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How Do I Know What Career I Want?

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

Not knowing what career you want to pursue makes a job search much more difficult. But discovering the right career is a process for many people.

There are many ways you can narrow down your job search. Remember, you don’t have to decide your entire future career right now. All you need to know is your next step.

Here are six things you can do to gain clarity to determine the right path in your career.

1. List Your Skills and Strengths

To list your skills and strengths, review your past experiences, including school, extracurriculars, volunteer work, and social experiences.

As you review your past experiences, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What were you doing when were you the happiest?

  • What do people ask you for help with or lean on you for?

  • When have you been excited to get out of bed in the morning?

  • What tasks or skills come easily to you?

  • What tasks do you really dislike doing?

Next, dive deeper into self-reflection to identify some of your preferences by asking the following questions:

  • What topics interest you outside of school? 

  • What would you study if you didn’t have to?

  • Do you function best with a set schedule, or do you accomplish more when you have some control over your schedule?

  • Are you happiest interacting with people or working at a desk all day?

  • Are you self-motivated, or do you get more done around other people (remote versus in the office)?

Once you’ve gone through the questions, compile a list of your strengths and skills from your notes. For example:

  • Great at making other people feel comfortable

  • Love talking to people and being in groups

  • Comfortable meeting new people and building relationships

  • Motivated by group goals

  • Prefer to work outside the home

  • Love learning new ways to communicate

  • Love design, art, and architecture

  • Organized

  • On-time

  • Learn quickly if it’s explained to me

This list might describe someone who is an excellent fit for sales or customer service, particularly in a field related to design, art, or architecture. They can apply their communication and relationship-building skills to a business in a field they enjoy.

2. Take a Career Aptitude Test

Career tests are not definitive. They are designed to give you general feedback about where you might fit into the job search and help you think about what you would enjoy doing. It’s not worth spending significant time and money on career tests, but one or two may give you important feedback.

Don’t let the career test results override what you know about yourself. You are the ultimate expert on you. The test is a tool to help you narrow down your job search options.

3. Do a Job Search and Read Job Descriptions

If you haven’t been looking at job postings online, it’s a great way to get a sense of what is out there. Even if you haven’t done step number one yet and identified your preferences and skills, searching through entry-level positions in your area will get you oriented to the job market.

As you read through the job descriptions, note which skills you have. If a job appeals to you and you have almost all the skills needed, you can apply now or take a class or tutorial to gain the additional skills they want to see.

4. Network

Talking to people can be an outstanding way to learn about the different types of available careers. Listening to people’s experiences can help you gain insight into different work environments, cultures, and career paths so that you can get a better sense of what you do and do not want for yourself.

You can attend networking events in your area, join clubs like Toastmasters, get involved in local Meetups, or start talking to the people you already know. A great side benefit of networking is you may connect with someone who can help you get a job.

5. Work With a Mentor

If you are going to take advice from someone, first make sure they are living the results you want. Just because someone is willing to mentor you doesn’t mean they will always give you the best advice. Remember, ultimately, you are always the best expert on yourself.

Find a mentor who has experience and insight that can help you, someone who can be a sounding board for your ideas and experiences. They can help you expand your understanding of what is possible, push through blocks and frustrations, and sort out your options to pick the best one.

6. Build Your Skills

You don’t have to wait until you are hired to build your skills. If you are in the job search process, you can increase your network, your skill set, and your resume by getting started in any way you can.

If you want to lead kids, look for volunteer or internship positions that get you started right away. If you are a graphic designer, offer your services to friends and family and build your portfolio. You can also start freelancing to develop your skills and experience.

Find The Best Fit From What Is Available

During your job search, remember that you are looking for a position that represents a good intersection of what you enjoy doing, the skills you have, and what the employer needs. You don’t have to fit everything you want into your next job. Your career is a journey with many steps that can evolve and improve over time.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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