How to Choose a Career
Picking a career can be a long, difficult process. With so many options to choose from, it may seem overwhelming at times. Luckily, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help determine the career path that is right for you.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Career
Below are 10 questions that will help you decide what career is best for you.
Interests, Personality, and Strengths
What work environment fits my interests and personality?
Each person has interests and a personality type that is best suited for certain types of jobs over others. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing, what wouldn't feel like a job if you did it professionally. According to Holland's Theory of Career Choices, there are 6 personality types when it comes to jobs: Conventional, Realistic, Social, Investigative, Artistic, and Enterprising. These personality types correspond to different work environments. Like-minded people in the same workplace tend to create an environment that helps them feel comfortable and succeed in daily tasks.
What are my strengths?
Similar to personality, everyone has strengths that fit certain jobs. Ask yourself what you're good at, whether it be a hard skill, such as computers, or a soft skill, such as communication. Think of things that come naturally to you. Try to remember a situation that commanded action from you; how did you handle it? Think of what you did well, and what you could improve on, and apply that to what you could do in a job.
Values and Goals
What are my values?
Your values, or what you believe in or stand for, can determine what you want to do or who you want to work for. When a career lines up with your values, it can lead to satisfaction and success. Try writing down a list of values you have. Things like integrity, honesty, equality, and work-life balance are all examples of personal values that can shape your profession.
What are my career goals?
Think about where you see yourself in the future. Do you want to earn a certain amount of money, or take on a leadership position? What will it take to get there? Figuring out your goals for the future can help you make the right choices now.
Skills and Education
What skills do I have or need to learn?
Everyone has a set of useful skills, but many skills can also be learned through formal education or on-the-job training. The two skills types are hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are usually taught, while soft skills are less quantifiable. Hard skills include machine operation or a foreign language and soft skills include leadership and teamwork. Both sets of skills can be put on job applications. Ask yourself what skills you have that can be applied to a job as well as what skills you would need to learn.
What education do I need?
Many jobs require some type of postsecondary education or training, but in some cases, it's optional. For example, someone wishing to run their own business may take business management courses instead of earning a degree. But someone wishing to be a physician's assistant will need to earn a PA bachelor's degree. Research the education or training you will need for a career; look for things like admissions requirements, length of the program, location, availability, and subjects you will study. Factor in cost as well. Are you willing to invest time and money? Determining exactly what education or training you will need can help you form a plan to prepare for it.
Salary and Advancement
What salary can I expect to earn?
While salary might not be the main factor in deciding on a career, it does contribute. Maybe you need a certain salary to be able to live independently or take care of others. A job with a livable wage can decrease stress, which can improve work performance and quality of life. Research the average salary for any career you are thinking of to determine what you can live with.
Is there an opportunity for advancement?
Some jobs will have advancement opportunities and some will have very few or none at all. Advancement in a career can lead to a greater salary and more fulfillment. If you've thought about your career goals from earlier and they include getting a promotion, more responsibility, or higher pay, it's a good idea to research the types of advancement your potential career offers.
Competition and Availability
Is the job market for this career competitive?
Some jobs will be more competitive than others due to employment rates and openings, as well as work culture and environment. Determination and drive are key factors to succeeding in a competitive field. Research what the competition in your prospective career is like and determine if you are willing to handle it. However, if you are truly passionate about a career, don't let competition be a huge factor.
Will this career be available?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes job outlook percentages for many careers. A job's outlook is the expected rate of growth for a set amount of time in the future. The higher a job's outlook is, the easier it can be to gain employment, but the lower it is, the harder it can be to gain employment. Researching your potential career's outlook can help you plan how to get the job once you are ready.