Has “I don’t know what career I want to pursue!” been echoing in your mind lately? While not knowing what career to pursue may feel intimidating, it is one that everyone has experienced at some point in their lives.
Careers are long and winding roads, and with so many different possibilities, identifying the right one for you can be challenging. In addition, even after you’ve chosen a career path to follow, you may still feel something is missing.
The good news for you is that you can pursue whatever career you find most interesting if you are willing to devote the right amount of time and effort. With that said, you still need to figure out what path you want to take.
This article will share six tips to help you figure out what career you may want to pursue and combat the feelings of indecision that you may be going through right now.
Tip #1: Ask yourself: “What am I good at?”
The question “what career should I pursue?” is broad, and as a result, it can be difficult to know where to start. Instead, you should focus on what you are already good at and make a list of the skills that you could use in a future career.
If you’re not sure what you are good at, you can always ask a friend or a co-worker or take a career aptitude personality test like the Career Karma quiz to help identify your unique strengths.
By focusing on what you are good at, you can then spend time looking for employers that need people with your talent. If you are good at writing, for example, you may decide that you should look for careers that involve reporting. If you are also good at coding, you may think that a career in technical writing is good for you.
In addition, you should also think about what skills you enjoy practicing. Rather than just focusing on what you are good at, think about the tasks that you have loved to do in the past. Has marketing work always excited you? Maybe that is a signal that a career in marketing could be right for you.
Tip #2: Reflect on your old jobs
The last thing you may want to do is think about why your previous jobs did not work out, but moving careers is all about looking forward. Reflecting on your old jobs can give an idea of what it was that made you like or dislike the path you were on. This will give you more information about what you want in a new job.
Consider asking questions like the following:
- What did you like most about your last employer?
- What did you like least about your last employer?
- What moments made you feel happiest at your last job?
- What task made you excited to wake up in the morning?
- What responsibilities did you enjoy taking on?
- Which responsibilities did you feel were dragging your progress?
Reflecting on these questions will help you gain a better sense of what your current career is lacking. If you notice you struggle to come up with good points from your last job, that’s a strong signal that you need to start moving on. But, if you can find a few good points, then you can use that information to help you decide what roles or responsibilities you may want to take on next in your career.
Tip #3: Talk to people in interesting fields
Once you’ve considered what it is that you are good at and passionate about, you can start talking with people in industries that use those skills.
Take some time to schedule calls with people in the fields you are interested in. Seek their advice. Ask them about day-to-day responsibilities, how they got to where they are today, and what their thoughts are on the overall industry.
These calls are a great way to get to know what the average day in a new job looks like (instead of the idealized version you may read in a job description). If you want to make the most out of such conversations, come prepared with questions in advance, and also offer to help the other person out if there is an opportunity to do so.
Start with the people in your network. Who do you know in the industries that you’re interested in pursuing?
Then, you can expand your reach further. Use LinkedIn and AngelList to discover new people with whom to talk or another platform where you’re likely to find people in your ideal career. Alternatively, ask your friends, co-workers, and families for introductions to other people.
Tip #4: Ask: “What does my dream job look like?”
This may sound like another broad question to answer, but taking time to reflect on what your dream job looks like is a good way to figure out what path may be worth pursuing.
Instead of focusing on job titles, salaries, or job descriptions, you should think about what you want to do daily. What type of work do you want to wake up to in the morning? Do you want to spend a lot of time doing independent work, or do you prefer team-based environments? You should be asking yourself these questions.
Imagine what a day in your dream job would look like, then consider what careers would align with that job. For instance, if you want to spend days coding and you love websites, then a job in web development could be worth pursuing.
You should also use this question as an opportunity to consider your ideal work environment. Does your ideal employer support remote working, or do you want to be in an office? How many hours do you want to work? Do you want to work in a highly results-driven culture?
Indeed, no matter what career you pursue, you’ll likely have to go to an office, so considering the work environment is crucial. For instance, if you love structure, you may prefer a 9-5 job. On the other hand, if you want to work remotely, then you may be willing to give up some of your evening times for the added flexibility that remote work affords.
Tip #5: Learn as much as you can
One mistake that people make when choosing a career path is focusing on planning out the perfect career without learning things that may be relevant.
Instead of just reading about new careers and the paths you could take, try out as many different things as you can. Sign up for a class at your local college, or audit an online class, or follow a few tutorials in some fields of interest. By doing so, you’ll be able to get hands-on experience with different fields, which will help you better understand what to expect going forward.
You may realize, for example, that data science, while an interesting career path, involves too much mathematics for you. But, you’ll only be able to realize that if you spend some time learning about data science. It’s much better to explore many different options and fail at a few than to invest in one before you are ready.
Tip #6: Do what you love
While you may never have held a job that you’ve truly enjoyed, you should not let that discourage you from finding the career path you love.
When you’re thinking about a new career to pursue, ask yourself: “What do I love? What are the things that you enjoy doing, which I would do even if I would not get paid?” For a moment, instead of worrying about the optics of a job and how it will appear on your resume, let yourself imagine what work you would love to do.
Many people choose a career based on how it will help them reach a long-term goal, like earning a specific salary or starting a business by a certain age. While this works for some people, most career decisions should be made based on what you will do every day. In short, try to pick a career that enables you to do what you love.
The Bottom Line
Choosing a new career is never easy as there are so many career options out there. You could be an accountant, web developer, data scientist, or chef. With so many options out there, it may feel impossible for you to choose.
However, if you spend enough time reflecting on your past and thinking about the work that you’d like to do in a new career, you should be able to figure out what it is that you want to do next.
One final piece of advice we have is to not worry about choosing an entire career. It’s impossible to chart out what you’ll spend the rest of your life doing.
Instead, focus on choosing what your next move should be in your job search. What job do you want to do next? What industry should that job be in?
Thinking about your next endeavor through this lens will take away some of the tension that comes with choosing a career and help you focus more on what you want to do now, rather than what you want to do in five or 10 years.