Your career journey will be very different from your parents. Your mom or dad may have landed in a profession in their 20s and may still be doing that same thing now. They likely value stability. You are probably much more comfortable with ambiguity and change, and many even have an appetite for risk and adventure in your career. However, there will probably be things about you that remain constant from your 20s through your 50s.
These are personality traits, preferences, and natural abilities that make it more or less likely for you to work in certain areas over others. You might already know the path you see your career going. That is fantastic if you do! If you aren’t sure what your career path looks like yet, this article will help.
A career path is an intentional career journey that works toward a goal or goals rather than haphazardly bouncing between jobs. There’s no point planning to spend the next several years doing something you aren’t excited about. Let’s instead get real about your passions and go after that. Grab a piece of paper or use your phone and list the topics, areas, and things you’re passionate about that could turn into a career. Your passions can be as broad or specific as you like. The point is to just get them down on paper. Examples include figuring out how things work, nursing, social work, windsurfing, architecture, etc.
Now circle or bold the one you’re leaning toward building your career around.
It’s now time to do some research. For the topic that you circled or highlighted, spend some time answering these questions below.
1. Google the word you chose plus ‘jobs’ or ‘careers’
Look for sample jobs in that world. What did you find that stood out to you?
2. Filling that same word in the blank
Google ‘working as a _____’ and try to find blogs or articles written by people who do that for a living. Write down the names that stood out to you as these will be great people to follow and learn from. Check if they have newsletters you can sign up for too.
3. Be honest with yourself about how much money matters
Spend time on websites like salary.com or payscale.com to get an idea of salary ranges for different jobs in that field. If money matters a great deal to you, then compare that to other professions you are considering. If you find huge pay differences between two areas you are equally passionate about, that may sway you in one direction over the other. Also, consider where you think you want to live and the cost of living. Plus, if you have a spouse or partner, consider their income. Based on what you find, think about a realistic annual year salary/pay goal for yourself for the next few years and for fun, and based on your research, think about what you hope to be making as your annual salary in 5 years.
4. Research typical career paths for that job
In other words, what jobs typically lead to your dream job? Reflect on your background and assess if it’s realistic for you to be successful in that field. For example, if you’ve always struggled with math and science, then becoming a doctor probably isn’t realistic. If you played soccer since you were a kid and went on to become an All-American in college, then working on the business side of soccer could be possible. I’d encourage you to seek out a mentor to talk about your ideas for your possible career paths. Beyond a professional mentor – your parents, partner, or someone else in your life who you respect and who knows you well, is a great place to start to talk through your ideas. Simply talking through your ideas can be incredibly helpful in getting clarity. And that process may change your ideas and your perspective, which is okay.
5. Try to have an informal chat with someone who works in that world
Ask someone in your existing network or reach out to someone on LinkedIn. If you go the LinkedIn route, send the person a polite message asking them or 5 minutes of their time via phone, so you can ask them questions about their career.