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How to Find the Career Path That’s Right for You

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In a workforce that, on average, changes jobs nearly every three years and career paths 5-7 times in a lifetime, less emphasis is being placed on choosing a job that you intend to stay in forever. Particularly at the beginning of their working lives, young people are moving from job to job on a regular basis, defying the age-old mantra that a career should be for life. In reality, a career is more like a long, winding river that will take you in directions you never thought you’d go, landing you at a destination that only becomes visible once you turn a corner and take a plunge.

That is not to say, however, that you should not take those initial steps down your first career path lightly. The people you meet and skills you learn could end up significantly impacting your life in the long run, as well as your immediate feelings of happiness and fulfilment. To make this initial choice a little easier, here are seven steps you can take to help you find a career path that is right for you.

 

Take a Career Test

Career tests might seem a silly way to determine what job you should look for. After all, how could ticking a bunch of boxes on a computer program possibly demonstrate anything other than the most basic wants and needs? Who are they to say that you would make the perfect hairdresser or software engineer?

If you’re completely stumped for inspiration about even what sector you would like to work in, however, online career tests can be a great way to get you thinking about the areas in which you could feasibly work while taking your personality, experience and values into account.

The 123 Test has you make associations with various tasks and provides you with a list of suitable jobs at the end. The Redbull Wingfinder doesn’t give you specific career advice but breaks down core elements of your personality that could be invaluable when considering how suited you may be to certain careers. On the other hand, O*NET Interest Profiler provides a comprehensive overview of how your skills and interests can intersect with your aspirations. You can take or leave the results these quizzes give you, but sometimes having your strengths typed out in front of you can clarify your goals to yourself.

 

Assess Your Options

Whether you do this following a career test, or after a period of self-reflection, you need to take stock of your options. Write down every option available to you, and every path you would be interested in pursuing.

Go through each of the options available to you, eliminating and highlighting those that you are instinctively averse to and are intrigued by respectively. By the end, you should have a manageable list of potential routes you could take, most of which should contain a combination of your interests, skills and values.

It’s also important to research the jobs you put in your shortlist. The qualifications required by one may put you off, while the trajectory promised by another may inspire you. Read case studies pertaining to interesting fields to give you an idea as to where you could end up down the line. Having a long-term career goal may be more of a motivator for you than a short term one.

 

Network

You’ve researched careers that interest you, and now you have finally settled on one or two that excite you more than any others. Now, you need to look at this list and ask what connections you have to these different careers. Do you know someone who works in that sector? Someone who could perhaps make an introduction or give you further insight into a career that interests you?

According to research compiled by Social Talent, although only 7% of applicants come via referrals, they account for over 40% of successful hires. Statistically speaking, you have a much greater chance of securing an entry level position in a field that interests you if you are introduced via someone with a connection to that employer.

Networking isn’t only beneficial for getting your foot in the door, however. It’s important to speak to people currently working in, or with knowledge of, the field(s) you would like to enter. They may have insider information unavailable online, or give you guidance as to how you might approach getting a job.

Whatever your goals, it’s worth going out and meeting people who can help you through this difficult decision with their own experiences, insight and network in that field.  

 

Get Experience

One of the most useful outcomes from networking successfully would be the opportunity to gain practical experience in the area you want to work in. From the perspective of an employer, they would be more likely to hire someone with a proven interest and existing ability in their sector. From your side, you would be able to see first-hand what the day-to-day of such a job entails and decide whether or not it’s for you.

Internships are a great way to gain experience in a hands-on working environment. Not only will you have the opportunity to complete tasks similar to those you might be set as an employee, but you will make some invaluable contacts who could potentially help you secure employment later down the line.

There are lots of great internship opportunities out there, but make sure you are not being exploited. Some companies take advantage of the passion and inexperience of interns and have them work with little to no compensation, and no guarantee of a job at the end of the programme.

Another way to gain experience would be to ask someone if you could shadow them at work for a couple of days, so you can see what they are tackling on a daily basis, as well as meet their co-workers and convey your enthusiasm and initiative to a potential employer.  

 

Find a Mentor

Mentors are an invaluable way to gain insider knowledge of an industry, as well as a potential fountain of tailored advice to help you succeed in whichever career you end up choosing. For more information on how to find a mentor, you can have a look at this Forbes article that breaks down the steps of finding and securing the right mentor for you.  

 

Make a Career Path Plan

You’ve identified an area that interests you, researched it thoroughly, spoken about it with contacts and perhaps even secured some practical experience in that field. The next step is to create an actionable plan that lays out all the steps you need to take to achieve your professional goals. Whether this involves changing careers later in life, taking risks or going back to education to secure further qualifications, create an actionable plan that will allow you to step from one to the other. Here’s a great guide on how to structure a solid career path plan.

 

No one’s career path unfolds in an uncomplicated straight line. In fact, there will be jobs that exist in the future that we couldn’t even imagine in today’s society. The best approach is to have an open mind, strong initiative and the willingness to be flexible as you work towards your goals. Expect the unexpected, and never be afraid to deviate from your plan if it feels right. As they say, ‘find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’

 

Posted by Clare Reynolds on 12 June 2019

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