Hitting the “I don’t know what career I want” wall has nothing to do with age.
You could be a senior in high school or a manager in a company and still be unsure what career path you want to follow for the rest of your life.
This guide is here to help you figure out what line of work you should seek using self-assessment questions and practical techniques that you can apply no matter your professional status.
- Is it Normal to Not Know What Career You Want?
- What to Do if You Don’t Know What Career You Want
- Questions to Ask Yourself to Find a Career You Want
- How to Find the Career You Want
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
Is it Normal to Not Know What Career You Want?
Yes. It’s absolutely normal -and okay- if you’re yet to choose a defined career path. This applies to students, fresh graduates, and even older adults.
Whether it’s the increasing abundance of career choices, the general worsening psychological health among job seekers, or the improper methodology of making such a decision, there’s no doubt that more and more people are becoming uncertain about what to do with their lives.
While the confusion can be overwhelming, you can give yourself credit that you’ve at least recognized the possibility of a specific career line existing and that you’ve started looking for it.
What to Do if You Don’t Know What Career You Want
Here are some techniques you can use to zero down on a career path:
1. Document Your Options and Curiosities in a Journal
Dedicate a journal to your mission of finding a job you love.
Write down all your interests and the options that are worth considering. Document any educational opportunities or job openings that you already meet the qualifications for.
Once you create a comprehensive list, start researching each entry and eliminate items based on your findings and answers you found after self-reflection.
As you narrow down your choices, your path to a career will only get clearer.
2. Set Attainable Goals
There’s nothing wrong with aiming high when considering career ideas. After all, ambition helps us stay motivated and work hard.
While your long-term career goal needs to be big enough to draw out all your potential, your short-term objectives should be doable.
In both cases, you want the goals to be attainable so you won’t get discouraged too early on your professional journey.
3. Volunteer for Experience
You can get fantastic insights into the professional world across various industries and sectors simply by doing volunteer work to obtain experience.
Look for volunteering opportunities or internships at local businesses and small companies. Additionally, shadowing is a great way to gain exposure to the practical scene, so be sure to ask about such a possibility.
Volunteering and interning don’t just help you discover what aspects of jobs or roles you enjoy more than others, but they also give you experience that you can discuss and refer to during interviews.
4. Figure Out What Culture You Want in a Workplace
There’s no one correct answer to “what’s the proper workplace culture?” as different people prefer different conditions to work under.
You need to assess your productivity parameters and figure out your ideal work environment.
Questions such as “are you a solo player or do you prefer group effort?”, “what traits do you look for in coworkers?”, and “what shifts (day or night) do you perform best during?” can help you find the answer.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Find a Career You Want
Even when you don’t have a clue about the career that suits you most, answering the following self-reflection questions is a great starting point.
What Work Energizes Me?
Start by asking yourself what type of job would get you fired up to do. Most people want a reason other than money to get them excited to work.
Lead your career search with fields or roles that can get you energized and active despite any initial lack of motivation. The answers you come up with are definitely among the right options.
What Am I Passionate About and Why?
Working a job that you love is what most people dream of.
This is why it’s important to figure out what your passions are and why you’re interested in them. From there, you can see if you can turn any of your answers into a career option to pursue.
What Does My Dream Job Look Like?
Answer this question with a description of the ideal job you can work, not the job you currently need or can tolerate. Think about the job that would perfectly match your skills, values, financial requirements, and habits.
Generally speaking, people’s idea of a dream job is one that allows them to use their hard-earned academic skills and life experiences while letting them make a meaningful impact on the world according to how they define it.
Additionally, it should pay enough to support themselves (and anyone else they want/need to), align with their personal values, and offer a work environment that suits their preferences/habits.
How Does My Dream Career Fit Into My Life?
Now that you’ve thought up your dream career, you need to reflect on how it fits into your reality.
Answering this question helps you realize how applicable your dream job actually is, be it in your current situation or even down the road.
This isn’t to say you need to keep your dreams small, but it’s to help you tailor your hopes into a doable plan with achievable goals. It also helps interject some flexibility into your dream career.
What Strengths or Skills Do I Want to Use?
This question helps you pinpoint all the hard and soft skills you possess and can/want to use.
Not only will determining your skills help you choose a career more easily but knowing where you stand will also help you figure out if you need to learn a new skill or develop ones you already have.
What Work Culture Would I Thrive In?
Your preferred work environment or culture is made up of the conditions that you work most efficiently under. Some of the questions to answer in this section include:
- Do you like to work with people or alone?
- Do you focus better in the morning or at night?
- How do you like to be rewarded for success?
- How important is schedule flexibility for you?
- How tolerant of conflict are you and how do you go about resolving it?
What Are My Career Requirements and Deal Breakers?
This question is crucial as it pushes you to give careful thought to your career choice. Think of what you absolutely need in a career and what you can’t take.
For example, do you mind getting paid without receiving recognition? Is receiving recognition in the form of praise enough or does it also need to be materialistic every time?
How to Find the Career You Want
The following steps can effectively help you discover what sort of job you’d actually prefer.
1. Take Career Aptitude Tests
Start with taking a career test. This can help you narrow down your career ideas to ones that are best suited for your skills, personality, interests, and ambitions.
But keep in mind that the results of such tests aren’t set in stone. Feel free to learn about other careers that the test didn’t suggest if they intrigued you.
2. Try Different Jobs
It takes time to find a job that you want to stick with for the rest of your professional life.
One way you can make such a decision easier is by trying out different roles within the same career or across various sectors.
3. Get Career Counseling
A career counselor can help you better get to know yourself, your interests, skills, and preferences.
They can also help you understand the world of work so you can make informed career decisions.
A career coach can even help you find resources on how to get a job.
4. Review Your Work History
Looking at your professional past can help you in figuring out a career for yourself.
Pinpoint the jobs or roles you liked or didn’t like throughout your work history. This can provide insight into different career options that had previously worked or didn’t work for you/
Sometimes the answer lies in your imagination. What do you daydream about? What do you see yourself doing in those fantasies?
You can turn your daydreams or at least parts of them into a reality as a possible career path.
6. Research Different Careers
Do your homework and research the different careers that piqued your interest. Even if a career didn’t initially intrigue you, researching it and forming your own idea may change your mind.
Ask people who already work in these careers for insights. Look up the educational requirements and skills necessary to enter these careers and investigate the roles linked to different positions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Has the Happiest Career?
People who are happiest in their careers have jobs that give them a sense of meaning, fit their personality, offer a rewarding salary, let them use their skills, provide a good work environment, and involve a great relationship with coworkers/supervisors.
What are the Top 5 Careers?
According to World Report and U.S. News, the top 5 careers (in no particular order) are software developer, information security analyst, physician assistant, medical and health services manager, and nurse practitioner.
If you’re thinking “I don’t know what career I want”, this article will guide you to finding the right path using self-assessment questions, practical techniques, and effective steps.
As always, leave a comment below if you have any questions!
Figuring out a career requires plenty of self and market research. Career counseling and trying out different jobs can be a huge help, but they don’t replace professional self-reflection and thoroughly researching potential options.