Selecting The Right Career Path

Making a career decision or transition can be a daunting and difficult task. This applies to anyone, whether they have extensive work experience or recently graduated from college. Those making successful career decisions must understand themselves and develop an effective plan to maximize their job search efforts and reach their career goals.

Determining which career is the correct career is one of the most important choices a person will ever make, since it can determine lifestyle, location of residence, friends, and other important factors affecting quality of life. A career can also have an big impact on self-esteem and personal identity.

Since there literally thousands of careers to choose from, when making a career decision it's a good idea to consult with a career counselor who's familiar with all the available career options. It's also imperative that you develop a comprehensive career plan that addresses your unique needs and professional qualifications.

The following are useful suggestions for developing an effective career plan:

  • Evaluate your interests, talents, and future aspirations. Life is not about finding the perfect career. Finding a good career is about working toward the perfect life. No career, no matter how perfect, will compensate for an unbalanced life. However, finding a good career can greatly improve your quality of life. When contemplating your career options, make sure that you first understand yourself. Explore your interests, talents, and aspirations. Many ambitious and talented career professionals will rise to the top in their respective field of expertise, gain the respect and aprobation of their peers, only to find out career success doesn't necessarily equate to long-term fulfillment and happiness. If one of your main interests is to have a family, identify careers that will meet both the income and time requirements of raising a family. If your talents lie in the arts, identify careers that will provide you the opportunity to use your artistic side. This doesn't mean you have to become an artist. Several careers, including architect, chef, builder, computer programmer, designers, and even financial manager provide opportunities for those with artistic talents. If one of your aspirations is to retire by the time you're forty, it isn't likely to happen if you become a social worker, even if your interests and talents lie in social work. There are thousands of careers out there – so don't settle for the first one that comes along.

  • Conduct research to learn more about careers that interest you. With the advent of the Internet, there is now a plethora of information at your finger tips. One of the easiest and quickest way to research careers is to go online and visit any one of thousands of career websites. There are career assessment websites, career information sites, career test sites, self exploration sites, personality test sites, job search sites, career counseling sites, etc., etc. However, due to the commercial nature of the Internet many career sites tend to exhibit a certain bias. There is no better way to get a feel for a career than to talk to actual professionals working in career field you want to learn more about. Once you've exhausted your online career exploration efforts, and compiled a list of careers that interest you, start talking with professionals within each career of interest. Shoot them an email requesting to talk with them, invite them to lunch, do whatever you have to do to get some face to face time with them. Be direct and let them know what your intentions are. Most people are more than eager to talk about their career, especially if they love what they do.

  • Choose the career that best fits you. A common tendency among those searching for a career is to rely too heavily on what other people think and say. Yes, we just got done telling you that the best way to get a feel for a career is to consult with actual professionals working in the field, and that's true. However, once you have a good feel for a career, it's time to step back and take an objective look at which career(s) are right for you. Just because the FBI agent you interviewed said being an FBI agent is one of the most fulfilling careers in the world, doesn't necessarily mean it will be fulfilling for you. One of the biggest mistakes career searchers make is to rely too heavily on what other people believe is the best career for them. It's important to consider what other people think, especially those who know you best and are closest to you, but at the end of the day you know yourself best and you're the one that's going to be in this career – potentially for the rest of your life.

  • If you're satisfied with what you've learned, finalize your choice and pursue your selected career. Once you've evaluated your interests, talents and aspirations, thoroughly researched all your career options, consulted with professionals working in your career field(s) of interest, and then selected a career that best fits you, its time to move forward. Don't hesitate, don't look back, pursue your career with all your energies and focus, knowing that it's the right career for you.

Don't worry, nothing is final. You can always change your mind down the road. In reality, you will not find out whether you've selected the right career without pursuing it. There are many strategies you can utilize to test your decision, including enrolling in a class, applying for an internship, spending a day at work with a person working in the industry, or getting a part-time job related to the career that interests you.

If it is necessary, enroll in a training or educational program to meet the necessary qualifications for your desired job.

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