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At some point or another, everyone has to face the question, “What career should I pursue?” For some, the answer comes naturally at a young age, while others figure it out in high school or college. Conversely, many adults realize their original choice isn’t actually the right job, bringing them back to the drawing board.
Regardless of where you are on this journey, we want to help you find the best possible outcome. This in-depth guide offers eight insightful tips to help you find the right career and why you should try JobTest.org’s career quiz to gain confidence in your decision.
8 Tips to Find Your Ideal Career Path
At JobTest.org, we work with educators, students, mid-career professionals, and career counselors on a regular basis. Below, you’ll find the top recommendations for finding your ideal job matches based on our collective experience and feedback.
Tip 1: Identify Your Passions
If you want a fulfilling career, it’s essential to recognize your passions and ensure the job aligns with them. Consider what activities, topics, pursuits, or projects you feel most passionate about, especially anything that brings you joy and gratification.
Likewise, you should consider the opposite and determine what you wish to avoid in a career. For example, if you prefer working outdoors or staying physically active, you likely won’t enjoy sitting at a computer or working inside a bank all day, and vice versa.
Even if it’s challenging to outline the full extent of your passions and aversions, try to at least determine what you absolutely must have or avoid in your ideal job. This crucial step will help you automatically rule out job opportunities that don’t mesh with your ambitions.
Tip 2: Assess Strengths and Weaknesses
Self-awareness is perhaps your greatest ally in determining what career to pursue, starting with an honest assessment of your capabilities and weaknesses. You can start by looking at the basics, such as your proficiency in broad skills like reading, computation, or communication, as well as more abstract areas, like your ability to stay calm under pressure.
Ideally, if you can identify and clearly explain who you are and what you’re good at, prospective employers will have an easier time assessing your value and if you fit the role. You’ll also know whether your skills match the careers you research, helping you decide if you can effectively meet the requirements.
From an optimist’s perspective, reviewing your weaknesses is a great way to map out how to improve, both in the short- and long-term. By identifying these key areas in advance, you’ll better understand which roles you can work toward immediately or the ones that require further development.
Tip 3: Set Achievable Goals
It’s much easier to make grandiose career plans when we’re young. Still, as many eventually realize, it takes a ton of planning and execution (not to mention money!) to become a highly skilled professional. Don’t get us wrong—you should still set your sights high and aim for the best version of yourself, but ensure you set goals knowing what they require.
One of the best ways to set and track goals is with the SMART approach (specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound). Essentially, when considering your career goal(s), determine whether it meets the following criteria:
- Specific: Is it clear, precise, and unambiguous? (ex: “I want to become a veterinarian” is much more straightforward than “I want a fulfilling career.”)
- Measurable: Can you establish quantifiable indicators to track progress and confirm success? (ex: “I must finish in the top 15% of my class to get my desired job opportunity.”)
- Achievable: Do you have the resources and time to meet your goal? (ex: “I will become a surgeon in six months” is unrealistic.)
- Relevant: Does your goal help you work toward a broader objective? (ex: “I will learn how to use a camera to help me become a director.”)
- Time-bound: Can you set a clear timeframe or deadline for completion? (ex: “I will finish my Bachelor’s degree in four years.”)
Not only can the SMART approach help you map out an actionable plan, it can hold you accountable for making those dreams a reality.
Tip 4: Explore Different Industries
After you understand your goals, strengths, weaknesses, and passions, research different industries and consider if you can see yourself working in them. While this may seem obvious to some at first, you may discover a new professional sector with careers you never knew existed.
For example, suppose you want to become a scientist and help patients with diabetes based on your experience living with the condition. You may find other sectors beyond the medical field, such as technology, engineering, or marketing, that also want someone with your background.
Tip 5: Network with Professionals
Building connections with professionals in your desired industry can provide invaluable insights, advice, and opportunities. You can find people to connect with through sites like LinkedIn or by attending industry events, whether held privately or at colleges in your area. Many of these events are open to the public, so be on the lookout for opportunities in your area.
However, if you’re not ready to network to find a job, we still recommend reaching out and speaking with professionals in the industries you’re considering. If anything, they can give you a better idea of what it’s like to work in the industry and whether you’ll be a good fit.
Tip 6: Gain Practical Experience
If you’re new to the job market, perhaps the easiest way to get immediate career feedback is by working in various industries and gaining experience. Look for internships, volunteer opportunities, or part-time positions that allow you to get a feel for the industry or role, helping you decide if you want to stay long-term.
Alternatively, if you know you want to work in a certain industry, gaining hands-on experience at a lower position can help you understand the practical aspects of the profession. For example, if you want to eventually become a doctor, working in a hospital as a volunteer may help you better understand the work environment, pace, and concealed elements of the job not always seen from the surface.
Tip 7: Evaluate Job Market Trends
If you’re a career-seeker who cares more about the quantitative aspects of the job, like salary data and expected growth, research the current job market trends and how they’re expected to evolve. You might find emerging sectors with high job stability or learn that your intended path has considerable risks, like over-saturation, low fulfillment, or scarce geographic options to find work.
You can use resources like labor market data, industry reports, and professional forums to gauge the demand for specific roles and their expected trajectory. You can also reference employer rating sites like Indeed or Glassdoor to get an idea of the average pay, satisfaction, and main complaints reported by employees.
Tip 8: Embrace Continuous Learning
When you find the right career, the next step is future-proofing yourself. By committing to continuous learning and never becoming complacent, you’ll stay competitive, relevant, and adaptable in your career.
Take the growing focus on generative AI as an example. While there are risks to perhaps every industry because of AI’s capabilities, employers want professionals who know how to use AI and maximize its utility.
This is one example of how to branch out and gain additional skills, but in any case, you want to embrace a mindset of perpetual learning. Not only will you improve your abilities, but you may discover a new skill that propels your career forward more than before.
How to Overcome Hurdles in Your Career Journey
Everyone will face some degree of adversity during their career hunt, and we want to help you prepare. Below, we’ve broken down how to overcome a few common challenges commonly endured by career seekers.
Confronting the Fear of Failing
When you explore careers or envision yourself in a new position, you may feel discouraged and don’t think you have what it takes. Confronting this fear means recognizing its presence and reframing it as a stepping stone rather than a hindrance.
Do your best to believe that every failure carries invaluable lessons—the difference is the mindset you have. Celebrate every small victory and remember that you have what it takes to learn and grow, regardless of what your fears dictate.
Handling Constructive Criticism
It’s common to view feedback or criticism as personal attacks, but it’s far better to perceive it as a valuable tool for improvement. When faced with criticism, take a moment to process the information without reacting impulsively. Try to clarify any points that seem vague or ask for specific examples to add context.
Viewing feedback as a guide helps you identify critical areas for improvement and create an action plan to address them. Without criticism, there’s no possible way to improve; otherwise, we’d already be perfect at what we do.
Advocating for Yourself
Although you should be willing to take a few pointers, don’t let anyone mask your abilities and accomplishments. Always advocate for yourself and believe you can live up to the task at hand, ensuring your work potential and skills are acknowledged. While you should aim to be humble and honest, it’s important to speak on your own behalf and make the case for the value you bring to the table.
How JobTest.org Can Help
We covered actionable tips anyone can try on their own to find out which career paths to pursue. However, it’s normal to have doubts or become lost in the process, even if you’re diligent and honest with yourself.
Our 20-minute career test for adults takes all the guesswork out of your job search by recommending individualized career matches, explaining your work personality, and helping you develop an action plan to take the next steps. Here are the main benefits of taking our career test:
After taking the career test, JobTest.org recommends your top five career matches and explains why they might make a good fit. You can get an idea of each role’s necessary skills and qualifications as well as what you can expect out of the career.
The comprehensive report also includes a full breakdown of the real-time data, including current salary expectations, retention rate, job satisfaction, and work-life balance, eliminating the need for additional research on your part.
JobTest.org considers your personality and preferences to devise its career matches, such as if you don’t want to return to school, prefer to remain in your current industry, or prioritize career satisfaction over all else. As a result, you can focus your sights on career choices that align with your expectations and abilities.
The personality assessment portion of the JobTest.org report covers your key career interests, ideal work environment, strengths, weaknesses, and personalized feedback for further development. You’ll gain another perspective on how you work best and what you should prioritize in your career search, such as if you work best independently or in collaboration with others.
This section is also helpful in gaining succinct and descriptive ways to explain your strengths and personality traits to others, like colleagues, bosses, or prospective employers. It breaks down each skill category and how you perform, which is a plus for resume writing or upcoming performance evaluations.
Personal Development and Planning
In addition to all the insights from your career matches and personality analysis, JobTest.org provides resources like a resume builder and financial aid opportunities. Your personalized report also recommends specific actions, like increasing your proficiency in a certain skill, to help you move closer to your ultimate career goal. Whether you’re looking for a place to start or want confirmation in your career decision, JobTest.org can help you chart a plan and ensure you know how to stay on track.
Deciding which career to pursue has its challenges, but we hope our guide taught you something new and moves you closer to your ideal outcome. If you’re looking for further support, we recommend you take our career test to get concrete answers. It takes twenty minutes or less and offers key insights backed by modern data and job statistics, helping you get an informed picture of your best options. Try today and rest assured that we’ve got your back with a money-back guarantee if you’re less than satisfied.