How to Choose the Right Career for You

Street sign that says "Careers"
According to US News and World Report, the best jobs in 2013 and beyond “blend job opportunity, cushy pay, manageable work-life balance, and security.” As the Internet Age and the increasingly globalized economy enable the emergence of new career fields, job possibilities are greater than ever before, and many people are opting to explore new professional avenues.

According to the Wall Street Journal, specific data on career changes is scarce. However, it is clear that Americans are increasingly open to changing career paths, even well into their professional lives. The WSJ further reports that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census have been tracking the total number of jobs people hold in their lifetimes in order to understand just how and how often people change careers. While the figures are not yet clear, what is sure is that the knowledge-based economy is creating entirely new fields – and that means opening up many new options for adults who wish to improve their career prospects.

When deciding on a career path or switching professional fields, it is important not just to know what you don’t want – but what you truly DO want. Over 60% of workers are not truly engaged in what they do, according to the Towers Perrin/Gallup polling agency. If you identify with this sentiment, you are not alone. A full 60% of employees would choose a different career if they could start again. With that in mind, what makes a job great for you? And what job benefits or attributes are important to you? Choosing the right career is an interesting and rewarding path of self-discovery – and there are concrete steps you can take to help you get there.

List and Assess Your Skill Set

First things first: take stock of your assets. Whether you are a young person unsure what career path you want to pursue, or a seasoned professional who seeks to change fields, consider what you bring to the table. Everyone has skills and talents, but often it is easy to underestimate what those unique skills are worth on the job market. Make a list of your skills and attributes. Are you good with people? Do you speak a second language? Are you a quick thinker and a problem-solver? Do you prefer working together with others or alone? Do you have professional or personal training already that you are not utilizing? Think of as many skills and assets as you can and consider how these qualities could translate into a job.

Ask for Guidance from your Personal and Professional Circles

Often we tend to forget our own skills because we think that everyone else possesses them too. However, each of us has areas at which we excel, and skills of which we are not even aware. Ask trusted family and friends what they believe you are good at doing. In addition, consider requesting trusted professional acquaintances what qualities stand out in your character and your work. A professional career adviser can also help you assess your skills, personality and potential to enable you to identify new professional avenues to explore.

Consider Your Priorities

Do you consider long-term job security to be more, less, or equally important than flexible hours or a short commute? Does a high salary trump job satisfaction? Consider what is of top priority to you in a job, and what you are willing to compromise on. If you’re a visual person, you could even try making a collage of your ideal visions for your future career. Also consider the likelihood of finding employment in your chosen field, and how it would make you feel to achieve career success in that area. Often we are aware deep down of what our dream careers are, but we do not allow it to become reality because we think it would be too difficult to achieve, or because we seek approval from our families or our society. Be true to yourself and listen to what you really want and need.

Consider What You are Willing to Invest

It is useful to weigh the cost versus benefits of possible career changes. Do you prefer to aim for a goal that may be risky and difficult to achieve, or to select a ‘safer’ option that offers more security? It may not be realistic at this juncture to become a professional athlete or an astronaut, but there are a wealth of other jobs in the sports industry or scientific research that could be ideal.

Think about how much training or education you realistically need to complete before you can work your selected career field. Get in touch with professional associations or training bodies in your area and find out exactly what it takes. In addition, ask how much practical experience is necessary before you can competently practice the job you choose and make a living from it.

Be Patient: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Remember that a career change is not a decision to rush into just because of temporary dissatisfaction at work or without having done proper research. Information is your best ally – knowing what you need to do and how to do it is a huge part of the process towards succeeding in your new career. Once you have an idea of what line of work you want to be in, it’s important to get the facts you need. Look into how active the job market is in that industry, what typical starting salaries are and what your expected earnings are over the next several years, as well as how the recruitment process generally works. Activate your professional and personal networks – perhaps you already know someone in that industry who can give you advice or recommend opportunities for you.

Florida National University: Personalized Attention to Help You Reach Your Goal

At Florida National University, we are committed to assisting students to achieve their full potential. We work with each and every student to assess their career goals and academic needs. Lifetime Job Placement is just one of the many personalized services we offer our students. Contact us today and let us help you achieve your professional dreams!