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How to Choose a Career

choose a career

A career dictates a lot about your life. 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.

  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.

11 Important Qualities to Have When Changing Careers

career-qualities
 

 
In order to keep up with the changing job market and stand out from all the other eager job candidates, it helps to have the qualities of a successful professional. Whether you are changing careers or looking to start one, these skills are what every employer in every field looks for when interviewing candidates. In order to succeed in today’s changing job market, workers have to foster new skills and hone in basic ones. Whether you are 25 or 40, starting your career or changing it, here are some great career changing qualities that will make you stand out from other job candidates.
 

 

1: Work Well in Groups

Be a team player! In almost every work environment you will have to work with others to some degree. Employers want to create a productive and peaceful work environment where coworkers not only get along, but work well together. So when you demonstrate your ability to work with a team, you increase your attractiveness as an employee. Working well with others also creates a sense of unity and helps productivity in the workplace.

Understanding Generational Differences

When entering the workforce you will quickly see that there are often generational differences between coworkers. Anyone from Generation Z to Baby Boomers may be present in your next place of work and—as Sarah Sladek has found in her studies—there are distinct cultural differences between each generation. In order to avoid generational misunderstandings, it is important to get along and understand your coworkers as well as help them understand you. After all, a peaceful work environment is a productive work environment.

It’s easy to have a lot of prejudice toward people who see so differently from you. One of those differences we all can experience is generational. There are currently 4 defined generations listed below from oldest to youngest:
Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
Baby Boomers have been raised to follow tradition. They care about families and economic security.
Generation X (born between 1965 and 1981)
Generation X was raised during the women and civil rights era. Their time was before childcare programs which gave them the nickname “latch-key children,” meaning they were raised to be self-sufficient and independent thinkers. They care about a work-life balance and seeing a positive impact from their work.
Generation Y or Millennials (born between 1982 and 1995)
According to media expert Sarah Sladek, Generation Y is a tech savvy, globally minded generation that isn’t joining, buying, networking, learning or engaging like other generations. This generation experienced many firsts, firsts to use technology. They want frequent feedback, want variety in their work. They avoid tradition for the sake of tradition. They’re eager to learn and lead. And they like to reexamine to keep things relevant and future focused.
Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2009)
Generation Z is the newest and youngest named generation right now. They are also referred to as the connected generation because they haven’t known life pre-internet. They are a creative, entrepreneurial group that care about social causes.
 
For some people differences can be a huge roadblock in a working relationship. This often happens because people take differences as a personal offence. But we all see with different eyes and when accepted, this can be a team’s greatest advantage. You alone can’t experience and see everything, but together, with many perspectives, your team can SEE and therefore DO much more than any individual.

Generational differences are also not the only difference you’ll come across in the workplace. Everyone was raised differently, comes from different places, backgrounds, and beliefs. Knowing how to interact and work with all kinds of different people will make you a useful asset to any working team, and an all-around better human being.

So let people be different. Let everyone bring their own unique selves to the table and your arsenal for combatting projects and problems will be that much more impressive and diverse.

2: Giving and Receiving Criticism

In the workplace you’ll need to learn how to embrace and use criticism to your advantage. You also might need to know how to effectively give criticism as well. You should embrace every bit of criticism as an opportunity for insights on how to improve. Even the worst given criticism can have something useful that you can take advantage of. It may be hard to hear small, nitpicky ways you can improve. But when you allow yourself to use criticism, you can develop new skills that will help you climb the professional ladder and improve yourself as a person.
criticism

How to Give Feedback

Sometimes your job will require you to give feedback to others. The whole point of giving feedback is that you want to see something improve. Whether it’s actions or a project, you are simply invested in making something the best it can be. Your feedback needs to be helpful, effective, and clear. Here are 4 quick steps to make sure you don’t leave someone more confused by your feedback, rather than giving them the insight and direction you intended.
First, ask what IS working.
This isn’t just to make people feel good about what they are doing, or soften the blow of what you don’t like, though it can do these things too and that’s an added bonus. But if people don’t know what is working then they might end up changing things they shouldn’t. Make sure they also know what is working.
Second, ask what’s NOT working.
This part of giving feedback is rather obvious. But remember to not let yourself make the interaction overly emotional or personal while giving feedback about what isn’t working.
Be clear and specific.
Vague criticism is not helpful criticism. A subordinate or team member can’t improve if you are too ambiguous in an attempt to not hurt feelings. For example, if a team member is working on a design, don’t just say, “It could be better.” Instead figure out what specifically about it isn’t working. Is it the color? Is it the image they chose? Is it the font style? Be as specific as you can about what is and isn’t working.
Finally, help them implement your feedback.
Once you’ve figured out what exactly isn’t working you can become even more specific by suggesting solutions to their problem. So don’t stop at “the color isn’t working,” but help think of what could work. Maybe the color needs to be lighter, or darker, or a different color all together. In any case, don’t leave them to brainstorm solutions all alone. Giving suggestions can also help further solidify their understanding of what insights your criticism is trying to give.

How to Receive Feedback

In almost any workplace you are going to receive feedback about your work and performance. Here are a few steps to follow anytime you are receiving criticism:
Shut up and just LISTEN.
A lot of times, when receiving criticism about something we’ve worked on, our initial gut reaction is to talk, to explain ourselves, to help them see what we were seeing, or to defend our work and therefore ourselves. But when you are talking you are missing out on the feedback the other person could be giving if you let them have the floor.

It may help to look at your work not as YOUR work, but as THE work. Separate your work from yourself and allow it to be its own entity that you and the critic are both just working on together.
Wait until the end to ask questions.
Waiting until you know they are finished to ask questions is the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything. Asking questions will also help you understand their feedback more. Feedback is only helpful if you have a clear understanding of it, so don’t be afraid to ask questions at the appropriate time.
Turn negatives to positives!
Sometimes criticism isn’t so constructive. Other times even constructive criticism can just come with a lot of negatives. If the feedback is poorly given, focus on what good you can take from it to be better.
Thank the critic.
Make a habit of thanking your critics for their feedback. Even if it was poorly given, thanking them can help them chill out and realize they don’t need to be hostile to get through to you.
Implement the feedback.
Make a plan going forward of how you will implement the feedback. It was meant for your benefit so take full advantage! This is where you take the wheel back again and start driving forward.

3: Flexibility

Be flexible. The workplace today is changing rapidly. Rather than being angry and resistant of changes, develop flexibility. Flexibility is a winning strategy in today’s job market. It is also important to prioritize and be flexible with your time in order to take care of your own well-being, while still being productive.

If you have trouble with change, here are some tips on how to deal with change better:
flexibility

Stay Grounded

Find something in your life that isn’t changing to focus and lean on while you acclimate to the new thing.

Understand the Reasons

Seek to understand the goals for the change so you can more easily get on board. More than likely, if your workplace is changing something it’s because they have reason to believe it will make things better. Understanding the estimated benefits of this change will help you see its value and give you a reason to want the change too.

Keep Up to Date

Don’t get comfortable being stagnant. Make a habit in your everyday life to learn and try new things. This will give you an arsenal to deal with change as you actively pursue it in your own life. If you are staying up to date on learning new things, then some changes may not be that big of a shift for you. In a way, you’ll be prepared for changes in advance.

Strong Support Network

In your personal life it’s important to have a support network. This can consist of people, hobbies, and practices that you can lean on in times of change and need. It’s also important to have support from fellow coworkers and team members when changes cause you and fellow workers to lose footing. Be there for others and they’ll be there for you.

4: Problem Solving Skills

Be a problem solver. Employers look for workers who can work across lines and be an active participant in the running of the business. When you are willing to learn expertise and solve problems that arise, you increase your level of knowledge and your value to the company.
problem-solving

Understand the Problem

You can do this by defining the problem, listing all the obstacles and related variables, and defining the root cause of the problem. Understand the whole picture so you aren’t missing any important details that may be the key to the solution.

Reverse Engineer

Sometimes deconstructing the problem will help you find the root cause, which may be the key to the solution. Also, thinking about things backwards can give the new perspective necessary to see the solution.

Communicate

There will probably be people and other departments that you’ll need to communicate with in order to understand the problem completely. The knowledge of these other people may be the missing link you need to formulate the entire solution.

5: Confidence

Be confident. When you project a sense of confidence, you center yourself. Your sense of confidence will have a profound effect on your coworkers. When you appear confident, your coworkers and managers will be willing to follow your lead.
confidence

Change Your Perspective

People aren’t just born with or without confidence, it’s something that you build for yourself. You can grow or diminish your confidence through the perspective you choose to have.

Grow Thick Skin

Part of self-confidence is having thick skin. You want to build up a layer to keep yourself from taking everything personally and allowing every little thing to chip away at your self-esteem.

Try treating yourself like you would a friend, or loved one. Seeing yourself from this detached perspective can help some people be kinder and take better care of themselves. Find opportunities to congratulate, compliment, and reward yourself.

Look Inward

Deconstruct Your Self-Image.

Be more self-aware. Take note of your triggers to know what builds and what diminishes your self-confidence. Be aware of what you obsess over and ruminate about. What failures do you focus on? List the things that disappoint you about yourself. For example, if you say “yes” even when you want to say “no.”

Do the 100 days of rejection challenge. Jia Jiang started this challenge. You purposefully make crazy requests of people in order to be rejected once a day for 100 days. His purpose was to desensitize himself to rejection.

Reconstruct Your Self-Image

Visualize yourself as you want to be. How you view yourself in your own mind’s eye is where your self-confidence stems from. Create an image of yourself that you are proud of.

Practice seeing yourself as equal to those around you.

Use positive affirmations. Affirmations are when you say things out loud to make them more real, to train your brain to think a different way about yourself.

Practice leaving your comfort zone.

Practice more self-care.

Make realistic goals you know you can accomplish. You might want to go to the gym every day, but you know you can get yourself to the gym at least twice a week.

Look Outward

Create boundaries. Part of self-care is creating your own boundaries and respecting yourself more by adhering to the boundaries you need.

Forget yourself. Pay more attention to those around you instead of worrying about how they see you. Help others, volunteer, and focus more on the things outside of yourself.

6: Competence

Being competent is all about your ability to learn new skills and navigate uncharted territory. It is about having a level of self-sufficiency and not being helpless in every new situation. Competence will take you farther and farther in your job as the things your workplace wants you to do are going to vary more. Competence also comes in different levels.
competence

Level One: Confidence

One trait of a competent person is having confidence in your abilities. When you pair confidence with competence, you have a winning strategy for completing tasks that may be new to you. You can gain this first level of competence by doing new things frequently. You might not have any experience using Microsoft Excel, but you can have experience in doing new things. There are a lot of tips, tricks, and skills you can learn by doing new things that can transfer over to other tasks as well.

Level Two: Learn

The second level of competence is being able to learn and figure new things out on your own. Skills like this come from knowing how to research and study independently. In school you learn this skill with individual assignments. For example, you need to get rid of an endnote on a document, but you don’t even know what an endnote is! Because you do know how to use the internet and user forums, you can figure out how to do it on your own.

7: Good Work Ethic

Develop a strong work ethic. Work ethic can encapsulate a lot of different things. Ultimately work ethic is the idea that hard work is important. If you have a good work ethic that means that you put in good, valuable, high quality work and that you care about the kind of work you are doing. It also encompasses how you carry yourself in the workplace.
work-ethic
Here are some characteristics of those who have a good work ethic:

  • Be focused
  • Have an appropriate work-life balance
  • Be professional
  • Adhere to workplace etiquette
  • Be dependable
  • Be self-disciplined
  • Be organized
  • Be productive
  • Be efficient
  • Be responsible
  • Care about the work you’re doing
  • Care about quality work
  • Determination
  • Accountability
  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Discipline
  • Team player
  • Loyalty to company
  • Time management, be punctual, deadlines
  • Honest
  • Respectful

8: Handle Pressure

Work well under pressure. Today’s workplace is a pressure cooker of stress. When you develop a sense of calm amongst the crazy, you exponentially increase your ability to rise in the workplace.
pressure-stress

Take Care of Your Body

Try to treat your stress the way you would treat the common cold. Stress can also affect your body. Everyone gets colds, that’s why it is called the common cold. Everyone also gets stressed out in the same frequency. When you have a cold you can either do nothing and let it escalate to a sinus infection, or you can do things to take care of yourself and get over the cold quicker.
Get More Sleep.
On a regular day you might be able to get away with 5 to 6 hours of sleep and still function normally during the day. But when you are sick you need to sleep more than that. In the very least you need to be getting a full eight hours of sleep each night, maybe a little more. When you’re stressed you also need more sleep than normal to recuperate. You’ll want to also make sure you are getting quality sleep:

  • Make your room cold.
  • Have plenty of blankets.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
  • Give yourself an extra half hour of falling asleep and waking up time.
  • Unwind before bed, relax, meditate, take melatonin, or drink some cold water.

Eat Healthy.
Make sure you are eating healthy. When you have a cold sometimes you lose your appetite. Sometimes when you’re stressed you can also lose your appetite, while other people’s appetite grows. You have to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to keep up and keep running during times of sickness or stress. You have to give your insides a fighting chance by providing the right fuels.
Exercise.
Unlike when you’re sick it’s actually good for you to exercise like normal when you’re stressed. Exercise is a good natural medicine for stress.

Take Care of Your Mind

Reach Out.
Reach out to others and let them know what’s going on with you. Sometimes simply talking out our stress can help alleviate it. Go out with people in your support system to have some fun and treat yourself. You can also formulate a team to help you with whatever’s stressing you out. Sometimes we stress out because we have a task that’s too big for one person and we need to accept that and ask for help.
Prevent Burnout.
One thing that affects a lot of worker’s stress is actually burnout. There are a lot of things you can do to prevent and treat burnout, but one thing that helps is to change things up. Changing your routines or taking a much needed vacation can be just the medicine you need to reach full capacity again.
Organize Better.
If your tasks are all planned out in doable chunks then you can tackle your workload better and stress about it less. For instance, you’ll know you don’t need to worry about task B today because you have plenty of time allotted on Thursday to tackle that item. Effective organization gives you back control. Also try keeping a list of all the things you’ve finished so you can have an accumulating list of accomplishments to remind you of how productive you’ve been.

9: Time Management

Manage your time well. You can be the best employee in the world, but if you constantly miss deadlines due to poor time management, you undercut yourself. So, learn how to allocate your time for each task wisely to increase your marketability. Time management skills will not only help you be more productive, but it will also help you take care of yourself better.

  1. plan your month
  2. plan your week
  3. plan your weekend
  4. plan your day

time-management

Some Time Management Tools:
  • Monday.com is great for managing team jobs.
  • Toggl is great for keeping track of how you use your time.
  • Google or Microsoft Tasks are great for making and organizing your to-do lists.
  • Bullet journals are great agenda for the creative spirit or if you want to organize a lot of different things in one place.
  • Trello is a great app if you like to organize with post-it notes.
  • Mind Meister is a great tool if you like to organize in a map or thought-web form.
  • Hard copy calendars are great for a big picture visual.
  • White boards are also great for a big picture visual.

10: Communication

Be a communicator. When you communicate well, you create a sense of harmony and competence in your team and in your office. Good communication is a valuable skill that should be developed no matter where you are on your career path.

Nonverbal Communication

Includes things like your body language and demeanor. You can practice good nonverbal communication with good posture and being an engaged listener.

Verbal Communication
  • Be respectful
  • Be relevant
  • Be specific
  • Be focused

positive-attitude

11: Positive Attitude

Develop a positive attitude. Nothing is less attractive than someone who doesn’t want to be on the job. Whether you hate or love your job, develop a gratitude and a positive attitude to keep morale up!
 
Along with having an overall positive attitude become invested in your work. It is yours to do and how you do it and your attitude toward it, will reflect you more than it reflects your job.






READ MORE
Listen to Jia Jiang’s TED Talk, “What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection” to learn about what he learned from the 100 days of rejection challenge.
 
Read the Mayo Clinic’s article, “Job Burnout: How to Spot it and Take Action” to learn more about managing burnout in the workplace.

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