Whether you’re a high school student trying to decide what you’ll major in at college or a college senior sending out yet another round of résumés for job applications, chances are you’ve wondered if the path you’ve chosen is the right one for you. What if you don’t like it? How will you know if it’s the best path for your future?
The best way to figure out if a job is the right fit is to learn as much as you can about it before you begin. Here are some tips on how to do that:
To learn more about a career path, gain experience in it. You don’t have to be employed full-time to know if you’ll like a job or not. Whether it’s an internship, a job shadow experience, or a volunteer opportunity, spend time in the industry you’re interested in before you decide if it’s the right fit for you. That way, you’ll have an idea if you’ll like the job even before you begin your first day of work.
One main reason you should gain experience now is that it will help you to figure out what you’re looking for in your own work life. For example, do you like larger corporations or small companies? Are you most concerned about working with great people, making a fabulous income, or having plenty of opportunities for advancement? A lot of these factors can’t be learned in the classroom; they have to be experienced. So, get out there—job shadow, volunteer, or intern. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and about the type of work you’re interested in, which will help you have more peace of mind when it comes to choosing a career path.
Want a firsthand look at what it’s really like to be in your dream job? Talk with someone who’s living it. Find a professional who has your dream job and invite them out to coffee. Talk with them about what it’s like to work in the industry or job you’re interested in. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions; the professional has been in your shoes and knows what it’s like to be a newbie in the industry.
Not sure what to ask? Here are a few suggestions:
- What was it like when you first started working in the industry?
What do you wish you knew when you were my age?
What tips do you have for succeeding in the industry?
What would you say are the pros and the cons of working in your job or your industry?
You’ll gain some helpful insights—and learn about the good and bad of a job—when speaking with someone who’s actually experiencing the job firsthand.
Learn about what other options might be available for your major or skill set. Just because you’ve chosen a certain career path doesn’t mean that you have to follow it for life. Consider what other options are available to you given your skill set and abilities. Yes, you’ll likely have to work hard to switch career paths, but it is possible if you’re willing to make a change.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you as you explore your career options. To learn about different career paths and what it would take to make a switch, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook or O*NET.1
Ask for help. As you weigh your options, don’t be afraid to turn to others for help. Ask your family members and close friends for advice on which career path to take; they know you well, and they can likely provide insights about who you are that you might not even recognize. If you’re a college student, check with your college’s career office.2
Remember that no job is perfect. No matter what career path you choose, you’re going to have days where you don’t enjoy what you do. This is a reality of living in a fallen world: there will be times when you feel tired and wonder why you’re following this career path in the first place. During those moments, find reasons to be grateful for the work you do, or remind yourself of the reasons you picked this particular job.
No job is perfect, but with the right amount of planning and research, you can feel more confident in the career choices you make.
Also, check out some helpful books as you make career decisions:
* Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin De Young
* Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life by Roadtrip Nation
* What Color is your Parachute: A Practical Guide for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (2016 Edition) by Richard Bolles ↩