Networking and Career Advice

How to Choose a Career in 5 Easy Steps

Sarah O’Mahoney

Marketing Specialist and Freelance Writer

Deciding how to choose a career can end in you making a big decision, so it is one that doesn’t need to be rushed into. Deciding which path to go down for your career is exciting, but can also feel like a huge responsibility. When it comes to choosing a career, we are often made felt we should have it all figured out. I bet you can recall being as young as 16 in high school and being asked what line of work you wanted to go into. The truth is, most adults don’t even have it figured out, never mind high school kids!

This article will help you to understand how to choose a career. This is no magic spell or equation that will help you find out the perfect career for you but we will have a look at some pointers and tips that can aid you to get on the right path. So, with that in mind, let’s get stuck in… 

What is a Career and Career Goals?

You may be thinking “of course, I know what a career is”, but in actual fact, there is a big difference between a job and a career. A job is something you do to make ends-meet in the short-term. Many people take jobs that they might have very little interest in while they are looking for “the one”.

A career on the other hand is something you may work towards and build on as time passes. You might have heard of the term “career goals”. This is a term you will see again throughout the article, and it refers to having targets within your career, which might be related to what company you eventually want to work with, or what position you want to work in.

Now that we are clear on the difference between a job and a career, as well as what career goals are, let’s look at how to choose a career! 

How to Choose a Career

1. Think About Your Interests

The first thing to consider when choosing your career is your interests. As the saying goes, “If you work in a career you love, you will never work a day in your life.” Essentially, what this means is that if you have a real passion and interest in the area you want to work in, it won’t even feel like work. 

Think about your hobbies and try to match them with your career choices. For example, if you love caring for animals, maybe veterinary studies are for you. If you have a real interest in how the economy works, you could consider the area of economics or business. 

2. Assess Your Skills and Values

Once you’ve had a thought about your likes and dislikes, try to assess the rest of yourself. Consider your skills – what are you good at? Maybe you love talking and meeting new people. This means you have strong interpersonal and communication skills. These are transferable skills that are needed in many careers, especially in teaching, customer service, therapy, and health care. 

Knowing core values helps when considering how to choose a career AND how to prepare for an interview

In terms of your values, think about what is important to you. This can help you choose a career as it can help spark something you are passionate about. Do you value creativity? Humanity? Family? Connection? These are some examples of values you may have that can translate into a career. For example, if you value humanity, you may want to pursue a career in political science or international relations.  

Having the necessary skills and values for the career you are interested in before you even begin is such a big advantage! 

3. Search for Information

After you have assessed yourself and have a better idea of your interests and strengths, take some time to do some research. It may be a good idea to see what is out there in the field you feel you may be interested in. Some careers may be easier to get into according to the current job market and economic situation for example. For some context, in 2021 it is proving difficult for people to start a career in university lecturing, as the demand is not there. 

It will be helpful to do a quick Google search to see what job vacancies are available in the area you want to work in. This will give you an insight into what the job market is like for that particular career. 

4. Consider Your Career Goals

As we mentioned earlier, your career goals are targets you have set for yourself that might be related to the position you hope to work in one day, the company you aspire to work with, or certain projects you want to be a part of. 

Considering your career goals can help you determine what path or direction you should be going in. When setting objectives for yourself, make sure they are SMART. 

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are targets that are well thought out and established. 

Smart goal setting to help choose a career
SMART (specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, timely) goal setting concept written on blackboard

S – Specific: This refers to your goals being narrowed down, instead of a broad, general goal.

M – Measurable: Can you prove that your goal is being achieved, or getting closer to being achieved? Maybe you are keeping track of how many interviews you have done, for example. 

A – Attainable: Ensure your goal is realistic enough that you will be able to achieve it at some point. If your goals are unattainable you may be discouraged when you seem to be not getting any closer. 

R – Relevant: Your goals should be related to your long-term objectives and values. 

T- Time-Based: This means that you should have a timeframe in mind when you would like to have your goal achieved. Doing this will help you stay on track, as well as motivated. 

5. Talk to People & Make Connections

If you know other people in the field you are considering for your career, make use of that! Chat to them about what they do, find out if they enjoy it, and so on. Having this conversation will not only help you create connections in the industry you want to kick start a career in, but it will also give you some insight into what it is like to work in the area day to day. Knowing people in the same career may also open doors and opportunities for you. It’s super important to use the network around you! 

Let’s Recap

By now, hopefully, you have an idea of where to start when choosing your career. Remember that assessing yourself and thinking about what you like to do, your passions, and your interests is super helpful for setting yourself for a career you’ll love. 

Choosing a career can’t be done in one day, it takes time. A career, as we mentioned, is something that you work towards, so it’s normal if it doesn’t happen overnight. Having your SMART goals to motivate you on your journey of choosing a career is a great way to stay on track and see results. 

Also, remember that different careers may be easier or harder to get into based on the job market so make sure to always keep an eye out for current trends and industry news. Take advantage of knowing people in the area you are interested in, they can be a great asset to your journey! 

Enjoy the process of choosing your career. It is a great way of discovering yourself and trying out different things. If you make a decision on what you’d like to pursue and it doesn’t work out, that’s okay and more than common. People often go through many different careers before finding the right one for them, it’s a process. 

With that in mind, try and be patient during this journey of self-discovery – once you have found the right career for you, you will be happy your work paid off!  

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