Guide: How to Choose a Career

When we ask people about the most meaningful parts of their lives, family, health and work often rank as the top three. Choosing the type of work you’ll do, therefore, is arguably one of the most important decisions you can make.

Selecting a career path can take weeks, months or even years as you continue learning what you want and need in a job. So we have come up with a few possible activities you can do to help you with the decision-making process. It’s important to note that you may have the option to change your path multiple times in your life, making the ability to choose a new career is a valuable life skill.

Some of the activities you should do to help you choose a career:

  1. Perform a self-assessment.
  2. Identify your must-haves.
  3. Make a list of jobs to explore.
  4. Research jobs and employers.
  5. Get training (if you need it) and update your resume.
  6. Find and apply for jobs.
  7. Continue growing and learning.

 

 

Perform a self-assessment

Before making any important decision, it’s a good idea to take time for self-reflection. Choosing a career is no different. In this step, you’ll reflect on what kind of work environment you want to be in, what type of work you enjoy, who you want to work with, and more.

As you’re reflecting, you may want to write down your notes. These can be helpful references as when you’re evaluating job descriptions later on.

Here are a few questions to get you started. Try not to dwell on the questions for too long. Instead, write down the first thoughts that come to mind. If you’re not sure of some answers, trusted friends or family members may be able to guide you.

Self-assessment questions to consider:

  • What are your key values?
    Example answers: Financial stability, helping others, independence
  • What soft skills do you possess?
    Example answers: Time management, communication, confidence, problem-solving
  • What technical skills do you possess?
    Example answers: Data analytics, planning, research, multilingual, photography
  • What natural aptitudes do you have?
    Example answers: Writing, leadership, selling, project management, communicating, planning, technical problem-solving
  • What’s your personality like?
    Example answers: Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality type, quiet, outgoing, confident, aggressive, loyal
  • What are you interested in?
    Example answers: Technology, writing, medicine, design

Identify your must-haves

Next, take some time to identify your must-haves in a job. These can range from anything like salary or travel to benefits and location. It might be helpful to return to the question-answer activity when recording what you can’t be flexible with when it comes to your career:

  • Do you need to earn a certain salary?
  • Do you require certain benefits like specific healthcare coverage or a certain amount of time off?
  • Could you take a job that involved travel?
  • Do you need to work in a certain location?
  • Do you require any sort of flexibility to work from home?
  • Do you need to adhere to a specific job title or level?
  • Are there certain tasks you need to do or do not want to perform?
  • Is there a certain work environment you cannot operate well in?

It is important to know what you need from a job ahead of time. For example, if you need to earn a consistent salary, you may want to avoid freelance work. Once you’ve determined your must-haves, you can use the research phase to determine jobs that might not work for you.
 

 

Make a list of jobs to explore

After understanding a bit more about yourself and your needs in a job, start looking for jobs that sound interesting or desirable to you. If there’s a job you don’t know much about, write it down and research it later. You may end up finding an interesting career path. Additionally, remember that job titles don’t always represent the actual job perfectly. While a title might not seem desirable, the job description might be a good fit for you. To start making your list of jobs, here are some considerations:

  • Use your network. Do you know friends or colleagues with jobs that seem interesting? Tap into your network to explore jobs both they might hold, as well as jobs they think you may be interested in and/or good at.
  • Find interesting industries. Is there a particular industry that seems appealing? Are you naturally drawn to a particular category of work like design, fashion, business or education? Think about friends, family members or acquaintances who have compelling or attractive jobs.
  • Identify things you enjoy doing. Are there any activities or tasks that you love doing? These can be anything from designing presentations to organising information to working as part of a group. For example, if you enjoy designing presentations write down careers that might involve doing this type of work.
  • List your goals and values. Consider where you want to be in two, five and ten years. Is there a particular title or level you want to achieve? Is there a location you want to be in or a certain lifestyle you want to have? Taking time to think about your future can help you identify jobs that will be a long-term fit.
  • Evaluate your strengths and talents. What are you good at? Whether you identify soft or hard skills, determining your strengths paired with things you enjoy can help you find a career that sets you up for success.

 

 

Research and narrow down your list

After you’ve explored jobs that seem interesting, start researching each one to create a short -list of serious career possibilities. The goal is to arrive at one or two career paths that you’re excited about. You can use the following steps as a guide for your research:

  • “A day in the life.” To get a better idea about whether a certain career might be a good fit for you, look into what the day-to-day responsibilities of each job looks like. Get example job descriptions and common tasks and responsibilities. You might also consider asking to shadow people in your network with jobs on your list.
  • Salary. Whether you have a specific salary requirement or not, it might be helpful to learn about average compensation for the jobs you’ve identified.
  • Job requirements. Before choosing a career, you will need to know what certifications, degree, training or other credentials are required. You might decide that fulfilling certain requirements isn’t a good fit for you. Thus, narrowing down your list to careers that are more suitable.
  • Growth opportunities. It’s important to know if there is an opportunity for growth in your chosen career. This means the availability you’ll have in the career to advance, gain skills and take on more responsibility. Read job descriptions carefully to learn about job requirements and growth opportunities.
  • Job outlook. Another key piece of information is how your selected job stands in the labour market. This includes data like hiring trends and job growth. Search for news stories about the industry or job title that interests you. You will want to give preference to jobs that have steady hiring and growth.

 

 

Get training and update your resume

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to one or possibly two career paths, you’ll need to assess whether you need additional training or credentials. While some employers are willing to provide on-the-job training, others will look for candidates who already possess their requirements. For details on a specific job, carefully review the job posting. Pay attention to sections labelled ‘Requirements’ and ‘Education and Experience’.
Once you’ve determined that you are qualified for this career path, update your resume to reflect your relevant strengths and skills. It can be helpful to explore job postings to understand what employers in your industry and position are looking for in candidates.
 

 

Find and apply for jobs

You can begin looking for opportunities on Indeed—on desktop or on mobile. To add filters, select the “Filter” button. From there, you can set your search distance, job type (full-time, part-time, contract, etc.) and experience level.
If you’ve successfully accepted a new job, we’d love to hear about it. Share your story on gotajob.indeed.com.
 

 

Continue growing and learning

As with any change, it can take time to adjust to your new career. During this transition time, pay attention to the parts of your job that you’re enjoying. You’ll continue growing, learning and changing as you understand more about yourself, your industry and what works best for you.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you step into a new career:

  • Make the most out of your first year. In a new job, it can be overwhelming to take in new information, learn the industry and become an established member of the team.
  • Keep track of your goals. If you are feeling uneasy or unsatisfied in your career, it can be helpful to go back to your future goals. If your career no longer aligns with what you want in your future, consider shifting your tasks or looking for other roles that might be a better fit.
  • Pursue your interests. If there is a certain task, activity or role you particularly enjoy, spend time developing and exploring those interests. Following what you enjoy and are good at can help you advance in your career and get the most out of your day-to-day role.
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