Choosing a career path can be one of the most stressful decisions you will have to make. All too often, we’re under the impression that we should know what we want to do from a very young age. Let’s face it, we’ve all had those friends in school or in college who always knew that they were destined to be a doctor or a teacher. However, if you feel like you don’t know what career path you want to choose or what’s right for you, don’t feel stressed or left out.
It’s decidedly more common than you would think to have absolutely no idea what career path you ultimately want to follow. What’s more, it’s unrealistic to think that the career you start out on will be the one that you will maintain for the rest of your life. It’s completely normal for people to change career paths because they discover that the job they are currently working in just isn’t right for them.
So, what happens if you just don’t know what career you’re meant to choose? What happens if you already work in a particular career but that’s not the job you want to remain in? How do you change career paths and how do you find the career that’s definitely right for you?
What is a Career Path?
A career path is essentially just made up of the positions that you will hold and work in as you grow within your chosen field. For example, the job that you first land after graduating from high school or college will mark the start of your career path. Or, if you leave a career that you’re currently in to pursue a different career path entirely, the position that you first start in will also mark the beginning of that career path.
As you gain better skills and increase your knowledge you’ll progress up the career ladder into more advanced roles. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for people to move laterally in career paths, meaning that they transition into a different career but an equivalent level role.
Examples of career paths might include an education path, such as advancing from a teacher to a principal, or a retail path from a sales associate to a regional manager. Perhaps your career path is marketing, working your way up from public relations assistant to the director of communications.
How Do You Choose A Better Career Path?
The big question really is how do you choose a career path, to begin with? Many people know from the get-go what career they want to pursue. Often, this decision is based on their own goals and interests, future plans, their personality, and sometimes the influence of others around them. However, there are a number of different factors that you should consider when selecting the path that’s personal to you and your goals in life. Here are some important steps you can take in choosing a career path.
- Outline your specific career goals
- Discover your personality type
- Take into account any previous experience you have
- Look into the job requirements and whether or not you have the necessary education
- Consider your own interests and what you love to do
- Identify your principal values
- Consider finances and what type of income you need
When deciding on a career path there are some questions that you should ask yourself to help narrow down your choices. It can be very overwhelming trying to pick one job that you’re going to work in for the rest of your life. Consider asking yourself:
- What do you want out of your career?
- What do you value?
- What activities do you enjoy doing, both professionally and in your own time?
- What are your strengths and skills?
Many people start out picking a career path for all the wrong reasons. For example, they wildly overestimate how important a large salary is as compared to happiness within a career. Of course, financial stability is important, but it’s far from the be-all and end all of a good job. So, if you know doctors make a very good income but you’re squeamish and hate the sight of blood, choosing a career path in the medical field probably isn’t right for you regardless of the fact that you could end up raking in the big bucks. At the end of the day, earning a huge income won’t make you happy if you’re miserable every day when you have to go to work.
When identifying a career path, it’s critically important to consider what you enjoy doing as well as what you are skilled at. You probably aren’t going to be very happy in a career as a physicist if you’re no good at math. But similarly, if your passion lies in science despite your lack of math skills, there are so many other science-related careers you could opt for. Maybe a biologist or a psychologist is a better fit for you.
One of the most important considerations you can make when selecting a career path is whether or not you have the necessary education to succeed in that field. There are a number of fields where you can start from the bottom and work your way up. There are plenty of entry-level positions that require little-to-no education or training. As you work hard and show your professionalism and skills within the field you can likely make your way up the career ladder. However, there are a number of careers that will require you to have an education or a background showing that you have the expertise to work in the field. You can’t work your way up to become a lawyer; you need to have a law degree to do so. If you know that the career path you would like to follow is going to require you to have a degree, whether it’s an associate’s degree or doctoral-level degree, then pursuing the necessary education is the course of action that you need to take first.
One of the most important things to remember is that it’s never too late to start walking on the path to a better career. Sadly, it’s common to think that that time has passed and the career of your dreams is out of reach. The truth is you can’t be expected to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re fresh out of high school or college. It takes some life experience and getting to know yourself before you may understand where your true interests, skills, and passions lie. It’s never too late to start on the path to a better career.