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How to Choose a Career

choose a career

What career you choose determines what major you study while in college. It influences what life you can afford and what you spend so much of your time doing each week of your life until retirement.

Choosing a career is a big decision to make and high school seniors each year are stressing out about how to go about deciding their future. But deciding a career path doesn’t need to be too stressful. Finding your passion is largely about self-awareness and researching all your options. By following the suggestions below you can decide your future career with ease.

Explore this Article

  1. Understand Yourself
  2. Research Options
  3. Weigh Options
  4. Make a Plan

Understand Yourself

self introspection

Becoming more self-aware can be especially difficult for younger, high school students who are still figuring out so much about who they are. But this journey into self-exploration can be fun and eye opening too! You want to discover and record your skills, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

Start exploring the things you love right now. This is the first part of the journey that leads you to a career you’ll love. You also want to know your values, or what you will and won’t do in a job.

This is where learning more about your personality type will come in handy. For instance, if you are more introverted, then working with customers may be on your list of things you don’t want in a job. If you love being up on your feet then having a more hands-on job might be on your list of things you do want in a job.

Taking the Myers Briggs Personality Test might help you better understand key aspects of your personality.

If you have trouble finding these personal answers within yourself, there are some things you can do to find the answers.

Ask Yourself Questions

Giving yourself an introspective interview can really help learn more about yourself. Questions are good because they help you analyze yourself and what you do and don’t like. It also helps you look at yourself more realistically. You may like the idea of being a lawyer, but you have to ask yourself if you are willing to do all that is necessary to become a lawyer, and if you’ll really be happy with the required daily tasks of a lawyer.

Questions help you see patterns and become more self-aware, which is paramount to finding a career path for you. They also help you to know what you would like in a job (so you can accumulate a list of options) and what you wouldn’t like in a job (so you can cancel certain options out).

To conduct your introspective interview you can ask yourself the following questions, or you can have someone else ask them while you respond and talk about your answers together.

  • If I could choose one friend to trade jobs with, I’d choose __, because __.
  • I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do __. It’s interesting to me because __.
  • If I had the right education or skill set, I’d definitely try __, because __.
  • If I had to go back to school tomorrow, I’d major in __, because __.
  • My co-workers and friends always say I’m great at __, because __.
  • The thing I love most about my current job is __, because __.
  • If my boss would let me, I’d do more of __, because __.
  • If I had a free Saturday that had to be spent “working” on something, I’d choose __, because __.
  • When I retire, I want to be known for __, because __.
Take an Aptitude Test

There are lots of online career tests you can take. A career quiz will give you ideas about what fields and jobs that might be right for you.

You’ll be asked questions to determine your skills and interests. Then the test will pair your results with careers that best fit your answers. You can then weigh these different options and research them to help you pick one. Below are two free tests you can take right now:

The MAPP Career Assessment

Career Aptitude Test

Research Options

research careers

After you have some options in mind you can learn about your choices in order to make an informed final decision. Don’t only research specific jobs though. This can be really helpful, but think about broader fields of work as well.

There are fields of work and then there are jobs in those fields. Sometimes deciding a field of work first will help you find the specific job you’re looking for.

Types of Careers
  • Arts and Communication
  • Business
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Humanities
  • Law and Government
  • Medical
  • Science
  • Social Services

Once you’ve decided on a career field, you can narrow your search down to a specific job in that field. Deciding which job to pick is easier if you read the requirements or the responsibilities for each job, and see if they interest you. You can search actual job openings to find the most common real-world requirements involved. Indeed and ZipRecruiter are two popular job search websites where you can see real postings for the careers you’re interested in.

You can research other important aspects of the career by visiting PayScale.com. This website has surveys about almost every profession imaginable, and can tell you things like average salary, what people on the high end of the job get paid vs the lower end. You can even search by your location and experience to assess how much you can expect to get paid.

They also list the skills that are most important to the field, the tasks and requirements involved, how people review the job, gender percentages in the field, and the health benefits you generally get. It’ll even show you related jobs and jobs in your area and it’s all shown to you in pretty, simple graphics.

Do Internships and Job Shadowing

Internships and job shadowing can be a great way to get some hands-on experience with the careers you’re interested in. Often your school advisers can help you find internships and job shadowing opportunities near you.

Conduct an Informational Interview

If you don’t have the time for internships and job shadowing, you can conduct an informational interview. It’s like a reversed job interview. You visit with someone who has the job you’re interested in, and you ask them a series of questions to get a feel for their job, what they did to get where they are, and any other insights or advice they might have for you. Here are some example questions you could ask from the Berkeley University of California:

  • What are your main responsibilities as a…?
  • What is a typical day (or week) like for you?
  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What do you like least about your work?
  • What kinds of problems do you deal with?
  • What kinds of decisions do you make?
  • How does your position fit within the organization/career field/industry?
  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
  • What current issues and trends in the field should I know about/be aware of?
  • What are some common career paths in this field?
  • What kinds of accomplishments tend to be valued and rewarded in this field?
  • What related fields do you think I should consider looking into?
  • How did you become interested in this field?
  • How did you begin your career?
  • How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
  • What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
  • How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major?
  • What kind of education, training, or background does your job require?
  • What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?
  • What is the profile of the person most recently hired at my level?
  • What are the most effective strategies for seeking a position in this field?
  • Can you recommend trade journals, magazines or professional associations which would be helpful for my professional development?
  • If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?
  • I’ve read that the entry-level salary range for this field is usually in the range of ______? Does this fit with what you’ve seen? (Don’t ask about the person’s actual salary.)
  • What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?
  • Can you suggest anyone else I could contact for additional information?

Weigh Options

weigh options

Now that you have a couple choices in mind, and have done your due diligence learning all about each one, you have to make a final decision. When making this final decision about your future, it’s important that you keep certain things in mind.

Think about the future, retirement, the family life you want. Think about what you would like your life to be known for and any other long-term goals you may have for your life. Will this career choice help you reach those goals?

Make sure you take priority over what you want to do over any societal expectations pressed upon you. After all, you are the one who’s going to live with this career.

Make a Plan

make plan

If you’re graduating high school and starting college soon, then you’ll want to not only pick a college but a major, and possibly minor, that will be useful for the field you want to go into. You can also start taking advantage of high school and college advisers and mentors if your school has a program like that. These counselors can act as career coaches to help you map out your career path.

In your research and studies you should figure out the steps, milestones, and requirements that people in your field must go through. Then you can plan these steps out in your own life. Record these plans in a place or a calendar that you can easily revisit and adjust as needed. Plan is a great website that can connect to your gmail or outlook account to help you plan your future effectively in one easy to use space. If you need some help planning financially, a Check City Personal Loan may be able to help you as well.

choose a career

Whether you are a college freshman looking to decide on a career path for the first time, or a seasoned career veteran looking for your dream job, the process is going to look about the same. By following this guidance you can learn more about yourself and discover what career path is the best for you, and find happiness and success in your professional life.

READ MORE

Check out “How to Change Careers in 3 Simple Steps” to learn some other steps to changing careers.

Read “11 Important Qualities to Have When Changing Careers” to see what skills almost all professions are looking for today.


Surviving Unemployment

The Recession may be on its way out, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t finding themselves unemployed every day in America. With so many people in the country, it’s hard not for one or two people to be laid off every day. It’s an unfortunate truth, but it’s how the business world works.

For those that recently found themselves unemployed, the following are a few good tips to help you survive unemployment.

Check Your Budget

First, reevaluate your current budget. Take an assessment of all of your assets. This means checking into your savings accounts, security bonds, stocks, gold, etc. What assets do you have available to you right now?
Once you’ve counted up the assets currently available, figure out how long those assets could last you without the help of a steady income. With the amount you have available, how long could you survive? One month? Three? Maybe a whole year? This is your threshold of survival.
After you’ve figured out how long you could last, take a look at your expenses. What are you currently spending money on that isn’t absolutely necessary? Are you paying for cable? You eat out every day? Identify the expenses that are more for comfort and convenience rather than of necessity and commit to cut them. Watch normal TV and movies instead. Take lunch with you and cook all of your meals. Although these may not seem like “large” financial commitments, they are sufficient to make a difference over several months. You may even see your threshold of survival increase by a few months, buying you more time to job search if nothing has come up.
Make a new financial plan to get you through the coming months of difficulty.

Find Work

Second, find work. Even if you can no more than secure a job at McDonald’s flipping burgers, find some form of income to help you get through this difficult time. If it’s not your dream job, then consider just working part-time, that way you can continue to apply for jobs in the morning and work in the afternoons (or vice-versa). Just because it’s not a career job doesn’t mean it can’t help you supplement income until you can get your career job. Many of those part-time positions can be quit at a moment’s notice. You may burn a bridge with the company, but you’ll be back in a better career job again.

Supplement Your Income

Third, another option to supplement income is to sell a hobby or skill. There’s a way to make money with almost anything you like to do on the side. The key is to find out how to do it. Avid bloggers can open up their blog to advertisements or by placing links to affiliate programs. Another great way to make some fast money is by joining referral programs where you can make money by simply referring your friends and families to services they already need. Garage junkies can often help with minor vehicle repairs. Math teachers can tutor. Marathoners can become personal trainers. There’s something you’re doing that could be a source of income for the time being. The trick is finding a creative way to sell it and spreading the news.

Stay Disciplined

Fourth, discipline your free time. It’s easy to get into a comfortable habit of getting up late and making a half-hearted effort to look for a job. Too many people have fallen into that kind of unemployment. Set a schedule for yourself. For example, from 8-12 every day, be dressed and applying to jobs. Take lunch between 12 and 1. From 1-5 make phone calls and personal visits to employers. Keep to a schedule. You’ll (1) find work faster, (2) keep up your work ethic, and (3) stave off depression that comes with unemployment.

Enjoy the Process

Fifth and finally, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Stay sane during this time. Find free ways to feel fulfilled and enjoy life. You could volunteer at a hospital, pursue a bucket-list item (like run a marathon), or get a library card. There are a ton of free activities to occupy your time. Find those opportunities and take advantage of them. You’ll save money and keep your mind clear. Not to mention that if you’re living a happier life, you’ll make a better impression on potential employers when applying for jobs.
Unemployment can affect anyone at any time. It’s not something that anyone but professors with tenure is truly safe from. Survival is possible. The key is just knowing what to do should the time every come for you. Be prepared to reevaluate what you spend your money on. Reevaluate and set a new budget. Pick up a side job so that you have at least a small portion of income coming in. You never know how many days this can buy you. In addition, sell a talent, stick to a schedule, and find ways to have fun. You’ll make it through.

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