What Not to Do When Selecting a Career
Avoid making these mistakes when you choose an occupation
When you are selecting a career there's a lot riding on your decision. You want to pick an occupation in which you can be successful for many years to come. While you can change careers, doing so can be effortful. It is easier if you don't have to do it too often. That means you should pick something that is not only suitable for you, but also can support you financially far into the future. Increase your chances of making a good decision by avoiding these very common mistakes.
Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting a Career:
- Listening to People Who Tell You That You Should, or Should Not, Do Something: Many people think they should have a say in what career you choose—your parents, your friends, your significant other. They don't. In most cases, your decision will have little impact on other people in your life. You, however, will have to deal with your choice for years to come. Make sure the career you choose is something you want to spend your day doing.
- Following in Someone Else's Footsteps: You may be haunted by your parents' expectations to go into the same occupation they are in. You may know it as the one that helped put food in your mouth, kept a roof over your head, and even paid your way through school. As hard as it is to do, ignore the pressure you may feel to please your mom and dad. Remember (and, if necessary, remind your parents) that they made their own choices and now it's your turn. What was right for them may not be right for you. In the long run, there's a good chance they'd rather see you happy in a career of your choosing than unhappy in one you picked to please them.
- Not Doing Your Homework: Don't choose a career without taking the time to learn about it. In addition to a job description, you should make sure to gather information about typical job duties, educational requirements, earnings, and job outlook.
- Not Talking to Those in the Know: Your homework isn't complete if you skip talking to someone who currently works in the career field you are considering. Those who are engaged in an occupation can provide you with a truthful account of what it's like to work in it. If possible, talk to a few people to avoid individual biases.
- Going for the Money, Honey: Bringing home a paycheck is important, but the size of it isn't a great predictor of job satisfaction. In other words, you can make six figures, but if you hate what you're doing, you'll find it hard to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Look for a balance between making enough money to support yourself and work that fulfills you.
- Ignoring Who You Are: Your personality type, interests, values, and aptitudes make you better suited for some occupations than others. These traits are intrinsic, which means you can't change them. If you don't take them into account when selecting a career, there is an excellent chance you will wind up in an occupation that is unsuitable for you.
- Not Considering Location, Location, Location: Jobs in certain occupations are concentrated in specific cities—New York or Los Angeles, for example—or in certain types of locations—such as cities versus rural areas. If you live somewhere that doesn't offer many opportunities in your field, and you aren't willing to relocate, you will have trouble getting a job.
- Not Looking Beyond a "Best Careers" List: Lists that tell you what careers have the best opportunities of the year or decade can be a helpful guide when it comes to selecting a career. However, making a decision based solely on one of those lists is a terrible idea. Even an occupation with a great outlook can be a bad fit, so you have to scratch below the surface to find out whether you and a career are a good match.
- Ignoring the Future: While you shouldn't make your choice solely on an occupation's appearance on a best careers list, to ignore employment outlook is careless. There's a good chance you don't have a crystal ball that can tell you with certainty whether an occupation will grow, or at least be stable, during the course of your career. However, you can do more than hope for the best. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics makes predictions about the outlook for most occupations. You should consider whether a career has a promising future before you begin to prepare for it. You can at least eliminate something if its future looks bleak.