How to Choose a Career: Top 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
Choosing what you’re going to do for a living for the rest of your life is not an easy decision for most of us – even those of us who already have fairly well-established careers. Many people believe that you choose your career path in school, be it high school, college, or university. But if that were true for the vast majority of us, changing careers wouldn’t be more common today than ever before. So whether you’re a first-year post-secondary student trying to decide on a major or an established professional looking for a change, how to choose a career relies very much on asking yourself the following questions:
What transferable skills do I have?
This question is definitely easier to answer for those who have been working for several years, but even students or recent grads should consider what specifically they’re good at. Chances are, whether at work or in school, you weren’t just good in a certain subject or good at your job; there must be certain skills, such as mathematical, communication, or organizational skills, that allowed you to perform well. Consider those skills and how they fit into industries or professions that you have a passion for.
What am I passionate about?
The first question naturally leads to this one. But it’s important to remember that passion isn’t just about an industry or sector you like. It can also be about skill. Perhaps you love writing, and you also have an interest in hi-tech. Maybe then it’s worth your while to seek out a marketing or technical writing role in the software industry. But remember to remain flexible. If you’re a good writer, chances are you’re passionate about writing (after all, people are rarely good at things they don’t enjoy). So even if you’re having trouble finding something in your industry of interest, remember that you can probably have a lot of fun exercising your skills in a variety of different fields.
What is my ideal working style and environment?
How to choose a career relies partially on thinking really hard about how you like to work. Do you prefer to work more independently? Or do you need to bat ideas back and forth with other outspoken people? Do you like the idea of having a quiet corner to yourself for concentration, or do you prefer the hustle and bustle of a more social office? Oftentimes, industries lean towards one environment/working style or the other. Therefore, the way you like to work can very much inform the industries you should beconsidering.
What kind of work-life balance am I looking for?
Of course, most of us want to strike some balance between our working and personal lives, but some roles out there, particularly very senior roles, can make that difficult. Some people thrive on always being busy at work, but some prefer to ensure they get to sit back and relax after a certain hour has passed. Think very hard about your ambitions, and what they would actually involve should they be fulfilled. Remember that many successful people end up changing careers because realize their “success” conflicts with their preferred lifestyle, while others are more willing to sacrifice personal time to remain on a well-defined career path.
What are my goals?
This is a more deeply personal question than it seems, and it ties in closely with work-life balance. In her Harvard Business Review blog post, Heidi Grant Halvorson talks about how some people are more promotion-focused (continually seeking gains) while others are more prevention-focused (seeking to hold on to what they already have). Ask yourself what truly drives you. Seniority or security? Providing direction or providing support? Each side of the spectrum is admirable – and only you know where you lie on it.