Finding the career that is right for you can be an overwhelming process. To help, we've created the following resources outlining everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
To the left you will find a list of the six factors to consider when determining your career. We go over these factors in more detail below. You can use this sidebar at any time to navigate to a specific section.
In addition to this comprehensive guide, we also created interactive data visualizations that allow you to explore specific career options in more depth. Deciding on a career should be an exciting experience, not an overwhelming one. With these resources in hand, you should be on your way to successfully determining the answer to the age-old question, "What career is right for me?"
Career exploration should start with an inventory of your skills and interests. This is the first step because choosing a job in which you are likely to be happy leads to greater productivity. This self-discovery can also reveal a wider range of potential jobs than if you were to begin the hunt without knowing yourself first.
Insider Tip: To begin, write down the answers to all of the questions below. This will force you to describe your answers more eloquently and remember them later.
After you answer each of these, go back and answer why. This will help you gain a greater understanding of what motivates your interests, and ultimately, what you’re passionate about—which is essential for job satisfaction.
The above exploration should give you a good sense of your interests. But before you make any solid career moves, it’s important to determine your current skill-set as well. To do this, put together a resume, listing not just all of your previous experiences, but also the specific tasks performed and skills used throughout each role.
Insider Tip: As you list these skills and tasks, ask yourself for each, “Can I replace my name on the resume with someone else’s and have it likely apply to them as well?” If the answer is yes, chances are it isn’t specific enough. Take a look at these examples of good versus bad resumes.
As you list out the skills, identify them as one of the following:
To put the idea of hard versus soft skills into context, let’s say you identify your hard skill as photography. In order to be successful at this, you likely need a good rapport with your subjects (communication skills), a great grasp of how to schedule a busy lineup of shoots (time management skills), and a system for choosing, labeling, and processing shots (organizational skills).These supporting soft skills will make you a valuable asset in the workplace and may manifest into a core job function—or hard skill—further along in your career. You may, for instance, start as a photographer, but transition into a photo editor by using those soft communication and organizational skills to lead a department and turning them into a hard skill—as an editor.
Insider Tip: Soft skills are often difficult to demonstrate through a resume—how do you show an employer that you’re a strong leader? When it comes to selling your soft skills, you need to specifically demonstrate a time when you used those skills.
For example, instead of saying “possess strong leadership skills,” bring up a time when you used those skills: “managed three new photography assistants, all of who exceeded department goals for eight consecutive months.”
When you finish exploring your interests and identifying your skillset, bucket them all into “themes.” One way to do this is to use The Holland Code as a baseline for organization. You can then compare your themed buckets with jobs that are in demand now by using this infographic. To learn even more about what careers may be right for you based on your skills and interests, take our career aptitude test—you can select your level of interest in specific skills and receive a customized list of career options so you can start exploring based on your selection!
Now that you’ve compiled a list of several career options, the next step is to determine just what kind of growth potential there is for each and how this coincides with your personal goals. Growth potential and job stability often go hand-in-hand, as professional growth is a factor in job stability.
To be clear, job stability is most often defined as a combination of comprehensive benefits (healthcare, retirement, etc.), a livable salary (you can pay your bills, save for retirement, etc.), and industry growth.
It's important to identify growth potential and job stability for your prospective career, because job stability is often ranked as the number one contributing factor to overall job satisfaction. In determining a career’s potential for growth and stability, there are both personal and wider, market-driven factors to consider. On a personal level, write down your answers to the following questions:
Once you’ve answered these questions, prioritize your answers. For example, is achieving a specific salary more or less important to you than having room for discovery along your career path? This will help you determine how much growth and stability you’re looking for within any given industry.
Keep in mind, you also need to look beyond personal growth potential within any given job title and into the health, stability, and potential for growth of the field itself.
In doing this research, our interactive career growth chart is a great place to start. First, choose your industry from the dropdown menu. Then, click on any given dot to find out more information about that specific job. The graph will show how many jobs exist now and how much that career is projected to grow.
For even more information, take a look at these two studies regarding industry growth and decline for 2010 to 2020 to see where the careers you are considering fall on the list of industries that will be in-demand for the next decade.
Once you finish evaluating the type of growth and stability you're looking for and identifying the projected growth of your chosen industry, you can see if there are any red flags. For example, are you looking for long-term stability in a declining field? If your goals don't align with the projected health of your industry, you may need to reevaluate either your industry or your goals.
Keep in mind that you don't always need to look for long-term stability. If you mentioned above that you'd like room for discovery along your career path and the careers you are currently considering include your passions, you may want to consider going into that field even if the BLS states it is not as stable as other industries. Stability is a spectrum and every person is different when it comes to risk tolerance. This will be a personal choice you will need to weigh carefully alongside the other factors throughout this guide.
In today’s economy, many companies seek candidates who are willing to move across the country or world, while there are also many jobs that allow workers to operate remotely from just about anywhere. This means location may become a large factor in your career path and job decisions.
Choosing where to work and live is not a decision to be taken lightly, as location plays a significant role in your overall happiness. Location also plays a role in how healthy you are, how long you will live, and how much money you might make.
There are several factors that might determine where you want to live and work. Evaluate each on a personal and professional level.
If locational factors are important to you, account for this early on in your career hunt. To identify hubs for your career, choose your desired industry and job title from this map of Occupational Employment Statistics from the BLS for a good look at job density by region for the careers you are considering.
Insider Tip: Prioritize location factors that are most important to you; for example, is being close to family more important than climate? Once you have ranked location factors and identified hubs for your career, determine if there is any overlap (this is a good time to break out a map). Are there any hubs near places you would like to live?
Many of the highest paid or otherwise most desirable jobs are, not surprisingly, highly competitive. The level of competition in a particular field can be a make-or-break factor when choosing a career. For example, highly competitive and oversaturated job markets can mean extended periods of unemployment, sometimes resulting in the need to relocate to secure a job. If you are not in a financial position to support yourself during an extended job search, or if you are unwilling or unable to relocate for a potential career opportunity, it may be necessary to choose a field with fewer applicants and less competition in general.If you’re considering a competitive industry, research the hiring trends and available job opportunities in and around the area you wish to live before making a final decision. Choosing the career that is best for you is a balance of both logistics and personal interests; it's great to be passionate about your decision, but it will do you little good if you are unable to get hired amidst a sea of equally qualified applicants.
Once you determine just how willing you are to compete in the workforce, you can weigh this factor against all the others in this guide to further narrow down your list of potential career paths.
Of course, one of the largest factors that can persuade career discussions is salary. How much you earn can have a big hand in determining how satisfied you are in your career. But while money plays an important factor in everyone’s life, we each relate to it differently.
To determine what your minimum salary range should be, we recommend starting with a basic salary calculator, which will shoot out a minimum salary number to earn in order to maintain your current lifestyle. This will give you a clearer sense of your current cost of living and will also give you a starting point for salary considerations if you are looking to dramatically change your standard of living.
Once you identify how important salary is to you and what exactly your definition of "minimum salary" is, you will be able to weigh this factor against all the others in this guide to determine if the career paths you are considering will provide you with the standard of living you desire either now or in the future. In our career aptitude test, you can choose to refine your skills match results based on salary, so you can make sure the jobs you are considering are in the salary range that is right for your preferred lifestyle.
By now you should have a list of a few career options you are interested in pursuing. The last piece of the what-career-is-right-for-me puzzle is determining the education requirements necessary for the industries on your short list. Since education requires both time and money—both of which may be potential deal breakers for you if the numbers get too high—knowing the typical academic path for the careers you are considering can help you narrow down the list further.
Today, nearly 60% of jobs require a college degree. Also, according to projections by the BLS, occupations that require Master’s degrees are expected to grow at a rate of 5-6% higher than occupations that require a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree, and 10% higher than occupations that require only a high school diploma.
In some industries, a Bachelor’s degree will be sufficient to rise to the top of the industry. In others (e.g. medical) higher degrees are a steadfast requirement, while in other fields (e.g. business), a higher degree might further your career, but won’t necessarily impede you if you don't.
While you can always change your mind along the way, it's important to decide ahead of time the level of educational investment you are willing to make to pursue your dream career. To start:
Career potential aside, pursuing a higher education is often a personal goal for many individuals. Try writing out a list of goals for both your personal life and your professional life for the next five, 10, and 20 years. How many of your personal goals require having a degree? How many of your professional goals require having a degree? How many overlap?
If you are still interested in learning more, you can take the career aptitude test and refine the results to include education requirements, so you can view careers that match your skillset and academic goals. It may also be helpful for you to read the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook to gather the exact education requirements for any careers you may be interested in exploring.
Whether your chosen career requires a college degree, a specialized graduate degree, or a doctorate, education is an investment that can greatly benefit the outcome of your career.
Now that you've answered some specific questions and considered your motivations behind pursing each career path, take another look at our career data and career aptitude test to explore the specific jobs that are available in each of your chosen careers. Having a better understanding of what each job role entails can play a pivotal role in reaching a final decision on whether or not that career path is right for you.
How much weight you place on each of the factors discussed in this guide is a personal choice, but you should now have enough information to make an informed decision and start taking the necessary steps toward realizing your dream career.
If you'd prefer a one-on-one consultation, please contact us today for career guidance.
The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
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