Recently, I was in a Skype meeting with a job seeker. This job seeker is 25. In order to help support his family, he has worked in retail and sales since graduating high school. Now, he is ready to do something for himself and find a career path that excites him and brings him satisfaction.
He asked me: How do I figure out what I want to do in my career? I have never spent much time thinking about it, and I’m not even sure what I would be good at.
Long story short, there is no magic answer. I won’t be able to tell you what career you should have after a 90-minute call. It’s just not that simple. There are so many variables in figuring out what your ideal career is. To make it even more complicated, your ideal career generally changes over time as your experience, skills, and preferences grow and change.
How Do You Figure Out What You Want to Do?
It all starts with a self-inventory and some dreaming. This part of the process doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but you do need to commit some time to doing it.
You can either do this on your own or use an assessment tool. If you are using a tool, do your research first to ensure you are using something that will add value. One that I recommend and feature on my own site is eParachute. For the price of a cup of coffee, you get 12 months of access to a great tool that allows you to explore career and study options as much as you’d like. Using this tool will save you time in researching roles that fit your skills and interests, and it may provide you with career and study ideas that you might not have thought of on your own.
If you are going to work through the process pen-and-paper style, you need to start by listing:
- skills you have;
- types of people you enjoy working with;
- knowledge and education;
- experiences and achievements you are proud of (both work and personal; you can later think about the skills needed to accomplish these things);
- and industries and roles that interest you.
Take your time with the exercise to ensure your lists are as exhaustive as possible. Then, go to career sites and search through the jobs and industries that align with your lists. Pick out a few of your favorite career options and spend time researching each. Two sites that are great for researching careers are myfuture and the Australian government’s Job Outlook. (Ed. note – Because the author is Australian, these sites are focused on Australian job seekers; there are also plenty of similar sites for job seekers around the world.)
After you have decided on a career path you are interested in, let it sit for a day or two. Then reconsider your choice. While the career path you select certainly isn’t something you have to do for the rest of your life, coming back to it with fresh eyes will help you see things you might have originally overlooked.
Deciding on your ideal career path is only the first step of the journey. The next step is working out how to get there – and that is where the real fun begins. In part two of this article, we’ll talk about how to make a plan to get yourself on the right track to the career of your choice.
Stacey Gleeson is the founder and job search/interview coach at Primed Interviews. If you have a question about your job search, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.