Trying to pick the right career for yourself can be intimidating. There are thousands of options out there and you may not have any idea where to start or what to do. You’ll want to select a career that will fulfill your goals and keep you happy. Choosing where you work and the type of work you’ll do is a very big part of the overall success in your life.
Selecting the right career is a very important choice and it can take several weeks or even years before someone figures out where they want to be. The thing to keep in mind is that what you decide is your career right now may not be the same in 5 years from now. If you’re a teenager you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on selecting a career at a young age.
You can start choosing a career by following these steps:
- Perform a self-assessment.
- Identify your goals and needs from your career.
- Research companies and jobs of interest.
- Find experts and discuss.
- Create an action plan.
Perform a Self-Assessment
Before you make any decision on what your career should be you should do a self-assessment. This typically is you spending some time reflecting on your past or current work experience and education. As you’re reflecting you’ll want to make notes as some of these thoughts and opinions will guide your process in future steps.
You may even be inclined to take a “career test” or even a personality test online to help guide some of this thinking. They can definitely help steer you in the direction scientists and psychologists think you should be in but that’s not always the case.
Some things you should consider:
- What do you want out of a job?
- What soft skills do you have?
- What technical skills do you have?
- What is your personality like?
- What interests you?
Establish Goals & Needs
After you’ve had time to reflect and assess your situation you’ll want to establish your goals and needs. This is basically a list of what you expect from your new career and the goals you want to obtain with it. If you’ve reflected well enough many of these questions should already be answered.
These are meant to be items that are considered “must haves” and you wouldn’t consider the position unless these were present.
If you’re having trouble trying to think of these, treat it more like a Q & A. Some questions you should ask yourself before choosing a career are:
- What are your salary requirements?
- What benefits do you need? (time off, health care, etc.)
- Are you willing to travel for work?
- Do you need to work in the office or at home?
- Do you need flexible time arrangements?
- Are you looking for a specific job title?
It’s very important for you to know what you’re requiring from a job ahead of time to avoid wasting any time for you and the potential employer. You shouldn’t budge from these must have items and you should try to negotiate for them whenever possible.
Research Jobs & Companies
Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about yourself, your goals and your needs you can start to do a little research. The first step is to start identifying jobs that would interest you either now or down the road. If there is a job that peaked your interest but you weren’t sure about – now is the time to look it up.
You’ll want to get yourself comfortable with what is out there and understand what’s available. This will help you get an idea of what types of jobs line up with your identified must-haves.
To start finding jobs and companies you can take advantage of the following:
- Networking. You can talk to friends, family or even current work colleagues as they may have family or know what jobs may peak your interest. Networking is one of the best ways to find a job and get a job.
- Find interesting industries. If you’re attracted to a certain industry then you will have more drive to work towards entering that industry.
- Identify your hobbies. If you have a hobby, it could lead to a job! A hobby can be anything from woodworking all the way to programming. Either way, those two hobbies and pretty much every hobby out there could lead to your next job.
- Identify your goals and values. The goals and values you outline for yourself should match up with the company and role you’re looking for. If you know these, it is easy to find companies that either fit or don’t fit your values.
- Identify your strengths and talents. If you’re good at something that usually translates to a career. If you’re good at a foreign language you can often find jobs as a translator or linguist, much like if you were good with computers in high-school you can often translate that into a paid computer technician gig.
If you’ve already got your list of jobs and companies you want to research then you’ll want to pay attention to a few things. Many of these jobs may seem interesting at the start but you want to create a short-list of good careers, especially if you’re a teenager trying to choose a career.
A few things you’ll want to look for in a new career:
- “A Day in the Life”
- Job Requirements
- Growth Opportunities
- Job Outlook
You’ll want to look at what a typical employee does at their job all day for that role. You may be surprised that it isn’t all that and a bag of chips. There are a lot of misconceptions of certain jobs because of what we see in the media or what is promoted to us. By looking at what a typical employee does you can start to sift through careers that you think won’t keep your attention.
After you have started to look at what the typical job responsibilities are for the careers you found you will want to start looking into specifics around outlook.
A high starting salary is always something to look for, however, a higher starting salary also tends to mean there isn’t much room to grow beyond that over time without a role or responsibility change. Nearly every job role, or function, has a designated salary range that a company is willing to pay. If you’re hired in at the top then you will either not get a pay raise or you will get very small ones to keep you happy.
Even though a salary is important – job security is just as important, if not more important. You’ll want to make sure you’re entering a career that has a good outlook for at least the next 5 to 10 years. Is there going to be a need for the career you want to pursue? Is there going to be a growth opportunity in the industry or the company you’re applying for? These are all things to keep in mind. You’ll want to try and look out 5 years, or longer, and make sure your goals are attainable. If you don’t foresee yourself either growing or being promoted in 5 years to a new position then this may not be the right career for you.
A good way to get an idea for what your potential career could be like would be to interview or follow industry experts. This may be easy or quite difficult depending on what field you’re trying to enter. It’s much easier to talk to someone in a scientific field versus a medical field.
You’ll have to figure out where those experts are and go to them. You can find many in forums, like Reddit, or other social media, like Twitter. It never hurts to just ask! You’ll be surprised how many are willing to help mentor or provide information for a potential industry colleague. By interviewing experts you can get first-hand knowledge about the careers you’ve selected.
Create a Career Action Plan
A career action plan is a written document that lays out all the steps you need to take to reach your goals. The best way to describe it is that it is a roadmap for your career that will take you from point A to point Z where you’ll ultimately reach your final goal.
This action plan is broken down into sections:
- Employment History, Education and Training
- Self Assessment Results
- Short-Term Career Goals
- Long-Term Career Goals
- Goal Reaching Barriers
As you can expect this is a summary of pretty much everything you’ve done above just formalized. In the first section you’ll want to list your employment history, education and training. This allows you to look at what talents and strengths you may have that you can use to your advantage. If you have already learned how to create a resume then you should have most of this information ready to go.
The next section forces you to collect all of your thoughts around your self assessment. You’ll want to document your results and answers to any questions you asked yourself. We would suggest attaching any research you did or copies of any interviews you had.
You probably already have this written down but make sure you isolate your short and long term career goals. These are the goals you want to keep in the front of your mind as you choose a career or when you’re looking for a job. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to find an online job or if you’re trying to find a high-paying job, your goals matter. You shouldn’t limit your goals because of a career or employer. The best way to handle these goals is to list them out by year.
To help visualize this, here is an example for someone who wants to enter the marketing industry:
- Year 1: Take online courses for SEO and PPC to get certified.
- Year 2: Find an internship & create a marketing portfolio showcasing talents.
- Year 3: Find a job at a regional marketing agency.
- Year 5: Find a job at a national marketing agency.
As you can see, this individual’s 5-year plan is to work for a national marketing firm in some capacity around SEO and PPC. A career path like this is very achievable if you put in the hard work and continuously educate yourself on marketing trends. In some cases, a 5-year plan isn’t the best option. This pertains more to someone who wants to be a doctor or lawyer. You’ll want to cater your short and long term goals to best fit you and don’t worry about trying to live up to a standard.
Now that you’ve gotten your goals out of the way and mapped out, it’s time to figure out what’s stopping you from achieving these goals. This dives into a little bit of “risk assessment” as it relates to your goals. These barriers can be virtually anything. In some cases it can be where you live (low opportunity) or in other cases it can be as simple as no finances to attend a training program or university. You’ll want to identify these as soon as possible and then build a strategic plan to overcome these barriers. For example, if you have no opportunity to find employment in your area then the answer is to move to where the jobs are. That’s not always easy for everyone but if you know that you have to move to a new city then you can start to plan for that move. You can work and save up cash, you can alter your goals to focus on the ones you can achieve while you work towards moving, you can find a friend and so on. The point is you should always be looking for barriers and ways to overcome these barriers so you can achieve your career goals.
If you follow the information above you’ll have a much stronger opinion of where you want to be in your career. If you’re still having trouble trying to figure out which career suits you best there are tons of career counselors available. If you’re a teenager looking for a career then speak to your guidance counselor as there are resources to help you make these decisions before you leave high-school.