How to Choose the Right Career

Finding the Best Fit

Woman thinking about choosing the right career
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The old saying "find a job you love and never work a day in your life" puts a great deal of pressure on people who are trying to choose the right career. Can you really find one that is so enjoyable, it won't even feel like work?

Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. No matter how much effort you put into picking an occupation, there are days when it will feel like work. But, there will be others when you will think "I would do this even if I weren't getting paid." The trick is, to choose a career that has many more great days than ones that aren't so great.

With thousands of occupations to pick from, to increase the odds of career satisfaction, find one that is a good fit for your interestsaptitudes, work-related values, and personality type. It is also essential that you enjoy the majority of the job duties, the earnings are acceptable, and the job outlook is good. Here's how to go about making a good match.

First, Learn About Yourself

Your first order of business is to learn as much as possible about yourself. If you think you know all there is to know, the results of a self assessment will be eye-opening. A career development professional, for example, a career counselor or career development facilitator, can help you with this step but don't be discouraged if you can't afford to hire one.

Many public libraries offer free career planning services. If your local library doesn't, the librarian can suggest one that does. He or she can also recommend local agencies that offer career counseling. Instead of meeting with a counselor, there are also free or low-cost career assessments available online. 

If you attended college, consider contacting that institution's career services office. As an alumnus, you may be able to access their services. Some colleges and university career offices offer their services to members of the local community. In addition, academic programs that train career counselors often have students work with clients at no or a low cost to gain experience.

Next, Learn About the Occupations on Your List

The results from your self assessment will include a list of occupations that are a good fit for you based on all the factors it examined, but the quest to find the right career doesn't end here. While some of the occupations may be nearly perfect for you, others may be all wrong. Even though they are a good match for your personality type, interests, values, and aptitude, they may be unsuitable in other ways. For example, the job duties may not appeal to you, the outlook may be poor, or the required education or training could be more than you are willing to complete. Make an informed decision by exploring each of the careers on your list.

Read descriptions of the occupations and ignore your preconceived notions. Unless you have personal experience or have done prior research, there's still a lot to learn before you can decide whether a career would be right for you.

If after finding out what it would be like to work in an occupation, it still interests you, see what the educational requirements are. If they don't match your educational goals, cross it off your list. For example, if an advanced degree is required and that is not something you can commit to completing, don't choose that career. Likewise, if you've always dreamed of going to college, don't pick an occupation for which you only need a high school diploma.

Finally, you will be doing yourself a great disservice if you don't look at an occupation's job outlook. Investing time training for a career only to find out there are limited opportunities when you are ready to enter your field of choice will waste your time, effort, and money.

After narrowing down your list to just a few careers, it is time to dig a little deeper. Continue your research by conducting informational interviews with people who work in the occupations you are seriously considering. Getting their perspectives can help you make a more informed decision.