Finding Your Career Path

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is the classic question most of us grew up with. We jumped to and fro on ideations of becoming an astronaut, and then a pirate, and then a doctor because our entire life is ahead of us, and we’re free to dream as much as we want. Eventually, we’re told to focus on a single career goal. Reality, though, dictates that finding your career path is a little more complicated than that. Unlike previous generations, the culture of knowing exactly what to do after college and then settling until retirement has been lost in translation. The world is in a different tune now. Research shows that 75% of Americans have switched careers at least once, and around 33% are entertaining the idea. Finding your designated career path does not happen overnight – a long and difficult process is due before you find the fitting trajectory for you. Whatever that means, there is a way to find the right career for you, as it’s also a matter of introspection. Yes, there are a few proven ways to ensure that you are on the right path. Here’s to get started:

Steps to finding your career path.

  • Think about what enthuses you, and always remember what else you may be good at.

This is the very first step to figuring out that career path. When choosing something you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, it’s important that you actually like and enjoy your career. The biggest telltale of a person treading the wrong career path is the dread that comes with it – even just remotely thinking about it sends you into a fit. While passion isn’t the only requirement for a career path contentment, it is undeniable that it’s an essential part. Passion keeps you going, even through the roughest of times. Take some time away and reflect: is there a job you would do for free? Chances are, that may be what you’re looking for. 

Do not underestimate epiphanies.  Perhaps you don’t feel passionate about anything specific, or you’re conflicted between multiple areas. To figure out your career path, think about your personality and the skills you possess. When in doubt, remember this: don’t do what you love, do what you are. 

  • Consider taking career assessments.

Career personality tests taken in school may seem silly, but the right one can become an incredibly useful tool to discovering your career path, especially when you’re lost. A career assessment brandishes two qualities– validity and reliability. The test should be able to measure what it claims to measure, and consistent results should yield after multiple tries. 

It’s one thing to have a list of career path options, though, and quite another when you know how to use the results to your advantage. That career assessment should be seen a starting point for introspection, but it’s not a shortcut – it’s a tool, and its impact will depend on how you use it. 

  • List your options.

Yes, it’s still important to make a list of your career path options, especially when faced with overwhelming decisions. You may have figured out which way to go, but knowing how to actually get there remains a challenge. To successfully find your career path, you should sort through your options carefully. That way, you’ll find the best route to follow. Your list should include tangible job opportunities, doors for educational plans, and other viable career paths. Try to create as plenty of options as possible, so that you’ll have plenty to choose from. Once you have everything written, parse out what does not really fit, and carefully narrow down your goals. Ranking your options from best to worst can be helpful, as well as combining elements that may be similar. 

  • Never cross the power of networks out of your list. 

Actively searching for the right career path entails networking, which is one of the best ways to dip your feet to test the waters. The more people you meet, the more access you will have for insight – the work environment, the kind of people you’ll be dealing with, and how they find the work. Whether you’re a student fresh out from college or heading into college, or a young professional looking to switch career paths, networking is crucial, it’s a lifeline. In fact, data shows that 85% of job positions are acquired through networking. For what it’s worth, also remember that an overwhelming majority of CEOs attest that referrals make the best hires. It could be that a most fitting opportunity for the taking is in the form of revisiting a recent correspondence with a friend. So, as you begin figuring out which career path will work best for you, make sure networking is part of the plan.

  • Consider getting an internship.

If your finances allow it, an landing an internship is one of the best ways to test out an industry you wish to work in, especially when deciding which career path to take. Even if it doesn’t turn into a full-time job, or you realize that it’s the wrong one for you, it will have served its purpose for it can steer you towards a strong realization of what you really want. It can also help you build a network, where you can get a tremendous amount of insight. Contrary to popular belief, not all internships will be about preparing coffee.  Choose one that will work best for you!

  • Seek a mentor.

The value and power of a good mentor should never be underestimated. People who have decided to switch career paths at some point realized that they couldn’t do it alone – learning from the best is necessary. This is where looking for a mentor comes in. The right mentor, no matter what type, will be there to give you proper guidance and the necessary boost in your career. The data is strong in this fact – 80% of CEOs around the world ascribe part of their success to having worked with mentors. 

  • Develop your goals.

Once you finally make a decision, determine your goals, both long-term and short-term. Doing this will allow you to eventually move, slowly but surely, towards your chosen career path. Short-term goals can be can take around six months to three years to achieve, while long-term goals take about three to five years. Your goals should be based off everything you’ve figured out about yourself, backed up by extensive research about your chosen field. For instance, your long-term goal could be about completing your education and training on the field. Applying to a college or training program can be the short-term goal.

Finding the perfect career path is never easy, and to rub salt into wound, the process towards it can be discouraging. Just because it’s as haunting and daunting doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.  You’ll be spending much for adult your life working, around 90,000 hours for the average person. By pursuing a career path that will make you happy, aligned with your goals and values, that actually uses your skills and talents, those 90,000 hours will be well worth it. You’ll get there eventually, and you only need to begin now – ready?

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