The No. 1 reason people choose the wrong career path (And how to course correct)

The start of a new year offers an opportunity to reflect on your career and set goals and intentions on where you’d like to see yourself next year. But this is no ordinary new year.

For many, the disruptions to our day to day work life that 2020 brought have stripped away all the perks of our current roles (read: interacting with your favorite office pals, team lunches, happy hours and work travel).

With all the things that make working at a job you don’t necessarily love bearable, the chances are high that you might be asking yourself, “Am I on the right career path?”

The good news is, you’re not alone. So many people end up choosing the wrong career path, and the reason for that is pretty simple.

Here’s the number one reason why people end up on a career path they don’t like – and how to course-correct.

Why we end up choosing the wrong career path

Think about the first questions you ask someone when you’re getting to know them. The chances are high that “What do you do?” is among the first few queries you’d want to know. When we’re choosing a career path, the way our peers and family members view the work we’re deciding to pursue plays a large role in our decision-making process. Working in law may not be something you’re incredibly passionate about – but it sounds impressive, and perhaps it’s a field the rest of your family works in, so you feel obligated to do the same. Or maybe you’re won over by the high starting salaries offered by a career in finance – even though you’re not particularly excited about working with numbers. 

Fast forward ten years into your career, and you’re feeling burned out and unmotivated. 

How to course correct

If your current career isn’t the right one for you, how can you determine the right path to take? Start by doing some self-reflection. Ask yourself, what skills do you have that you enjoy using? What tasks in your current job make you feel happy to do? Are there other tasks or skills you have but don’t currently utilize at your job that you’d like to put to use?

Then, think about the problems currently in the world that you’d like to help solve. You can think as big or small as you want here – this could be a product or service that people rely on, or something larger, like bringing about change to the environment.

When you have your list of skills, tasks, and problems, look at where they intersect. What jobs currently exist where you can use the skills you have to do tasks you enjoy doing to help solve problems? 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you should have some much-needed clarity on the right field for you to pursue. Not to mention, you’ll be well-positioned to demonstrate to hiring managers how the skills you possess can be transferable to the role you’re applying for.