We will all spend the majority of our lives working, and whereas our grandparents often did the same jobs that their own parents had done before them, today we have a lot more choice available to us as to what sort of work we want to do. This change brings both advantages and disadvantages.

Modern career paths: hard choices

Deciding on a career is not an easy task: but there is good reason for that. For years at school, we are exposed to a wide range of subjects and have nearly limitless opportunities to make choices.

In addition, there is now the expectation that we will have careers that fulfill and satisfy us, so we experience significant stress over the possibility that we might make the wrong choice. We want to find the jobs that will make us happy.

Some of us think about a careers in terms of what we don’t want to do, but choosing a career by process of elimination is inefficient (and unfulfilling). Career choices have never been more significant or more difficult: but there are some tools on our side that can help us make smart choices.

Test your way to a career

It sounds flippant, but a good way to work out what your career should be is to think about where your academic interests lie. This can help you at least narrow down the field in which you want to work. If you are unsure what major you want to do, some colleges provide a What Should I Major in Quiz to help you make up your mind.

This shouldn’t be the only thing you do as you make career decisions, but it can be very helpful. At the least, it may shine a spotlight for you on what you really do love or what you’re truly interested in. It might show you a career path related to your interests that you didn’t know existed!

Think carefully about strengths and weaknesses

Your career is not just the job you get up and go to every day. Though it’s helpful to consider academic strengths and weaknesses, it is also vital to consider other aspects of your character and personality. These will partially determine what you find interesting, fulfilling, or at times even possible.  

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you prefer to focus on the details of an issue or task, or do you like to see the bigger picture? Do you work most efficiently in a team or by yourself? Is your passion finishing a job or starting something new?

By examining yourself, you can work out which types of job would suit you best. For example, if you are an extreme extrovert, you may find that you struggle long-term on a career path that includes a lot of solitary work, even if job is otherwise within your skillset.

Gain experience and qualifications

If you have some thoughts about a career path but are still not 100% sure, it can be really help to gain some experience in that particular area or a qualification that will help improve your job prospects in that field.

For example, if you think you’d like to teach, you could volunteer at a school or try to get a job as a classroom assistant to get a better idea of what being a teacher is actually like.

If you’re thinking about a career in medicine, you may find it useful to spend time working or volunteering in a medical situation or even studying for a medical assistant diploma program. These would give you an opportunity to discover more of what a medical career entails, and provide valuable experience.

Even if you decide that that career is not the right one for you, you will not have wasted your time by gaining work experience!. Experience in the working world gives you insight into careers, and yourself, that will help you make further decisions.

Stay calm and collected

It can feel like the rest of your life is riding on this one decision. That’s a scary proposition, and it’s not unusual to get a bit panicked about the future. Everyone does at one time or another.

But don’t worry! The modern age has given us more choice and confusion about career paths: but it’s also made it possible for us to change careers more easily than our ancestors ever could.

You do not have to lock yourself in to one career path, and there are lots of ways that you can take productive steps towards your future while still keeping your options open.

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