It's a question just about everyone faces at some point. No matter what stage of career you're in, it's normal to question whether you're on the right path and to want to find out which job is right for you.
Advice varies greatly; many people believe you should follow your passion, some focus on salary, and others pay attention to job market demand for certain skills and professions, to ensure employability. It’s important to find a job you enjoy and are good at, but how to do so can be very difficult. Nobody can tell you exactly which career path to pursue, but thankfully there are a few steps you can take towards discovering what's right for you.
How do I choose a career path?
Discover your passions, skills, and values
Explore your passions, skills, and values and use them to generate ideas. Finding the balance between each of these factors can help to determine which career path you might enjoy.
Passion & interests
Starting with your personal interests and passions can be a really good way to generate some ideas about what you might like to do and how you enjoy spending your time. There are skills involved in every activity, so think broadly about what skills and tasks you enjoy most within your passions and interests.
Think about what it is about those tasks that you like most and research jobs that demand those skills. Looking at the industries and leading companies that your hobbies and interests sit within can also help to generate ideas about possible careers to pursue that combine passions with work.
For example, if you enjoy painting, chances are you're fairly well aware of the top brands when it comes to painting equipment and supplies. What sort of jobs are involved in the development and production of these products? Could you see yourself working in product training for one of your favorite brands?
It could be time for a career move or to take a career test to see where else in the job market your personality type or desired career choice would fit.
Consider any technical skills you've developed over your lifetime so far. Have you done any short courses or tertiary training? Perhaps you're a bedroom music producer and you've taught yourself the ins and outs of some top music software. Or maybe you've incidentally built up a wealth of financial literacy due to working alongside an accountant in a previous job. Make a list of all the technical skills you've built up and think about what kinds of jobs or professions require similar skills in the job market.
Similarly, think about whether there's a skill you've always wanted to develop, or something you've had an aptitude for but never trained in. By building skills and retraining, you can expose yourself to careers that require those skills.
A career aptitude test is a great tool. Career tests allow you to match your personality type with a job title. A personality test is another great tool for this. Like a career test or career quiz, they can aid in deciding on a career move. Careers tests provide job titles, personality assessments, and advise you on your career move.
Soft skills include things like interpersonal skills, communication skills, creativity, and emotional and social intelligence. Although often overlooked, soft skills can be of huge importance in certain jobs or professions, and tend to be more difficult to learn than "hard" or technical skills.
Are you a good listener? Do you have a natural ability to lead and influence others? Are you good at problem solving or lateral thinking? All of these are examples of soft skills, and can help to inform what kind of professional tasks and activities you might enjoy or excel at. If you know that you have strong empathy, perhaps you'd enjoy a career or job title that involves counseling or training.
Your values will often inform what sort of work environment you'd enjoy most, and what sort of companies or industries you would be willing to work for. If you value financial independence above all, then you're not likely to enjoy working in a career that doesn't typically pay high salaries. If you value freedom and flexibility, you may look at a career that allows you to manage your own time, or that allows you to travel or work remotely.
Explore job listings
Browsing job search websites for job titles and listings, and reviewing their descriptions and qualification requirements can help you to generate ideas for career paths to choose.
After taking a career aptitude test or other test for careers, you may have already decided on a career move. Now you just need the right online resources to browse job titles and find something that fits. Use the internet to your advantage.
How do I figure out what job will make me happy?
Discovering what will make you happy is never a straightforward task, and oftentimes you won't be able to predict it.
Taking career aptitude tests, career quizzes and personality tests can give you a sense of what sorts of jobs people similar to you find fulfilling. There are plenty of free careers and personality tests available online.
It's important to remember that these tests can't predict what job will make you happy, but they can help you to narrow down some ideas and make decisions based on your skills, aptitudes, values and personality type.
Factors other than the job itself
Before a career move, consider what factors of a job would make you happy or unhappy, aside from the job itself. How important are your coworkers to your happiness? Is career progression a key factor in what motivates you? Sometimes you can have your dream job, but a work environment that makes you unhappy. It's good to realize that there are other factors at play, and be aware that you might be happiest when working in a job that you never saw yourself doing, just because the company is the perfect fit.
Gain volunteer experience
One great way to help you in the process of making a career choice is to pursue a volunteer opportunity in an area of interest. By engaging in volunteer work, you can discover a new career path, learn what areas of a business you enjoy, gain relevant experience to help you land a job, and figure out what kind of work environment most appeals to you.
How do I know what job is right for me?
Trust the process
In many cases, discovering what feels right will take some trial and error. Test careers to see what job title or position you like best. Sometimes the best way to know what career is the right one for you is simply by giving it a go.
If you're deciding between a few different career paths to follow, you can deliberate all you want, but you'll come to a point where you just need to dive in. It may feel like a risk to choose one path at the expense of another, but it's normal for people to have various jobs throughout their career. There's no harm in trying one thing, realizing it's not the right career and choosing to pursue a new path later. The experience you gain along the way will never go to waste.