Choosing a career is not as easy as our parents made it out to be when we were young when the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ was answered with such exciting things as an astronaut, a ballerina or a wizard.
Who wouldn’t want to be a wizard? Unfortunately, we need to be a bit more realistic now and put a bit more thought and pragmatism into our choices. But how do we decide what career is going to fit us best? It’s not easy, and you’ll need to do a fair amount of honest self-reflection to narrow down your choices.
It’s OK if you don’t know what you want to do
In her now-iconic article, Mary Schmich told us “don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.” It was immortalized by Baz Luhrman in his song Everybody’ Free To Wear Sunscreen.
Maybe you only have a vague idea in your head that you want to be your own boss or work in the charitable sector. That’s a good start.
It’s not only young people who are choosing careers, people now change jobs frequently throughout their working life.
Make a list of potential careers you’re interested in
For this first step, list any job you think you may be interested in. From web designer to a chef, a vet to a career in public administration. The point of this exercise to get it all down on paper and begin narrowing it down from there.
Find your career ‘sweet spot’
Lucia Smith, HR Consultant at Gray Scalable talks about the career sweet spot. This spot is where what you want to do, what you’re good at, and what the world needs, intersect.
Here’s where you need to make some more lists. What are you good at? Are you good at maths, practical, resourceful, excellent at sports? Write it down and match it to your list of potential careers.
Next, see if these careers are in demand. Do your research on the career you have in mind. Are the skills, conditions and salary expectations something that appeals to you? Take into account how future proof this role is too. If it’s likely to become an automated process or done by a machine or computer program in the near future, then it’s probably best to choose something else.
Take a career aptitude test
There’s an episode of the TV show Friends where the character Chandler quits his well paid, boring job in data processing but isn’t sure what he wants to do next. He goes through eight hours of aptitude testing to be told he’s best suited to, you guessed it, data processing.
Aptitude tests have become quite sophisticated these days. They aren’t just a glorified online quiz but use machine learning and a huge amount of data to analyze your personality and skills and match you to potential careers.
Get some work experience
One of the best ways to get an inside track on the job you want is to do it (or at least see it being done). Internships are a great option to spend time in a company and learn what really goes on there. If you can’t find an internship in the right area, contact a company and offer your time for a few days or weeks, or at the very least, ask if you can shadow a member of staff.
Ask someone who’s already doing the job
Get in touch with someone who is doing a job you’re interested in and ask them if they would be willing to get a coffee and give you some insight on what it’s like. Ask them to be completely open about the best and worst aspects of the role and any advice they would give you on getting into the industry.
Deciding on a career can be daunting but unlike previous generations, you don’t need to be stuck in a career you find unfulfilling for the rest of your working life. Career changes are commonplace now and you may find yourself revisiting these tips more than once. Good luck.