We spend a significant part of our adult lives pursuing a profession. Hence choosing a career path is a highly crucial decision. In this piece, we shall take a holistic look at the various aspects of choosing a career. The important thing to realize is the fact that finalizing a career path is something that does not happen overnight. It takes months or years of self-realization.
There is also the fact that the job landscape today bears no similarity to the one existing three to four decades back. Adaptability and flexibility are critical ingredients as one might have to switch career paths quite a few times.
What Is a Career Path?
Before moving to its how let us understand what a career path is and what does it entail. Simply put, a career path is a sequence of jobs that leads one to their overall career objectives. People can pursue these objectives in a single field or multiple areas.
Here, it is crucial to know that no defined career path can guarantee success. Also, there are no right or wrong career paths. The decision to tread a particular career path depends solely on an individual, and that individual is you.
Career paths can include vertical movements to senior positions. However, they can also have lateral moves to other roles in a cross-functional environment.
Before proceeding further, let us look at some examples of career paths:
- Retail: Retail Sales Associate > Cashier > Team Lead > Assistant Store Manager > Store Manager
- Marketing: Social Media Manager > Content Marketing Manager> Marketing Lead > Head of Marketing > CMO
Requirements for a Career Path
People either plan their career paths years in advance or stick to their plans. However, some might decide on taking things one day at a time. Here we look at some essential requirements for career paths today:
Continuous learning: The job landscape is highly dynamic today. One must always keep an eye on the skills that are in high demand and the courses that people are taking up to remain relevant.
Network: It is always good to remain in touch with professional colleagues. Also, one must try not to burn any bridges with their previous organizations or bosses. You never know where the next opportunity is coming from.
Flexibility: One must always keep an open mind regarding their career plans. Any new project could result in a life-changing moment professionally. It is ok if things don’t make sense now. Hence, it is good to keep reminding oneself of Steve Jobs’s golden words:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
Take the leap: If a role in another team at a lower position is providing you with a chance to develop new connections or acquire new skills, then do not hesitate to take it up. Go ahead and seize the day.
What Career Paths Can You Take?
Here we list several industry paths to help you make your choices with solid information before moving to a certain industry:
- Non-durable consumer goods
- Oil and gas
- Business services
- Commercial banking
- Capital goods
- Basic industries
- Real State Investment Trusts
- Health Care
As more industries are published on the website, we will keep updating the list for you.
How Can You Take Control of Your Career Path?
In this article, we list a way to take over your career trajectory. Here are the highlighted steps:
- Master one specialty
- Take constant feedback from employers and colleagues
- Think out of the box and your department
- Find a mentor to guide you
- Make your choices
How to Choose a Career Path?
There are several steps involved in choosing a career path. Let us look at each of them briefly here.
Identify your skills and interests.
As we have already mentioned, a person spends most of his time at his job. This makes it essential that the work he does is fulfilling. There is a greater chance of finding fulfilling work if it aligns with an individual’s skillset or interests.
Firstly, one must assess himself and understand the depth and breadth of his skills and knowledge. Interest is also a key component here. If one is interested, he can always acquire the necessary skills.
Make a list of key attributes.
Once you have identified the skillsets and interests, it is time to take the next step. However, like every other step, careful evaluation is crucial here as well. The approach that we recommend is to divide this list into two parts – must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Jot down the key attributes you are looking for in your career path. This will help you gain clarity about your priorities. Thus it will make your choice a little bit easier.
This list will have questions like:
- How much money do you want to make?
- Are you looking for certain benefits such as health insurance or extended parental leave?
- Do you have location restrictions?
- What is the kind of work environment that you thrive in?
- Willingness to travel for work
There could be many more questions on this list. The sample above serves as an ideal starting point.
Create a list of careers to explore.
Now that you know what you are looking for in your career, it is time to draft a long list of jobs that you are looking to explore. There are several ways to do this, such as reaching out to your professional network.
You can also divide this career list into several small parts, such as creative careers or science careers. Another way of dividing the list could be through job sectors. This way, the list could be broadly divided into the private sector, public sector, and not-for-profit sector.
Conduct research on various industries. The more you research, the more likely you are to chance upon fascinating careers across industries that you weren’t aware of earlier.
For instance, if you love following sports and crunching numbers. Sports analytics is a thriving field and has its fair share of opportunities.
Shortlist around 10-15 jobs. Once that is done, measure each job on multiple parameters such as:
- Employment outlook
- Entry requirements
- Career development
- Job requirements
- Working conditions
- Salary and Perks
- Related jobs
Narrow down your list.
Now that you have done your research, it is time to trim that list. You can choose 4-5 careers that match your interests, skills, and qualifications. You can always enhance your qualifications as you discover more about your desired career. It is also essential to understand what the day-to-day responsibilities in each of your dream jobs look like.
It is also essential to know the entry requirements and the job outlook for each career path shortlisted. Reading about the latest industry trends and newspaper reports will help in this regard.
Set achievable and realistic goals.
Now that you have noted your future career paths, it is time to break them down into small achievable targets. It is best to divide the career journey into small, medium, and long-term goals. This way, you can feel good about yourself after completing each mini-milestone.
An example of a short-term goal is polishing the first draft of your resume. A medium-term plan could be completing level 1 of the CFA exam.
The list of targets here needs to be flexible. This is essential as you may reach a point where your current career path is not aligned with your goals.
How to Choose a Career Path Quiz
A career test or quiz helps you figure out a career that is suited for you based on various aspects such as:
- Work activities
- Learning Styles
- Types of intelligence
So, the positive aspect of career tests is the fact that they are objective. That way, you avoid the judgment of your family, friends, and peers.
However, no career aptitude quiz will guarantee you a dream job. Instead, they are meant to act as a guide to your working style. They will also help you know about your preferred work environment.
Any personality or career quiz works on the concept of correlation, and as you keep answering more questions, they will add or subtract your overall score, which later connects to a particular result.
Career quizzes contain anywhere between 5-50 questions. These questions can be worded in several ways and test the consistency of your answers.
Some tests are designed to give options in the form of specific job options, whereas others provide a more broad sense of direction in terms of job profiles you would be suited for.
A few popular career quizzes are:
123 Career Test
As discussed at length here, it is vital to choose a career that matches your personality. The 123 career test is a lucid ten-minute assessment that focuses on your work personality.
The test is in the form of 15 questions that have four pictures each. You will have to choose one image you like and one that you don’t like in each question. The final results are in the form of Holland Code personality types.
The Princeton Review Career Quiz
This test contains 24 questions and gives you detailed answers along with advice. The test has questions in the ‘ II would rather be’ format such as ‘I would rather be a teacher.’ or ‘I would rather be a lawyer.’ Another example could be – ‘I would rather have a field job’ or ‘I would rather have a desk job.’
You are assigned a color at the end of the test based on your style and interest. Style is how you choose to work and get results, and interest refers to the factors that keep you motivated at work.
You will be bracketed in one of four categories: Expediting, Planning, Communication, and Administration.
My Next Move O* NET Profiler
This is a test sponsored by the US Department of Labor. It is a 60 question quiz that focuses on different work duties.
The answers range from strongly like to strongly dislike. This test identifies your interests and suggests career paths based on your answers. Furthermore, unlike other quizzes, there is the option to review and change your answers as well.
How Is a Career Path Different From a Job
A job is something that you perform or undertake as a means of earning your livelihood. Money is the primary motivating factor when it comes to a job, whereas passion, an interest in building something, and establishing yourself are the fuel behind crafting a career.
A career is something that you are involved in for the long term. It prioritizes experience overpay. The jobs that you hold throughout your life make up your career.
These jobs could be in the same department and the same organization. This was looked upon as a career in the traditional sense of the word.
Develop a diverse skillset.
But careers include all the jobs, training, courses, and certification that a person has obtained over time.
Each job helps you build soft skills such as teamwork, handling demanding customers, developing your writing skills, being a part of negotiations, and so on. These valuable skills are helpful across the board in any industry.
Focus on continuous learning.
Always work on building your knowledge and enhancing your skills. This can be done via courses, formal training, on-the-job learning, certifications, and so on.
You need to be aware of the skills that will help you break into a new sector or benefit your career the most. Connect with colleagues with similar careers in the industry and seek their advice.
Seek the guidance of mentors.
You must also look for people who have followed your desired career path and see if they can become your mentors. It is essential for mentors to be strict, ask difficult questions, and gently prod you in the direction of your career goals.
Review the progress of your career with your mentors regularly.
Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to build a professional network that you can reach out to. This will help you a great deal in your career development.
Finally, you may have to endure one or two bad jobs over the course of your professional life. But your career must align with your values and goals.
So, a career is a journey that requires a combination of knowledge, skill, tact, and effort. Like every journey, it is a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. However, the important thing is not to lose sight of the larger picture and constantly work towards it despite setbacks.