Which Career?


There are hundreds of career options out there. How do you make a career choice when you don't really know what you want to do? Does it seem like an insurmountable task? It's not. Yes, you will have to put some time and energy into making your decision, but your effort will be well worth it in the end. Follow these steps to making a good career choice.

Assess Yourself
Before you can make a career choice you have to learn about yourself. Your values, interests and skills, in combination with certain personality traits, will make some careers especially suitable for you and some particularly inappropriate. You can use self assessment tools, often called career tests, to gather this information and, subsequently, to generate a list of occupations that are deemed appropriate. Some people choose to have career counselors or other career development professionals administer these tests but many opt to use free career tests that are available on the Web.

Make a List of Occupations to Explore
Look over the lists of occupations generated through your use of the self assessment tools. They are probably rather lengthy. You want to come up with a much shorter list, consisting of between five and ten occupations. Circle occupations that appear on multiple lists. Circle occupations you may have considered previously and that you find appealing. Write these occupations down on a separate list titled "Occupations to Explore."

Explore the Occupations on Your List
For each occupation on your list, you will want to look at the job description, educational and other requirements, job outlook, advancement opportunities and earnings.

Conduct Informational Interviews
At this point you should only have a few occupations left on your list. You now need to gather more in-depth information. Your best source of this information are people who have firsthand knowledge of the occupations in which you are interested. Identify who they are and conduct informational interviews with them. You can also read Real Career Stories sent in by readers.

  • How to Conduct an Informational Interview

Continue Narrowing Down your List
Pare down your list of possible occupations based on what you learned from your research. For example, you may not be willing to put the time and energy into preparing for an occupation for which an advanced degree is required, or you may consider the earnings for a particular occupation inadequate.

  • Quiz: Should I Choose This Occupation

  • Career Quizzes: Which Career is Right for You

Set Your Goals
By now you should have decided on one occupation you want to pursue. It's time to put a plan into place so you can eventually find a job in that field, but first you will need to set some goals.

Write a Career Action Plan
Now that you have set your goals, you will need to decide how to reach them. A career action plan will help guide you as you pursue your long and short term goals.

Train for Your New Career

It is likely you will have to train for your new career. That could take the form of earning a degree, doing an internship or taking courses to learn some new skills.