, or if you lack some of the soft skills necessary to succeed in it and don’t want to spend your time developing them.
Make Your Career Choice
At this point, you are likely going to be armed with all the information that you need to make an informed decision about your career choice. Pick the occupation that you believe is going to be the most enjoyable for you and that you will be most satisfied and engaged with, based on the information that you have gathered. Remember that you can always change your mind at any point in your life; many people change their careers at least a couple of times. Then, identify your long- and short-term goals to help you plan out how you are going to eventually land work in your chosen career. Consider anything you have achieved so far which may help you towards meeting your goals, and anything you will still need to do.
If you can’t pin down a specific career goal, try these methods to help you narrow down your options and find your ideal path.