How to Figure Out What Career You Want?

How to figure out what career you want?

How to Figure Out What Career You Want?

Choosing a career path is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in life. 

Your career impacts your income, lifestyle, daily routine, and overall fulfillment. Yet many people struggle to figure out what they really want to do.

I’ve counseled hundreds of clients over the years, and I understand how daunting and confusing this process can be. But with some self-reflection, research, and planning, you can discover work that aligns with your interests, values, and goals. 

In this post, I’ll share insights and strategies that have helped my clients find rewarding careers.

Understand Yourself

The first step is to do some soul-searching and get clear on who you are as an individual. What kinds of activities energize you? What are your core beliefs and motivators? Self-awareness is key.

a. Identify Your Interests

Make a list of all the topics, subjects, and activities that fascinate you. Don’t censor yourself – include everything from coding to gardening to history. Look for patterns and themes that could point toward potential career paths.

Aligning your work with your genuine interests makes you much more likely to be in that fulfilled group.

b. Recognize Your Values

Your values are the ethical principles and standards that guide your life decisions. Maybe creativity, autonomy, and work-life balance rank highly for you. Get clear on your core values so you can find work that honors them.

c. Assess Your Skills and Strengths

What natural talents and developed abilities do you have? List them out. 

Ask friends, family, professors, and colleagues for input on your standout skills. 

Research shows that leaning into your strengths leads to greater engagement and life satisfaction.

A helpful framework is to categorize your skills into:

  • Knowledge skills (e.g. coding languages, accounting principles)
  • Transferable skills (e.g. writing, problem-solving, public speaking)
  • Self-management skills (e.g. time management, self-motivation)

d. Consider Your Personality Type

There are various models for assessing personality, and looking at yours can provide clues about ideal work environments and roles. For example, someone who is highly extroverted may prefer client-facing roles versus independent project work.

One popular assessment is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which sorts people into 16 different personality types based on factors like introversion/extroversion and thinking/feeling preferences. 

Explore Your Options

With a solid understanding of yourself, you’re ready to start investigating potential career matches. 

The goal is to get exposure to different paths and opportunities.

a. Research Different Career Paths

Thanks to the internet, you have a wealth of information at your fingertips. 

Spend time learning about careers that seem interesting or relevant based on your self-assessment:

  • Read career guides and professional association websites
  • Watch video job previews and career vlogs
  • Use online tools like the O*NET Database or CareerExplorer

Make a list of the pros, cons, educational requirements, job outlook, and salary ranges for options that appeal to you.

b. Informational Interviews

One of the best ways to learn about a career is to talk to someone working in that field. 

Reach out and request a 20-30 minute informational interview so you can ask questions and get a first-hand perspective. You can find contacts through your network, alumni associations, or platforms like LinkedIn.

Prepare questions like:

  • What do you like/dislike about this career?
  • What does a typical day or week look like?
  • How did you get started in this field?
  • What skills, experiences, or personality traits are valued?

c. Job Shadowing and Internships

To get an inside look at a career, see if you can shadow a professional for a day or two to observe them in action. You could also seek out internships that allow you to gain hands-on experience in a field. Both of these provide invaluable insight while also helping you build relevant skills.

Gain Relevant Experience

You don’t have to commit to a full degree or a new career right away. Build up experience and test-drive different paths through:

a. Part-time Jobs

Taking a part-time job in a field of interest allows you to dip your toes in without fully committing. It’s a great way to get a realistic preview.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 30% of employed people in the US work part-time. Many find it a smart way to explore options.

b. Freelancing or Consulting

The gig economy provides flexibility to take on freelance, contract or consulting work to try out different roles and industries. You can get paid while sampling various types of work.

Online platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and make it easier than ever to find freelance opportunities.

c. Volunteering

Donating your time and skills is another way to gain exposure to new areas. It’s unpaid, but you can “try on” different roles, learn new skills, and build your network – all while giving back.

d. Taking Classes

Whether it’s an online course, community college, or local workshops, continuing education allows you to build knowledge and experience in fields of interest. It’s lower risk and commitment than a full degree program.

Create a Plan

Once you’ve done your research and experimentation, it’s time to map out a game plan for moving your career in a new direction.

a. Set SMART Goals

Get clear on what you want to achieve by setting SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example: “Gain two years of marketing experience within the next three years to qualify for a Brand Manager role.”

Breaking down your broad vision into concrete goals makes it feel more manageable and motivating.

b. Build Your Network

These days, about 70-80% of jobs are found through networking rather than job boards. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with contacts on LinkedIn. An engaged network expands your opportunities.

c. Update Your Resume

Once you have a clear career target, refresh your resume to highlight relevant skills, achievements, and tailored language. Consider getting a professional resume review to ensure it’s portraying you strategically.

Take Action

With goals, a plan, and an updated resume – it’s time to go for it!

a. Apply for Jobs or Start Your Business

Put yourself out there. Search and apply for roles that match your new direction. Or take the entrepreneurial leap if your passion is to start your own business or freelance. Be proactive and persistent in the job hunt.

b. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot

Your path won’t always be linear. As you gain more experience, you may realize certain roles or industries aren’t for you after all. That’s okay – see it as new data to course correct.

91% of millennials expect to change jobs every 3 years.

c. Lifelong Learning

No matter which career you ultimately choose, keep investing in yourself through ongoing education. The workplace is rapidly evolving, and continually developing new skills keeps you adaptive and marketable.


Figuring out your ideal career is a process that requires introspection, research, and taking action. 

Start by understanding your interests, values, skills, and personality. Then explore different paths through research, information interviews, classes, and hands-on experiences like jobs or internships. 

Once you’ve narrowed your focus, create an action plan with goals, network building, and an updated resume. 

Take the leap by actively applying for roles or starting your own business. 

Be open to course-correcting, and keep learning to stay competitive throughout your career.


Q: What if I have multiple interests and can’t decide on just one career path? 

A: It’s very common to have diverse interests that could lead to different careers. Rather than choosing one path, consider how you could blend multiple passions or alternate between them over time. You could also look into roles that allow you to wear different “hats” and tap into various interests.

Q: I’m worried about the costs of additional education or training for a new field. Any advice? 

A: I understand that finances are a big consideration. Explore cost-effective options like online courses, community college programs, or, seeing if your current employer offers tuition assistance. You can also gain experience through volunteering, freelancing, or internships before investing in a full degree. Start small and look for ways to minimize costs.

Q: How can I transition to a new career if I feel “stuck” in my current job/field? 

A: Pivoting careers can feel daunting, but it’s very doable with a plan. Start building relevant skills through classes, side projects or freelance work before quitting your current role. Then tap your network for leads and introductions in your new target field. It may require a short-term side step into a different but related role before landing your ideal job.

Q: I’m worried about my age being a barrier to switching careers. Is it too late? 

A: It’s never too late to find work you’re passionate about. People reinvent themselves at all stages of life. Your experience and transferable skills are valuable assets. Own your motivations, be prepared to prove yourself, and demonstrate your commitment to continued learning in a new field.

Q: How can I evaluate if an offbeat or unconventional career path is viable? 

A: For any niche career, thoroughly research the market demand, income potential, and growth opportunities through labor data, professional association insights, and informational interviews. Test it out through freelancing before making the full leap. Crunch the numbers and have a backup revenue plan. With diligence, you can make it work.

Career Exploration Quiz

  1. When considering potential career paths, which factor is MOST important to you? a) Earning a high salary b) Having a good work-life balance c) Doing work that aligns with your values d) Career growth and advancement opportunities
  2. You’ve taken some career assessments and your top skills seem to be writing, creative thinking, and attention to detail. Which of these roles would be a good match? a) Financial analyst b) Marketing coordinator c) Computer programmer
    d) Human resources manager
  3. You’re really energized by variety in your work and tend to get bored with repetitive tasks. Which path might be most appealing? a) Accountant b) Event planner c) Operations manager
    d) Teacher
  4. After doing informational interviews, you’ve realized that one of your top criteria is working on a close-knit team in a collaborative environment. Which role typically has a more independent work style? a) Sales representative b) Graphic designer c) Project manager d) Software engineer
  5. You’ll need to get an additional certification or degree for your new career path. How prepared are you to invest in more education? a) Very prepared – education is an investment I’m willing to make b) Somewhat prepared – I’ll consider it if there are low cost options c) Unprepared – I want to minimize any additional education costs
    d) Very unprepared – I can’t afford more schooling right now

Scoring: Give yourself 5 points for every (c) answer, 3 points for (b), 1 point for (a) or (d).

20-25: You have a strong understanding of your career priorities and motivators. With this clarity, you’re well-positioned to find a fulfilling path.

10-19: You have some self-knowledge but could still benefit from deeper exploration of your interests, values and strengths to pinpoint gratifying career options.

0-9: It seems you may need more self-assessment before being able to identify viable career matches. Spend more time reflecting and researching possibilities.

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