Whether you are planning a career change or looking to start a career for the first time, narrowing your career options is often exciting and daunting at the same time.
It may be hard to know where to start, but with some focus and planning, you can select your best career choices and then start working toward your dream career. Below are five ways to start narrowing your options.
1. Look at Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Wants
This point may sound obvious at first. But in the course of choosing a career, many people make the mistake of only looking outward – they analyze industries, think about what others around them want, and choose a career based on these things.
While it is important to be thorough in choosing a career, part of being thorough is analyzing yourself to see what fields you’re compatible with.
Career blogger Anna Runyan also suggests recruiting people who know you well to offer insight. Runyan suggests asking these people the following things:
- What do you see as my greatest strength?
- What do you think is my special talent, gift, or ability?
- What is something special I do effortlessly?
The answers to these questions aren’t the only thing you’ll need to narrow down your options, but having outside insight may help you better understand what types of careers are compatible with your talents and your goals.
2. Make a Plan A and a Plan B
Science Magazine suggests narrowing your options down to not one career path, but two. While the magazine’s advice is geared primarily toward young scientists, this is sound advice for anyone working toward choosing a career.
Developing and preparing for a Plan A and a Plan B allows for some change in your exact career path – for instance, maybe both plans use your degree, but one focuses more on research and the other more on teaching. For many people, it’s normal to see exact goals change, and planning for possible variability allows for this.
When planning possible options for your future career, it is vital to remember that you are not trapped. While many people find fulfilment in their initial career choice, others pursue a career change at some point.
Remember that it’s ok to modify your plan as you learn more about yourself and progress in your field.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Non-Traditional Paths
Understandably, those who are older or already on one career path may feel as though it’s too late to change. But you don’t have to look far to find stories of people who have taken non-traditional paths to career success. Success might look like attending a Community College to start working towards a business degree or earn an associate’s degree, or it might look like finally mustering the courage to leave a career you dislike and move on to a more fulfilling path.
In the case of Vivian Carrington, even old age and a lupus diagnosis was not enough to deter her from returning to school to earn a degree at the age of 76. In breaking tradition to follow her dreams, Ms. Vi, as she is known on the campus of Rollins College, has inspired students and teachers alike.
4. Get Your Foot in the Door
Many career paths require a significant investment of time, money, or often, both. However, if you are still working on narrowing career options, choosing a related job may help you determine whether this career is something you want to pursue.
For example, if you want to pursue nursing but aren’t completely sure if it is a good fit, working as a nurse’s aide will allow you to experience working in the industry. If you find that the job is a good fit, you can then go on to pursue further training to work as a nurse.
5. Analyze Market Trends
This tip, suggested by Clare Whitmell of The Guardian, is well suited for those who may be uncertain of what career to choose. Regularly researching changing market trends, including what industries are expanding and what industries are beginning to shrink, will help you map out possible career paths.
Graduate job market surveys offer a comprehensive, detailed look at market trends. Whether you want to switch career paths or are embarking on your first one, equipping yourself with knowledge of growing industries will help you make the right decision and ensure that you find employment in a thriving industry.
In short, planning out career options may well be simultaneously the most exciting and most nerve-wracking time of your life. But when you use the above tips to guide you, you will ensure that you are making conscious and thoughtful decisions to intentionally shape your future.