How to Choose a Career: The Complete Guide to Picking One You’ll Love

Just finished high school, college, or university and ready for work? Read our guide on how to choose a career you'll love and be great at!

Other than who you marry and where you decide to live, career choice is the most important life decision you will have to make.

Unfortunately, we often have to make the choice as fresh graduates when most of us lack the self-awareness of work experience needed to make a good decision.

Are you a fresh graduate wondering how to decide on a career path? Then keep reading for four steps to follow when figuring out how to choose a career that you’ll love and be great at.

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1. Know Who You Are and Exploit Your Strengths and Weaknesses

According to Cal Newport, people that experience the greatest amount of job satisfaction work in jobs that they are good at. This makes sense because working at a job where you constantly make mistakes. When you don’t meet your boss’s requirements it would be stressful.

The first key to choosing a fulfilling and profitable career is to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. A keen awareness of your personality will make it easy to choose a fulfilling career that complements your talents. But knowing yourself is easier said than done.

Most of us go through life never really finding out what makes us tick. Below are some tips that can help you learn more about yourself.

Check Your Academic Reports

One great way to know your strengths and weaknesses is to refer to your academic reports. In which subjects did you get your highest grades? Which classes did you find easy and pass effortlessly? For example, if you find the sciences easy then a career in the medical field could be a great option.

Something else to consider is what your teachers had to say about your strengths and weaknesses. Did they say you would make a great lawyer due to your debating skills? Teachers as well as classmates may see areas of your personality that you may be unaware of.

Be cautious of relying on school reports alone though because the classroom isn’t the real world. Being good at math doesn’t mean that you will thrive as a programmer. There are other factors that might affect job satisfaction such as your personality, values and the lifestyle the job offers. For instance, you may be an extrovert that hates working alone which might make programming boring for you.

Related Read: How to Turn Your Passion Into a Career in 5 Easy Steps

Ask Friends and Family

Another great way to identify your strengths and weaknesses is to ask your friends and family what they perceive these to be. Your family has seen you at your best and worst so are best placed to gauge your personality.

Don’t make the mistake of relying solely on your family’s and friends’ opinions as they may sometimes have a flawed opinion of your capabilities. Take their insight into consideration but place a greater significance on your internal guidance system.

Take Personality and Psychometric Tests

Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Test and the Strong Interest Inventory Test are great ways of discovering your true self. On top of personality tests, you can also do psychometric tests specific to establish your suitability for certain jobs or professions. To get the best result from personality and aptitude tests it may be better to take them under the guidance of a skilled professional such as a career counselor.

Uncover Your Values

Other than your personality, your job satisfaction will also be greatly influenced by your values. For example, someone that values sustainable living may find it hard working for a petroleum company.

Being clear about your values can help you avoid working in a career that will stress you by forcing you to violate your beliefs on a daily basis. You can find several free exercises on the internet to help you find your values, such as this one from Carnegie Mellon.

Related Read: Career Fairs: How They Work & 5 Tips for Making the Most of Them

Do Some Soul Searching

At the end of the day, the person that will live with your career decisions is you. So you must put in the inner work required to know yourself and what career would work best for you. Grab a journal and take some alone time to think about questions that will uncover your personality desires. Some good questions to ask are:

  • What did you enjoy doing as a child?
  • What was your dream career when you were between the ages of 5 to 8 years? 
  • What skills come effortlessly for you?
  • What do you enjoy doing?

Some other exercises psychologists recommend is to picture yourself at the end of your life and imagine what life you would have enjoyed living. Imagine you are 80 years old and watching a documentary about your life. What would you like your life to have been like? 

Answers to these questions could help you uncover what career you should pursue.

Speak With a Career Counselor

A career counselor specializes in helping people find the right job for them. So, consulting with one is a great idea as they will have the tools and experience to guide you to the right profession. Career counselors are also trained on how to conduct specialized personality and psychometric tests you would get a more accurate report on your personality as well as your strengths and weaknesses.

Related Read: 51+ Work-Life Balance Quotes to Know for Happiness & Success

2. Make a List Of Your Desired Professions and Research Them

Now that you have a good idea of your personality, the next step for how to choose a career is to make a list of your desired professions. Think of at least 10 careers that appeal to you and that you think you would be good at. You can also list jobs that you would hate to have so that you don’t waste time pursuing these.

You then need to do some research on each job on your list to establish if it is the right fit for you. One thing to investigate is whether you have the mental ability to do the job. Also consider if the job will fit your desired lifestyle, how stressful the job is and whether it suits your personality.

As you learn more about each career options, dismiss out the professions that don’t match your capabilities and personality. Some people work better at high paced environments whereas others prefer slower-paced routine jobs. Introverts will also be more suitable for certain careers like writing whereas extroverts may be better suited for sales.

Below are a couple of tips to follow when narrowing down your preferred list of careers.

Use Career Information Websites

A quick way to get insider information on a profession is to visit career websites like O*Net, Indeed and Glassdoor. These sites will give you an overview of different professions, the skills required, expected salary and the pros and cons of each profession. 

You can then gauge whether you are willing to suffer through the worst aspects of a career while enjoying its perks and company benefits. Career websites can also give you information about the future of each career and the possibilities of getting a job in that industry.

Related Read: Top 17 Best Job Sites to Check Out if You’re Looking for Employment

Consider All Factors

When settling on a career make sure you consider all possible factors that may affect your job satisfaction levels in the future. Experts say there are three critical areas to consider─ external factors, personal factors and interpersonal factors.

External factors would be things like how much the job pays, how prestigious the job is as well as job accessibility and security.  Personal factors would include your interest in the career, your ability to succeed at that career and possibilities for your professional development. Finally, interpersonal factors would include aspects such as your family’s teachers’ and peers’ desire for you to join a certain profession.

As you consider all these factors, use both your intuition and feelings as well as logic and intellect to make your decision.

3. Dip Your Toes in Your Desired Industry

Going through step two will help you narrow down your list of desired professions to one or two careers. You can now delve deep into the chosen job to test whether it is the right one for you to pursue. Internet research is a great start to learning more about choosing a career but spending time within the industry can give you a truer picture.

You can find out more about a career by using the following tips.

Interview Industry Insiders

First, create a professional LinkedIn and Twitter account that you will use to follow and connect with the industry leaders of your chosen career. This will help you create an internet footprint that will be helpful when you start looking for internships and jobs. You can also use the accounts to inbox industry leaders with questions about what it takes to succeed in your preferred career.

You can also approach them to ask for an interview where you would have a chance to have a one-on-one talk about their profession. Ask if it would be possible to shadow them for a day or even have lunch or a coffee if they are too busy.

Prepare for the interview by making a list of questions beforehand. Also, be respectful of their time by showing up on time for the interview and finishing the interview on time. Remember to thank them for their time by sending them a thank you card.

Related Read: How to Prepare for an Interview: 10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Big Day

Join Industry and Community Groups

Another way to learn more about a particular career is to join community groups on social media that are specifically for professionals in that industry. WhatsApp, Facebook and Reddit are great platforms whereby you can connect with different professionals and learn about the best and worst aspects of each job.

Look for Part-Time Work

You can learn more about a career is to get a part-time job in that industry. For instance, if you are in college and want to be a music producer you could get a cleaner’s job at a record label. This will allow you to see first-hand how a career in that industry would be and make extra cash in school.

Get an Internship

Finally, you can also learn more about the suitability of a particular career by getting an internship. Ask your career counselor for help in securing a role at your desired company. Alternatively, send out applications in good time to several companies in your desired industry and you will most likely secure a role at one of them.

Related Read: Internships 101: Everything You Should Know About Internship Programs

4. Take Action

The next step is to take action toward succeeding in your chosen career. Set SMART goals to find a job in your chosen industry and work hard to achieve them.

Anticipate that you will face obstacles and come up with a plan to achieve them. For example, doctors have to go through four to six years of medical school before starting their practice. So if this is your chosen profession you must be prepared to study hard in order to qualify.

Know that there isn’t an easy path. Choosing a career on the basis of how easy it will be to get into may mean less job satisfaction when you are older. Easily achievable jobs sometimes don’t pay as well as more specialized roles. By choosing an easier career now, you may find yourself having to go back to school when you are older to learn the skills you avoided as a graduate.

The Best Tips for How to Choose a Career

If you have recently graduated from high school or college and need to pick a career, our tips above on how to choose a career can help you pick the most suitable profession. But if you do your research and still find yourself confused, don’t stress out. Pick the best option for you right now and start growing in that area. 

While choosing the right career after leaving school will save you a lot of time and money, you can always change your career path when you discover that you picked the wrong one. Your goals, values and personality are not static and will change as you grow older.

With these changes, you may decide to change your career to one that suits your new preferences. For more tips on career choices, check out more articles on our blog.

Related Read: How to Use Goodwall’s Web Profile to Land a Job or Internship Opportunity

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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