How to Choose a Career When You Can't Decide What to Do
Tips for Choosing a Career When You're Interested in Everything
Do you have a wide range of interests, hobbies, and passions?
Congratulations: You're a well-rounded person. And that's a good thing, in general. (Most likely, you're fun to talk to at parties, and have weekends full of plans and activities.)
But when it comes to picking a career path, you may find yourself overwhelmed. Unlike friends who have singular passions or have stuck with the same notion of what job they want to have since elementary school, figuring out your career path may be more challenging.
Take heart: Just because you may find the task tricky doesn't mean it's impossible—or that you'll have to sacrifice your hobbies and interests.
Get insight into how you can choose a career when you're interested in many things, not just one.
Make a List (and Distinguish Between Hobbies and Jobs)
Start by getting organized. What are your hobbies and interests? Take time to write them all down—and make the list as long as it needs to be.
Then, think about which of these interests make more sense as hobbies and which may lead to potential careers or jobs.
For instance, you may enjoy knitting, but are you skilled enough to sell your work? Is there a marketplace to do so, and could you make enough money to support yourself?
And it's not just the practicalities to consider. Sometimes, a hobby is well-suited to being a hobby or side project. For instance, if you enjoy knitting as a stress reliever, you may find that it becomes less fun once it's your career.
Determine Your Skills and Work Style
When employees stay at a company, it's usually because their job allows them to do what they do best, according to a Gallup survey.
In fact, that factor had an even bigger impact on employee satisfaction than having an increased income, per the survey.
With that insight in mind, the question becomes: What do you do best? To understand this better, consider what makes you happiest when you have a task to do. For instance:
- Do you prefer working independently, or with a team?
- Do you like doing research or favor hands-on labor?
- Do you enjoy presenting or prefer writing?
Digging into these kinds of questions can help you figure out your work style and preferences.
Along with making a list of your interests, you can also create a list of your skills. These can be both hard skills (computer programming, speaking Spanish, etc.) and soft skills (communication and organizational abilities, etc.).
Take a Career Aptitude Test
Another way of figuring out your career path is to consider your work style, what you're good at, and what motivates you.
To help work that out, consider doing some online personality assessments or using career exploration apps. You might be surprised by what they reveal about you and how they help you narrow down your options.
Your education may help steer you here, but don't let it limit you. English majors can go on to medical school (with some additional coursework) and biology majors may find themselves best suited for communications roles in the healthcare industry.
Many skills are transferable from one industry to another. Look into a variety of industries and find out which skills are most important in each of them.
Think outside the box and consider what your unique experience can bring to an industry.
For instance, someone with a passion for music may find working as an entertainment lawyer or designing websites for record labels rewarding.
Test It Out
Will you truly enjoy one of your passions as a career? One way to find out is to experience it (but without committing fully). There are a few ways to do this:
- Job shadowing: When you job shadow a professional, you'll get a hands-on sense of what it's like to work in a particular role or industry.
- Informational interviews: While this type of interview is often used as a tactic to land a job or grow your network, informational interviews can provide great insight into different careers or industries. Plus, you can also talk to people who, like you, have many interests, and see how they've been able to stay fulfilled.
- Internships: This experience of working in an industry can also help you decide whether one of your interests makes sense as a career or is best kept as a hobby.
Look for Organizations That Embrace Collaboration & Career Development
Whatever career you choose, chances are its responsibilities and duties won’t satisfy each and every one of your interests. (After all, you have many passions!)
But an organization that encourages cross-departmental projects and collaboration will enable you to be exposed to other things, even if they’re not part of your job. If your job is in sales, for instance, you can work with members of the design and marketing teams while creating literature for your products.
When considering which company you’d like to work for, reach out to current employees and ask them how teamwork is actually practiced in the office. Find out how cross-departmental projects are structured to see how involved an employee can be with different aspects of the process.
Check out, too, how the company approaches training and development.
Do they put all employees through the same generic training and rote distribution of responsibilities? Or do they allow employees to choose what they learn and explore skills and duties not directly related to their current position? If you don’t feel like you’ll have the chance to continue exploring different interests, chances are it’s not the right place for you.
Feeling overwhelmed? Remember, you don't have to figure this out on your own. You can ask friends and family for feedback. And you can also reach out to career counselors and coaches for input and help.
Take the Time to Consider Your Options
Being a well-rounded person is never a bad thing. But it can make it difficult to define the right career path.
As long as you take the time to look at all your options, you’ll see that you can find a career that satisfies your desire for multidimensional work, rather than one that pigeonholes you into the same role for your entire career.
Gallup. "What Job-Hopping Employees Are Looking For." Accessed Oct. 15, 2020.