Choosing the right career in 4 steps (complete guide)

In our society, there is a lot of emphasis on choosing the right career. Ideally, people are born with the knowledge of what they want to do when they grow up. Not everyone feels that way. That’s why we will help you in choosing the right career path for you!

Some people love the work that they do. They don’t feel like they’re working and tell you that they would still do this work even if they wouldn’t get paid. 

It is an often romanticized image of employment. The reality is that there are days where what you do feels like work. You just have to find a job where you can endure the challenging moments and enjoy the fun moments. 

How to go about choosing the right career

There are a couple of things important when you want to choose the right career. These include getting to know yourself, your interests, and how those match your skills.

Based on that, you can make a list of careers that you want to know more about. Research the opportunities that you have found and see if they fit with your short-term and long-term goals. 

1. Assess yourself at this moment

Practice some self-reflection and evaluate where you are at this moment. You want to know your values, what you are looking for in a job, and your skills. 

A couple of examples of questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are my values?
  • What am I interested in?
    • What subject did I like when I was in school? 
  • What am I naturally good at?
  • What fits my personality?
  • What skills have I learned that I could use?

If these questions are hard for you to answer, try self-assessment tools or personality tests to tell you more about your unconscious preferences. A career counselor can also help navigate this process. 

Want to have low-cost options? When you have studied at a university, the chances are that they have a career services office that you can use as an alumnus. There will also be students trained to become counselors, which can often help you for cheap. 

Now you know where you are at this moment and what your qualities and skills are. In addition to that, think about what you are looking for in your job. 

Decide on your non-negotiables. These could include:

  • The amount of salary you want to earn.
  • What other kinds of employment benefits you want to have. For example, paid time off, healthcare, or sabbatical leave.
  • Do you want to work from home?
  • What work environment do you want to work in?
  • What kind of company culture are you looking for?
  • What is the job level that you want to work in?

The non-negotiables help you when you are choosing the right career. You want to have a job that aligns with internal factors like skills, personality, values, and interests. You also want to have a job that aligns with external factors like salary, employment benefits, work from home, company culture, or job level. 

2. List careers you want to know more about

After you know where you are at this moment in time and what you are looking for, you can start making a list of careers you want to know more about. 

The best way to go about this is first to ask yourself: what kinds of jobs appeal to me? What types of jobs would I want to work in? Write those down so you can refer to them later.

You can find more job opportunities by:

  • Asking friends and colleagues what kind of job they would see as an excellent fit for you. Also, you can ask your friends and family what kind of jobs they are working. You may hear some new fields that you didn’t identify yet, which you can add to the list of careers you want to know more about.
  • Thinking about your skills and personality, is there any job that would fit with that? Evaluate your answers to question one and think about what skills and personality traits would make for a job. For example, if you are good at communicating and like working with people, an HR specialist could be something to look into. 
  • Thinking about your dream career in more detail. What would you do if you could do anything? While it may not be the best career choice for you, you know what kind of career you are looking for. For example, if you want to be a CFO, you have to earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, or economics. You need to know how accounting works and how to make financial reports. Add these fields to the list and see where you end up. 
  • Evaluating what you like to do in your free time. Do you have any passions or hobbies that you can translate to a career? For example, you like structure and are passionate about numbers, writing down financial analyst or data analyst on your list could be the right move. 

3. Research about those opportunities 

You have a list that you want to know more about. Research about those opportunities and narrow the list down. When you are down to around 5-10 options, get some more information about the career paths that you have laid out for yourself. 

Even when careers fit your skills, education, and interests, that doesn’t mean that they are right for you. Pay attention to whether or not you are willing to go back to school when additional education is required, for example. 

As you research, make sure you:

  • Find online job descriptions to find out what the job entails. What does working this job look like? Start to narrow down your list, selecting only the jobs that truly speak to you. 
  • Think back to your non-negotiables that you wrote down in step one. What are the things you are looking for in your new career?
  • Know what education you need. Do you know what requirements a job had in terms of education or training? Specific requirements take a long time, while others may not interest you. Select the careers that have requirements that you can and want to fulfill. 
  • Know how the labor market is for that job. Is it a job where there is generally a shortage or a multitude of jobs to choose from? Read about how the market that you’re interested in is projected to develop in the coming years. When you want to choose the right career path, make sure that you have enough job opportunities to choose from in your chosen field.
  • Check if the amount of salary you want to make is realistic. It is about checking if you can get paid your desired amount and analyzing trends to estimate whether the compensation will go up or down through the years.  

4. Think about your goals to get there

You’ve committed to finding out who you are, what you want, and what you are capable of. You’ve invested time and energy in that, so you want to make sure that you are making your career path a reality. 

You can decide how far you are going to outline your goals. Creating a spreadsheet and outlining the steps you are going to take work well for many people. An example of your goals and this outline could be: talk to two people who do this job, find out if the gathered information is correct, or get additional training.

Outline the exact steps that you think you should take and keep it small. You want your goals to be achievable, so give them a deadline and make sure you stick to your planning. 

When you are taking weekly or monthly steps towards your dream career, you will notice that you start getting closer and closer. Keep in mind that there are more ways to reach your ideal career. 

What to do when you can’t change careers right now?

Not everyone has the luxury of deciding they want to pursue a different career and going for it the next month. There can be a multitude of reasons why you can’t change careers right now. Even if you can’t at this moment, still plan for it in the long term. Work toward your career dreams slowly and steadily, and you will get there eventually. 

For now, here are some tips for enjoying your work more while you’re working on your goals:

  • Focus on the things that you do enjoy. Yes, it sounds too easy, but it can be the first step. Focus on what you like about your job, how you are adding value to the company, and how you are helping others. 
  • Have fun with your colleagues. Talking to your colleagues and making jokes throughout the day can improve your job satisfaction. 
  • Still, planning for your career change is super important! Planning your career change can be the long term goal that you are working toward. Even though you won’t meet the goal shortly, you will be more satisfied knowing that you are working toward your ideal career. 

Conclusion on choosing the right career

When you want to choose the right career for you, you can end up with different career paths that you are excited about. Be sure to check if that career path fits your personality, skills, interests, and timeline. It would also be wise to have a list of non-negotiables, like salary or work from home opportunities, that you will not settle on. 

When you know what requirements you have, start looking. Ask your friends, check out job boards, and think about what your ideal job would be. Find job descriptions online in the fields you are interested in, and see if they fit your expectations. Narrow down the list to around five options, and pick one from those. 

Once you know where you want to transition in, set goals on how to get there. You will probably need to take some steps, like completing training or interviewing people working in the field. 

In the time between your job now and plan for your dream job, you probably have to bring in money by keeping your current job.

If you do that, you can make it more fun by focusing on the things you enjoy, having fun with colleagues, and following through with your plan for a career path. 

When you are choosing the right career, it will all be worth it!