Top 10 Ways to Find Your Career Path
If you're not sure which direction your career should go in, you're thinking about making a career change, or you just want to feel more fulfilled in your career, these ten tips might help.
Ideally, everyone would know their true calling early in life and find happiness in their work, but it often doesn't work that way. One survey (of New York professionals) found that they expected to change careers three times in their lifetimes; lifelong careers may not be the norm any more.
That said, we know there are better ways to choose a career than just following your parents' footsteps or choosing randomly. Here are some ideas.
10. Think About What Excites and Energizes You
This one's the first obvious step—we all want to enjoy and actually like our careers. (Perhaps the biggest sign you're on the wrong path is if you dread talking about your job.) While passion isn't the only requirement for being content in your career, many would say it's still essential, if only because passion is what keeps you going even through the tough times. Is there a job you would do job for free?
9. But Also Keep in Mind What You're Good At
Maybe you don't feel that passionate about any specific career—or you love multiple areas and can't decide on just one. Then it's time to think about your personality and focus on the skills you have. "Don't do what you love. Do what you are."
8. Take a Test
Well, you say, what if you don't know what you're good at or even what you're interested in? Career assessment tests in college or even high school help narrow down a field (perhaps with the Myers-Briggs personality index), but if it's been a while since you took those tests, there are other kinds of assessment tests you can take. This one from Rasmussen College matches your self-reported skills and interests with potential jobs. (And they also have a salary and job growth interactive chart.) For potential programmers, Switch recommends a coding career based on your preferences. About.Com's Job Search site has a collection of other career tests.
You can also find a career that fits your motivational focus with this assessment test.
7. Try an Internship
If you have flexibility when it comes to salary, an internship could be a great way to test out an industry or type of career—and eventually get a full-time job (especially if you have no prior experience). Even if it doesn't turn into a job or you find out it's the wrong career for you, an internship can help build your network—from which you can get career and job advice. (Not all internships are just about picking up coffee. For example, Google internships, while hard to come by, put you to real work.)
6. Find a Mentor
A mentor could help you take your career to the next level and give you the insider insight to help you make sure you're on the right path. Here's how to ask someone to be your mentor.
If there's a career you're interested in, you might also check to see if any companies or people in that line of work would let you shadow them for a few days to see what it's really like.
5. Explore Unconventional Careers
We all know the popular careers available to us—doctor, lawyer, teacher, computer engineer, police officer, store owner, etc. If you feel uninspired by the typical choices, know that there are thousands of unusual jobs you might not have heard about, hidden, perhaps, in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Handbook. Mashable has a list of six dream jobs that pay well (panda caretaker! Chocolate inspector!), Thought Catalog highlights 10 more (sex toy testers?!), and Chron lists a couple of others (along with related articles like "Unusual careers with animals" and "unusual accounting careers").
4. Ask Other People
Perhaps the best way to discover a new career is to ask other people about theirs—assuming you come into contact with people who don't all work in the same field. Your LinkedIn network (or other social media sites, but especially LinkedIn) might be a good place to start mining for information. Also, don't forget your local library's reference librarian can point you to career resources.
3. Use the G+P+V Formula
The perfect career for you would most likely fit the G+P+V formula, which stands for Gifts + Passions + Values. Consider your strengths and passions, as we've noted above, and your values—what's nonnegotiable about the way you work?
2. Make a Career Plan
As with most things, your career will benefit if you have goals and a plan for it. Maybe you think you want to be a writer, but the next step after that, is editing. (Do you really want to do that?) Or maybe you want to transition from being an editor to a restaurant owner. (How are you going to get there?) Map out where you want to go, with concrete milestones, as if it were a four-phase project.
1. See Your Career as a Set of Stepping Stones, Not a Linear Path
Of course, all these plans and ideas are never set in stone. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint and it can turn out to be a very winding road indeed, knitted together from all of your experiences into, hopefully, a career worth having.
Photos from VoodooDot (Shutterstock), OpenClips (Pixabay), Mopic (Shutterstock), sacks08, auremar (Shutterstock), Little Birth, bobsfever.
QUIZ: Are you enthusiastic, or are you a kiss-up?
Some people are naturally more energetic, positive and enthusiastic than others, and then there are the people who channel those emotions and actions into advantageous relationships, also known as kiss-ups.
Do you use a lot of exclamation marks when you send an email?! Is the status report of every project you’re working on “Great!”? Do you have a handshake that could give whiplash to someone’s wrist if you’re not careful?
Some people are naturally more energetic, positive and enthusiastic than others, and then there are the people who channel those emotions and actions into advantageous relationships, also known as kiss-ups. While it’s fine to be a hard worker and bring your enthusiasm to the role, you risk your reputation and relationships with co-workers if your behavior more closely resembles manipulation, and nobody wins in that scenario. Avoid the drama and take this quiz to find out if you’re simply enthusiastic or acting like a kiss-up.
1. Have you ever brought in coffee or snacks for your boss?
A. Yes, but they were also for the department to enjoy.
B. No, that’s not part of my job.
C. Yes, every Monday morning I bring her favorite coffee and muffin from the café across town.
2. How often do you volunteer for the projects nobody wants?
A. I’ve stepped up and taken projects that weren’t my favorite -- but it felt good to get the work done.
B. Never…other people usually end up taking them and I’m fine with that.
C. As often as I can! I know my boss will notice and reward my efforts.
3. Who do you usually talk to at the office holiday party?
A. My co-workers, the boss, my co-workers’ guests, the cleaning staff, the caterers…
B. The same people I talk to at work and maybe their guests.
C. My boss and her husband, her boss, human resources and any other important power players.
4. Do you ever stay late or work weekends if there’s a bigger workload?
A. Sure! If the work can’t get done on normal hours, I don’t mind taking the extra time to do it right.
B. I’ve had to, but I wouldn’t volunteer my time if I could get the deadline moved to accommodate the workload.
C. One time I didn’t while my boss was on vacation, but most of the time I’m the first to volunteer to stay late.
5. Your boss made a major financial mistake and the department is in serious trouble. What do you do?
A. If the mistake can be fixed, I’ll try to help. Otherwise, there’s not much I can do.
B. Nothing -- it wasn’t my fault, right?
C. I confidentially tell my boss that I can take the blame for this mistake if it means I’ll be rewarded for my loyalty later.
Mostly A’s: You’re enthusiastic. The energy you bring to your job is contagious, and your co-workers are likely glad to have you around. From helping with unsavory projects to being social at company parties, you’re a strong member of the team and when you’re not around, people miss your presence. There’s never a quiet brainstorm session when you’re in attendance, and waiting at the microwave in the break room isn’t too awkward, thanks to your steady stream of conversation. All in all, your enthusiasm is a valuable asset to your career. Just make sure your emails aren’t solely punctuated by exclamation marks.
Mostly B’s: You’re a killjoy. You don’t need to have a smile on your face every day to do a good job at work, but your morose attitude isn’t doing you any favors. It doesn’t seem like you’re networking within your company or outside of it, and your refusal to lend an extra helping hand is likely preventing you from establishing new relationships or earning the trust of your co-workers. Remember that extra work and achievements are the way to move forward in your career, and the attitude that you have during those accomplishments is what sets you apart -- for better or for worse.
Mostly C’s: You’re a kiss-up. It’s great that you’re so eager to help a team member or be there to support your boss, but it’s clear that you’re out for the approval of upper management instead of letting your achievements speak for themselves. In fact, what achievements do you have? If you’re more memorable for always standing in the boss’s shadow than for the successful project you headed last quarter, it’s time to rethink your priorities and establish a game plan that puts you and your hard work front and center.
(Picture Source: Internet)
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