Most careers require significant time (and often money) to reach your goals. You dedicate yourself to learning skills, building relationships, and overcoming personal weaknesses to succeed. You’ll thrive by aligning your personality, skills, and strengths to a life’s purpose.
But narrowing down seemingly endless options is no easy task. Here’s how to figure it out.
1. Consider Yourself First
It’s not selfish. It’s practical to evaluate what you want and are good at. Others may have pushed you into a particular path. But they’re just living their career dreams through you.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking about how your career path impacts others. But failing to look inside yourself can lead you down a very unproductive and discouraging career path that’s not good for anyone. Think about:
- Where you find enjoyment
- What you care about most
- What success looks like
2. Evaluate Motivations
There is no wrong answer here. The more honest you are, the better. Some common work motivations are:
- High pay
- Good health insurance
- Job security
- Work/life balance
- Personal values
3. Think About the Work Environment
This represents what day-to-day looks like. Think beyond the place you might work to what it’s like to work in that career.
- Low stress, high energy, or a mix
- Lots of physical activity or mental focus
- Working outside
- Working with animals
- Seeing the world
- Non-stop learning
- Working with others or working alone
4. See How the Work Environment and Motivation Line Up
Put your motivation beside the desired work environment. Look for overlap in career options. For example, people with high pay often work in high-stress jobs. But don’t take this for granted. If you want a low-stress job that is also high pay, start exploring the careers where those two meet.
5. Take a Career Aptitude Test
Career aptitude tests help you systematically consider factors that make a career ideal. Here are some you’ll want to check out:
- MyPlan – Get one assessment free and all assessments for $19.95
- iSeek “Clusters” – A short, free assessment provided by a university
- MyNextMove – A free in-depth evaluation from the US Department of Labor
- MAPP Test – An extensive aptitude test with 900 possible career matches. It costs between $90 and $149, depending on the package you need.
6. Take a Look at Sector Differences
The same career path looks different depending on the sector. Adding the sector into the equation may have you considering a career you wouldn’t otherwise. The three main sectors are:
- Public – You work for a government employer. A major perk of a government job is job security, although that’s not guaranteed anywhere.
- Non-profit – You work for an organization that puts a mission before making money. A major perk is having a career where you experience a great sense of purpose.
- Private – You work for a privately owned company or corporation focused on making money. You have a high ceiling on earnings and growth potential.
7. Research Industries
Some examples of industries are energy, transport, consumer goods, agriculture, entertainment, sales and marketing, finance, technology, medicine, and hospitality.
Within each industry, there are several career paths. Finding an industry that interests you narrows your options and homes in on a career you’ll love for a lifetime.