Your career has a big impact on your future. It will shape your identity, personal fulfillment, lifestyle, income, family, and retirement. Don’t let the opinions or expectations of others sway your decision-making. Ultimately, choosing a career is solely down to you.
In this article we explain how to decide on a future job, what questions to ask yourself when choosing a career and what factors to consider when weighing up the options so that you make the best informed decision for your future.
Choosing a career in 4 easy steps
Choosing a career can be categorized into 4 steps that are easy to accomplish in a matter of hours.
- The first pertains to self-reflection;
- The second step involves assessing your current skills and education;
- The third step involves setting the criteria for your job search based on what kind of lifestyle you want a career to give you;
- The last step is looking at what positions are available in the current employment market and how that can fit in with the desires and needs realized in the prior steps.
It's important to remember that you can change your career path at any age and at any time of life. It's never too late for a change in direction, upskilling or re-skilling in a related or completely different field. Anything is possible!
Things to do when you can't decide on a career
It can be frustrating when you haven't landed on a solid career path which is holding you back from taking action towards reaching it. This is common and it has a name - decision paralysis - this phenomenon occurs when you have multiple options with different outcomes that are difficult to compare to one another. When tasks feel too complex and overwhelming, it's more psychologically comforting to do nothing at all.
What can you do to overcome decision paralysis?
- Implement a decision-making framework (like the 10 questions below!)
- Don't consider too many options at once
- Set yourself deadlines
- Use data
- Get a second opinion
- Accept that mistakes happen and there may not be a perfect decision
In addition to the 10 questions below which will help you gain a better understanding of your perfect career path, the Ikigai framework might also be helpful to you. Ikigai is the concept of seeking a deeper understanding of what motivates you.
An Ikigai chart is essentially a complex Venn diagram, where you categorise four aspects of your life: passion, skills, contribution, and world view. The middle intersection of these four key components is where you will find your ikigai.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
Interests, Values & Personality traits
1. What are my interests?
The activities you enjoy doing in your free time can give you insights into careers that would be satisfying and fulfilling for you. To figure out your interests, ask yourself:
- What hobbies do I enjoy?
- Do I prefer spending time indoors or outdoors?
- Do I enjoy working with people, animals, data, or, books?
- What activities would I miss the most if I could no longer do them?
2. What are my values?
Everyone has values or things that are important to them, such as financial security, social justice, or work-life balance. These values can help you decide what type of career to pursue. Here for instance, consider a job that pays well if you value financial security, and consider the type of hours you'd like to work to achieve work-life balance and what career may offer that to you.
To kickstart your career exploration, take some time to envision your future. Jot down a list of your top priorities and aspirations to guide you on the path towards finding the perfect career fit. Envision what you would like your life to look like in 20, 30 and 40 year's time. This will help you establish your personal goals and guide you towards a career that can help you achieve them.
3. What is my personality?
Your personality is the way you think, feel, and behave. It can be an important factor in guiding you toward a specific career, so consider several aspects of your personality as you reflect on your future.
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
- Do you prefer to cooperate or compete with others?
- Do you enjoy helping others or prefer to empower them to do things themselves?
- Are you a thinker who focuses on ideas or are you a doer who takes action?
- Are you a creative and artistic person or do you thrive with structure and routine?
Skills, Attributes & Education
4. What are my skills?
Right now, you already possess skills that can help you succeed in the future. Think about your hard skills and soft skills.
- Hard skills - skills you’ve acquired through study, such as culinary arts or computer programming.
- Soft skills - the people and life skills you possess, including empathy, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management.
Remember, skills can be developed and new skills can be learned at any stage of life, so don't let a lack of skills put you off a certain career path. Let the existing skills you have guide you. Whether you require further skill development or not will be the next challenge.
5. What are my talents and strengths?
From childhood, you have demonstrated talents and strengths that make you unique, these qualities can help you succeed in your chosen career. In fact, Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element, Out of Our Minds, says that:
You owe it to yourself to ensure that there’s some part of your day or week when you’re doing what comes most naturally to you and makes you feel at your most centered and authentic.
If you don't know your talents and strengths, make a list of everything you’re good at doing. Your family members, friends, teachers, boss, and mentors can help you write this list that you will use to narrow down potential careers.
6. What education or training do I need?
Certain careers require advanced education and financial investment. For example, you may need eight to 12 years of education and training to be a doctor, but you could earn a hospitality management bachelor in four years. Think about the time and money required to pursue a career as you make your decision.
If you already have these hard skills but feel as though you are missing a piece of the puzzle, soft skills such as effective communication, are highly sought after in leadership positions in the hospitality industry. Skills such as communication, leadership, critical thinking, organization, follow through, cultural competency, flexibility, and customer service, just to name a few.
According to Daniel Ciapponi, a Senior Lecturer at EHL, these soft skills are currently missing in hospitality in what he describes as a Skills Gap. Therefore, developing and honing these skills will give any candidate a competitive edge.
As a general rule, although there are exceptions, the higher the salary bracket, the higher the education level is required. However, any career path is worthy of such time and financial investment, but you have to decide whether it is worth it to you.
Salary & Lifestyle
7. How much money do I want to make?
Different careers provide different monetary rewards. Even though salary shouldn’t be the main factor in choosing a career, your paycheck can play a role in your quality of life and where you live. Consider your earning potential and how important salary is to you as you narrow down your career options.
8. Where do I want to live?
Some jobs are more readily accessible while others can only be performed in certain locations. For example, you will probably need to live in a rural location if you choose to work as a park ranger or farmer, and you may want to live near an urban area if you plan to pursue a finance or fashion career. Plan carefully to ensure you can work where you want to live - and vice versa.
Availability & Competition
9. Are there jobs available in this career?
LinkedIn publishes stats on the most in-demand jobs globally, for a number of years demand for software personnel has dominated the list however LinkedIn are reporting a shift towards customer-facing roles.
Many of these positions, such as retail salesperson, store manager, and cashier, require face-to-face interactions, reflecting the current trend of customer service as a highly sought-after skill and the increased value placed on in-person work post-pandemic. Cashiers, in particular, may experience a surge in demand as more people push back against self-checkout technology.
People with customer service skills might also want to consider a career in the hospitality sector. The labor shortage in the hospitality industry inflicted by fluctuations in demand and poor staff retention rates in a historically undesirable sector seems to be turning around.
Whilst the industry is desperately trying to attract new talent to the industry to plug the shortfall, it presents a perfect opportunity for young graduates to bag themselves better working conditions such as work-life balance, paid leave and higher salaries.
While you don’t have to work in one of these popular occupations, you should consider the potential job availability in your future career field. The travel and tourism sector is estimated to reach revenue of US$927.30bn in 2024 supported by 430 million jobs in 2023.
Another trend is the demand for healthcare professionals, ranging from carers to sonographers, it's clear the need for those with an affinity for hospitality and the desire to help others is on the up.
10. How competitive is this career path?
Choosing a competitive career path isn't to be automatically shunned. A career path which is competitive by nature means there must be a rich reward for those who are successful in attaining the post and therefore it is a worthwhile pursuit.
You must, however, weigh up the risk vs reward. Are you prepared to accept rejection and failure countless times before you're accepted? Are you prepared to jump through as many hoops as required to reach this goal, such as further education, gaining internships and real-world work experience, and often extensive application and interview processes? If the answer is yes, then you probably have what it takes!
Over to you to choose the right career path for you!
By gaining insight into your interests, values, personality traits, skills, talents, and education requirements, you have taken a significant step towards finding a career path that aligns with your true self. Armed with this newfound self-awareness, you are now equipped to navigate the vast sea of possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead.
Embrace the clarity that comes from self-reflection and introspection, for it is the key to unlocking your full potential. With some audacity and ambition, you can boldly chart a course towards a future that is as fulfilling as it is rewarding. Remember, the journey to finding the perfect career is a personal one, and only you can determine the path that is right for you. The future is yours!