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  3. Expert guide on how to find a career path
Expert guide on how to find a career path

Expert guide on how to find a career path

  • What is the best way to find a career path?
  • 1. Start with a self-assessment
  • 2. Determine what you want to get out of your career
  • 3. Create a list of goals
  • 4. Research potential career fields
  • 5. Enlist help if you need it
  • What are the four types of career paths?
  • How do you find the perfect career for you?
  • Key takeaways

Finding the right career path may be challenging, but it’s not impossible! We’ll share all that you need to know about how to find a career path that is right for you so you can have the job of your dreams.

It can be challenging to find the right career, especially if you’re not sure what you want to do. It’s been shown that the average person spends one-third of his or her life (90,000 hours) at work, so finding a career that you find fulfilling and engaging is important to your quality of life. If you’re wondering how to find a career path, remember that it consists of both your education and professional experience, and you can choose a path in areas such as science, health care, creative arts, and technology—the list is endless! And if you have concrete long-term goals, your career path should be designed to get you there.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to find a career path, including:

  • What is the best way to find a true career path?

  • What are the 4 types of career paths?

  • How do you find the perfect career for you?

What is the best way to find a career path?

Some people know exactly what they want to do with their professional lives. You may know someone who has always wanted to be a doctor, teacher, or police officer, and they stuck to that plan and made it happen. However, it doesn’t work that way for many people, so if you’re still wondering how to find your passion and career, you’re not alone. It will take time, and you may even change careers during your professional life. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey from 2022 found that people only stay in a job for about four years, so it’s very likely that your career will take some twists and turns. When determining what career to pursue, keep in mind the following ideas for finding your career path.

1. Start with a self-assessment

To find out what your ideal career is, you need to have a good sense of who you are, what you’re interested in, and what talents you have. You may think that you already know this, but you’d be surprised. Thinking about these things deeply may lead to some interesting self-discoveries! When doing your self-assessment, consider:

  • What do you enjoy doing?

  • Do you enjoy working outside or are you an indoor person?

  • What are your priorities?

  • What does “success” mean to you?

  • What skills and talents do you enjoy using?

2. Determine what you want to get out of your career

Not everyone has the same goals, and it’s important to determine what you want to get out of your working life. Is a high salary important to you? Do you value flexibility in your work location? Or do you place a high value on growth opportunities? Rank these options so that you know what’s most important to you. Keep in mind, though, that you won’t get everything you want, so be clear on what your “deal breakers” are.

3. Create a list of goals

When thinking about your ideal career path, make a list of your long-term goals and how you can go about reaching them. Do you want to be an executive? Own your own business? Find a job where you travel a lot? Also keep in mind that the workplace will change over time, and that you’ll make adjustments if necessary.

4. Research potential career fields

Learn about the different industries that currently exist, such as commerce, the arts, entertainment, or energy (there are many more!), and see if your interests and skills align with any of them, as well as what types of positions are available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great resource, as it provides information about a plethora of different industries and jobs, including salary, growth, job outlook, employment rates, and demographics.

5. Enlist help if you need it

There’s no reason you have to do all of this work on your own. Your college or university may have a career resource center (if you’re still in school) or consider enlisting the help of a job or career coach. Or consider Career.io’s Career Pathways tool, which will help you explore potential career paths and bridge any skill gaps you may have. 

When determining your “true career passion,” an important thing to remember is that you need to let go of any preconceived notions of what a “good” or “important” career is. What matters most is that you have a career you find fulfilling, motivating, and even enjoyable, and letting go of what you think you “should be” doing.

Expert Tip

Are there career tests you can take?

Yes! There are actually some self-assessment tests you can take to help you determine the right career path for you. The Myers-Briggs test, for example, will help you determine what type of personality you have, and the O*NET Interest Profiler can give you a sense of what your interests are and how you can apply them to a potential career. As you develop a better idea of where your talents and skills are and what you find motivating and interesting, you’ll have an easier time determining which careers will match up.

What are the four types of career paths?

Once you have an idea of your talents, skills, motivations, and requirements, you can start narrowing down your list of potential career paths. In general, there are four types of career paths—skill-based, entrepreneur-based, knowledge-based, and freelance—and each of these paths aligns with a collection of skills and abilities that you will use on the job.

  1. Skill-based jobs require an in-depth knowledge of a particular function and are often hands-on positions. Examples are construction jobs, chefs, or artists, or knowledge-skills hybrids such as careers in medicine, accounting, or administration.

  2. Entrepreneur-based jobs occur when someone starts and runs their own business, either on their own or with a staff of employees. Examples include Steve Jobs of Apple, Thomas Edison of the company that eventually became General Electric, and Arianna Huffington, who founded the Pulitzer prize-winning digital news website “The Huffington Post.”

  3. Knowledge-based positions require accumulated knowledge before you can function in your job. Examples include positions in marketing, IT, engineering, law, or HR.

  4. Freelance jobs are independent contractor positions where people work for a variety of clients or companies. They may be designers, contractors, photographers, musicians, or writers.

Remember, a career plan shouldn’t be rigid and unchanging. You are never “locked in" to one path. You can make adjustments as necessary, as your circumstances and the job market change. 

Statistical Insight

According to a 2023 Pew Research study, 51 percent of U.S. employees who are not self-employed report being "extremely" or "very satisfied" with their jobs, 37 percent are "somewhat satisfied," and 12 percent are "not too" or "not at all satisfied" with their jobs.

How do you find the perfect career for you?

Depending on your interests and skills, there might not be one perfect career path for you. There may be several jobs in which you might feel motivated, productive, and fulfilled. Look for a job in a field that aligns with your interests and values. For example, if you care deeply about the environment, a job in oil drilling may not be for you.

  • Know what education and skills are required for a career. Fields such as medicine, law, or engineering may require extensive schooling and internships.

  • Assess your previous jobs and determine what you liked (and didn’t like) about them, including the company culture, management, challenges, and any accomplishments you had. 

  • Put on your interviewer's cap. Find some people working in fields that interest you, and ask them if you can "pick their brains" about their jobs. This can include people you already know or those in your professional network. 

  • Always be learning. This means reading, going to lectures or workshops, taking online classes, or watching videos about a variety of careers. By keeping your mind open, you might stumble across a job that excites you, or at least learn a new skill you can use in your current career.

Once you’ve decided on the right career path for you, make a commitment to it. Create a plan to reach your (SMART) goals, and remain confident. It won’t necessarily happen overnight, but if you’re taking actionable steps, you’ll find yourself on the right career path and being the success you knew you could be.

If you’re ready to take charge of your career, consider Career.io’s Job Search Strategy tool, which will help you create a career roadmap, optimize your job search, and give you the confidence you need to find the perfect job.

Key takeaways

  1. To determine the right career path, do a self-assessment, set some long-term goals, research career fields, and get outside help if you need it.

  2. There are personality tests and career assessments you can take online to help you determine the right career path for you.

  3. A career path shouldn’t be rigid and unchanging, and you can make adjustments as necessary.

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