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Confused About Your Career Path? – 16 Steps to Find the Right Career

By Casey Slide

confused businessmanI had a difficult time choosing a career path in college, and when people heard that I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living, they would give me advice. Some would say, “What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? Turn that into your career.” Others would say, “Pursue a career where you can make the most money from the least amount of work.”

While both of these statements have value, there is a more thorough way to choose a career based on your passions, values, and abilities.

If you’re confused about which career path to follow, consider these 16 tips to help you find it.

Take Action

1. Consider Your Hobbies
Before you do anything, consider what your hobbies are and write them down. Also think about why you enjoy these hobbies. If you like to bake, for example, perhaps the reason is because you like to create, and a creative career like wedding cake design would be a good fit for you.

Or if you enjoy running, maybe it’s because you like challenging yourself and working hard to achieve a goal. A career that demands and rewards hard work with pay raises, promotions, or commissions could be one to consider.

2. Visit a Career Resource Center
When I was in college, there was a huge career resource center on campus. It was similar to a library with tons of books and periodicals and was lined with computers. A student could research virtually any career imaginable. If you are a student, visit your school’s career resource center. If you are not a student, see if you can gain access to one at your local college.

3. Speak to a Career Counselor
A conversation with a career counselor may help clear your mind and point you in the right direction. He or she can also tell you about careers you had no idea even existed.

4. Take a Test
A career counselor may suggest you take a test to help discern and guide you to areas of interest. A popular test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but there are others as well. If you look for tests online, be careful. Some tests cost money and may not be completely (or even remotely) reliable. It is best to take a test under the guidance of a career counselor who can discuss the results with you.

5. Interview Professionals
If you are interested in several great careers, interview people already working in those fields. Call someone you already know in a field of interest or call local businesses and ask to do a quick phone interview. Most people are happy to discuss their day-to-day activities with a willing listener.

6. Shadow Someone
When you conduct your phone interview, ask if you can shadow someone for a day. That will give you a clear idea of what their day is like. In my previous job, I often observed hospital employees to provide operational improvement ideas. During my years with the hospital, I learned there were many jobs I would like to do and many jobs I wouldn’t. If I hadn’t observed the employees, I would never have known this.

7. Get an Internship
If you’ve shadowed someone for a day or more and still like the position, get an internship or summer job. This will give you work experience and could open the door to a future job. If your education qualifies you for a broad range of positions (e.g. a business degree), an internship may allow you to narrow down your field of opportunity and acquire skills that could be useful in different tracks as well.

8. Volunteer
If you are not positive you want to commit to an internship of several months, consider volunteering. You’ll still be exposed to the profession, but can easily leave it if you decide it’s not for you.

9. Get a Broad Education
If you are a student struggling with what to major in, aim for a broad education instead of guessing at something specific. If a flash of inspiration later reveals your career path, you can specialize in it then. For example, if you like science, but don’t know which area you want to pour your heart and soul into, don’t major in something like Cell Biology. One thing that led me to my Industrial Engineering major was that it covered a range of topics like math, business, and even sales.

10. Take a Class
While taking a class in meteorology may not tell you what it is like to be a meteorologist, you will find out whether or not you enjoy the subject. If you think you may be interested in a particular area, sign up for a class to find out for sure.

11. Go to a Networking Group
Many groups may benefit you in your career hunt. Check out a career networking group and talk to people about careers they are interested in and why. Or attend meetings that focus on particular careers, such as a group for future physical therapists. Just make sure you are allowed to crash the meeting if you are not a member.

career path supplies

Have the Right Mindset

12. Don’t Be Afraid
If you really want to find the best career for you, don’t be afraid to make phone calls and follow someone around for a day. Or make the phone calls and follow someone around in spite of your fear. You may miss out on a great career opportunity if you don’t. If certain careers intimidate you because you’d have to go back to school for them, consider what you have to gain from the investment, and look at funding options before concluding that it’s not affordable.

13. Be Open
When I was growing up, my parents always urged me to be a pharmacist. As a rebel teenager, however, there was no way I would even consider it. Being a pharmacist may have been great for me, but since I wasn’t open to the idea, I’ll never know.

14. Remember Your Values
If you would like to be involved with your family, you will not want a career that requires heavy travel. Take an honest look at your priorities and understand how or if they’ll be affected by the careers you consider. If a potential career will not allow you to live the way you want, check it off your list.

15. Don’t Settle
If you have been searching hard and continue to be confused, don’t give up and settle for something dissatisfying. That said, most of us have to work, and you may need to push through a job you hate for a while. If that’s the case, find aspects of your current job that you enjoy. See if you can move into positions that allow you to work more in those areas, or gain skills to transfer to a new job. Also discipline yourself to use downtime to follow the steps above. We’re happiest when we live up to our full potential. Even if it takes many years to find a satisfying career, it’s better late than never.

16. Switch Careers
If you make a wrong turn, you are not stuck. You can change career paths at any time. Besides, it’s normal to have several careers throughout a lifetime. Plus, many entrepreneurial people are creating independent careers out of their hobbies, education, and past work experience by starting a business.

Final Word

The more effort you put into your search for the right career, the more you’ll get out of it. Diligently invest your time and effort because change like this is rarely easy, but often rewarding.

Do you have any other ideas on finding your perfect career?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

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Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • http://onlinerookies.com Kalen

    Cool stuff Casey. I studied mechanical engineering and then got a business degree afterwards. Those were both very broad fields and even though they aren’t strongly related to what I do now I think they both help me in some way with my career in Internet marketing. I love networking and encourage anyone to make that a priority. You won’t find nearly as many career opportunities online as you do connecting with others, although everyone seems to go online these days.

    Looking forward to your next article and I enjoy reading posts from my fellow Money Crashers colleagues.

    Kalen

  • Arav

    As I am going to pass out Matric class this sesion plz let me know path to become commercial pilot

  • Vivek Manjarekar

    hi, Casey, this is one of the best articles I have read regarding career advice. I am a victim of career confusion & some wrong choices & decisions. I have been & going through a stage where I have been selected for various companies with different job profiles and still I am not sure what is the perfect career for me. Being an Indian & living in Mumbai and being from a middle class family I do not have the freedom to take risks & do volunteer/intern jobs since me & my brother have to earn for a living for a family of 4. I am an engineering graduate from reputed University with good academic records and have an average paying job in MNC headquatered in Southfield, Michigan,US. Lear Corporation. But the job profile is very much what I hate to do although the future is bright (terms of pay) if I stick to it for another 5 years. I am in a dig where I cannot afford to switch job domain cause of less pay & finding it very difficult to put my heart in the current job.

    • Casey Slide

      I am so sorry to hear that, Vivek. Take a step back by evaluating all your options, and decide if you need to create more options for yourself by going back to school or getting some additional training. Know that things will be challenging for a while until you get it all sorted out, and you may need to stay in your current job to get to where you want to be. Good luck to you!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6PX7W37TVZXPKYSYNQM4MJTXTQ peter

    Thanks a lot for writing this article because it is providing me with a little bit of encouragement.

    I am very confused about what I want to do and do not want to waste time or money dropping out of University because I attempted to get a degree I did not want.

    The problem is that I am very passionate about entertaining people, but it is not something that will cater to the kind of lifestyle that I want, as well as the fact that it is a risky business to get into without the right contacts. I tried working in kitchens because of my love of cooking, but I soon realized that cooking to escape and cooking to keep a business alive are two different things.

    It is frustrating because I would be fine with a career that will help me provide for a small family and let me have weekends and holidays off. I really am not asking for fancy cars, a mansion or anything, just to find a career that will challenge me once in a while and let me go home with peace of mind.

    As mentioned before, I do not have that much money to just hop into something and leave halfway, so I am trying to figure out something that compliments my strengths without going completely crazy!

    • Casey Slide

      I think you have the right attitude about this and are realistic about the challenges that go along with finding a career. I think your best bet would be to start talking to people to hear about what they do and perhaps even doing some shadowing. It may seem weird, but at least you wouldn’t waste time or money going in the wrong direction. It would allow you to learn about various possible career avenues and what life is really like in that profession. Good luck to you, Peter!

  • Aggy

    dear casey,i am indeed motivated by your article but my problem is this,there is this career am so passionate about but whenever i do the exams i fail.i am in fear of choosing another career because i think the same will happen.what do i do?

    • Casey Slide

      Aggy, I am sure that is a common problem. It can be difficult to pick a career when there is nothing that stands out as a passion. Instead of thinking about what you are passionate about, think of what you find interesting, and then see if you can shadow someone in that area. For example, it you think animals are interesting, even if you are not passionate about them, consider shadowing a vet or vet tech to see if you would like that job. There may never be a job that you are excited to be doing every day, but there are probably jobs you would like if you gave them a chance. Good luck!

  • fay

    Im a pharmacist, trust me, you haven’t missed out on anything by not studying pharmacy. You actually made a great decision. Im looking at changing careers but unsure what to go into!!

    • Casey Slide

      With being a pharmacist, you probably have plenty of choices. With your knowledge of biology, chemistry, and the medical field, you’ll be able to find a good fit for yourself.

  • fay

    Im a pharmacist, trust me, you haven’t missed out on anything by not studying pharmacy. You actually made a great decision. Im looking at changing careers but unsure what to go into!!

  • fay

    Im a pharmacist, trust me, you haven’t missed out on anything by not studying pharmacy. You actually made a great decision. Im looking at changing careers but unsure what to go into!!

  • Sojitra Ravi

    Hi Casey, Actually i am in trouble. I cant decide one career. i am interested in Computers field but i dont know which will be perfect for me.I had choice of IT and CS but i dont know which will be good in future. Their job requirements, Their demands in out country..etc. Please Guide me……..

    • Casey Slide

      Both IT and CS are great career fields, and you really can’t go wrong with either one. Considering how well technology continues to advance, you should have no problem finding a job. It really comes down to personal preference. If I were in your shoes, I would talk to people who took one of those paths and find out what daily work life is like. You may even want to shadow them for a day. Making a list of pros and cons is always helpful. Good luck!

  • Nivi

    which engineering requires spatial, numerical and reasoning ability?

    • Casey Slide

      All of them! I am not sure there is one in particular that has more focus on those than the other. Industrial engineering focuses more on mathematics than the others during college.

  • Tarynw

    Hey Casey, I’m glad I found this article. I am definitely going to look at this. BUT some of your advice could help me get idea of what I must do.

    I am stuck between 3 completely different careers, and I have to make a decision soon because next year i have to start studying because I am 23 already and really want to start full-filling my life. One thing you should know why I am so confused in what i must choose is because I have a hearing problem, I do wear hearing aids and can hear people and talk to any normal person but where i get stuck if talking over cellphone to a person with a foreign voice, can be extremely difficult at times. Also I only have enough money saved to study one career, i cant later on change my choice.

    Career choice one, is Interior Designing, I like the idea of designing and creating a space. I am a very creative person and extremely neat and organised as well as a perfectionist. Its a very expensive career which worries me a bit. and also that you have to constantly call people for meetings and suppliers etc. I know that you get paid a lot in this kind of field which is a added bonus but not many jobs are available in this field.

    Career choice two, is Beauty Therapist. I love beauty products, being healthy and looking clean and refreshing. This is why I like beauty. I think I would love to have my own spa one day. The whole calming setting attracts me. As well for my hearing problem it is a added bonus because you talk to clients face to face. You dont earn a lot of money. and there are plenty of jobs available. Two things that puts me off, is maybe clients that are like really dirty with fungus growing on their feet and i have to give them a pedicure :-/ and the waxing part, I cant handle pain and i know if you go study beauty people practice on each other and waxing is painful!

    Career Choice three, is Chef. I love cooking, I love to try new things at home, new recipe ideas, i love to watch the food channel and learn more about baking and cooking. But i cant see myself working in a industrial kitchen pealing 50 potatoes a day. And in my country chefs are very rude and scream at each other and im a very sensitive person. also the extreme long odd hours puts me off as well. and the pay is extremely low, you cant support yourself living off a salary like that. so i am confused about people asking me always what are my interest and hobbies and turn that into a career because cooking i love but not sure if it will fit into a career.

    These three things are what my family and friends says I should do. But choosing one is a very tough decision for me. I’ve been jumping around these three choices.

    Please help me, I need your advice, my family advice is just making me more confused.

    • Casey Slide

      Well I can’t tell you which one to choose. Only you can make that decision. However, if I were you, I would do two things. #1 – Make a list of pros and cons for each career path. Sometimes writing everything out makes the answer more clear. #2 – I’d find a local interior designer, a beauty therapist, and a chef, and ask to interview them and shadow them. Most people love to talk about themselves so finding someone shouldn’t be a problem, but you may have to step outside of your comfort-zone to do so. But if you spend time doing these two things, you’ll have so much more confidence when you make your decision. Good luck!

  • Parivendan

    Hi Casey,

    My parents want me to become a physician but I’m not exactly sure if that is the profession for me. I am interested in sciences, particularly environmental aspects of it. I’m very strong at my science skills also. Also, I enjoy movies and the making process of it. My creativity enjoys making movies. However, I do not know what profession I should do that would also have a good job security.

    • Casey Slide

      Check to see if your school has a career resource center where you can do some research. Even if you don’t want to be a physician, the medical field is really booming right now, and there is great job security in it. Also consider engineering. If you are a creative person, you’ll be able to exercise that within engineering and design. Good luck!

  • Subhashree

    Hi! Casey,
    You have written great article. I will try some of the tips that you have suggested here. But still I am confused. I have got two master’s degrees. One in English and American literature and Other I have done MBA from London. Now, I got married and I am in USA. I am dwelling in two subjects. My hobby is to teach and I have nearly 5 years of experience in teaching from my country. I am looking forward to take career as a teacher and I do write articles sometime as a hobby. But I am not sure whether it is good from me as I am from Asia and the English accent is not as good as the people from Here. Does this matter in the career? With regard to MBA, I have specialise in Human Resource Management and it is also a quite interesting subject for me. Please, suggest me which one could be better?

    • Casey Slide

      Without knowing you personally, I can’t say which one I think would be better for you and which one you would enjoy more. I suggest making a list of pros and cons for both of them. Sometimes writing everything down and then comparing makes the answer more simple. Good luck!

  • Rachel

    Hey Casey, I’m just finishing high school and I’m very confused. I really enjoy being creative, like I’m really happiest painting tshirts, or making lamps. But I’ve always been interested in medicine. Now as the studying gets harder I’m not really sure i want to do it anymore. I also enjoy working with people and movies. Please help!

    • Casey Slide

      You are very young if you are just finishing up high school so I would not be too stressed out over what you plan to do as a career. If you are headed off to college in the fall, take general courses for now and see where they lead you. At the same time, visit your career resource center or talk to a guidance counselor about your options. Then follow the advice given in this article.

  • Nepal

    Hi Casey,
    I am an international student from Nepal and currently working in New zealand since last 2 years. As an international student i started working whatever i could get for my living and study. I started as a kitchen hand and now am doing a chef training in hotel. Though i am doing good and my chef is happy with my work but still i feel this was not i wanted to be in my life. My parents work in a social organization and i have a great influence of my parents being happy in helping others and working for a community people. I always aimed to be the same but while applying for an abroad study i couldn’t take a risk in those sectors because of job security as i also need to support my family financially and its not that easy to get such jobs in here. Can you please suggest me a right way , what and when would be a better option so that i can reach to my goal and aim in life??

    • Casey Slide

      Hi Nepal – Like I have said to many of the people who have commented, I don’t know you personally so it is impractical for me to give you personal advise. Instead, I would suggest you make a list of all your options, and write down all the pros and cons for each option. That should help you narrow things down a bit if not point you in the right direction. Good luck!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, your steps are great and provide ample amount of guidance to help one in choosing a wise career path. I’ve still hit a brick wall. I’m coming to an end in my Military career with the Marine Corps and frankly, I’m scared. I’ve seen many “PROFESSIONAL AND EXPERIENCED CAREER COUNSILORS” provided by the government, i get the same round about answers. They tell me to do what best suits my abilities and interests. Problem is, i wouldnt know what my abilities are exactly. Maybe its modest but, i dont feel right to judge my own abilities, i feel that a 3rd party perspective would be able to give more insight. I dont have many interests and those interests i do whave, i dont have any desire in what entails nor the skills required. From the comments ive read, youre very particular with what you say and how you say it, which is admirable. you speak well and know just what to tell people without telling how to do exactly, Influencing a kind of self fufIllIng profecy. i was hoping you could provide me with a more broad spectrum on how to analyze and assess my situation to Influence me down the rIght path. ive tried many pros and cons spread sheets to no avail. ive taken the time to research my interests deeply with no promising results. i no longer wish to pursue the career which i currently am.

    • Casey Slide

      Instead of talking to professional career counselors, what about talking to friends and family that know you better? They could make a list of your abilities for you. Good luck!

  • priya

    iam priya iam doing my bca in vivekanandha college,the college is too worst ,now a days it faces severe problem i think it will loose its place,i will prepare every day for my forth coming placement , very much eager to get selected in that but on considering our college status i think it will not happen so i have to do my PG will you plz suggest me whether mca or mba is better and suggest me the college with fees structure that suits middle class family, plz i request you i have to get a good job i have to make my family happy

    • Casey Slide

      Priya – I am not an expert on college programs so it might be best if you did some research online yourself. I am sorry, but this doesn’t sound like something I can help you with. Good luck!

      • priya

        Hi…thanks to u although it dnt sounds good,u rained my crop.

  • amit

    hi, i have completed hotel management last yr (2011).But i dont want to work in hotels sm how. and i hv wrkd with call centres but even though, i dont like that work as well but its a good place to make money.I love to make paintings and i really enjoy this work but if i will go 4 sm painting course then it will gonna waste sm more time and money .I m trying for a job in retail but consfused abot that thing as well………………….please ……….help me out

    • Casey Slide

      I am sorry to hear that you are having a hard time with which direction to take. But like I have said to many of the people who have commented, I can not give you the answer because I don’t know you personally. I recommend you make a list of pros and cons to help you gain more direction in addition to the tips above. Good luck!

    • Casey Slide

      I am sorry to hear that you are having a hard time with which direction to take. But like I have said to many of the people who have commented, I can not give you the answer because I don’t know you personally. I recommend you make a list of pros and cons to help you gain more direction in addition to the tips above. Good luck!

  • panky

    hi casey i am panky from new Delhi….. i have completed my 12th in 2008….from then till now…i am doing nothing just spending my parents money…but now its too difficult and being pressurized from my parents, they , now not giving me money…instead of my last 4 years i used to do marketing research and organize parties in clubs…but that also now been ruined ….please suggest me ideas related to event management / real estate / or anything which is valuable for money.

    • Casey Slide

      I am not an career counselor nor do I specialize in your areas of interest. I suggest you speak to a career counselor or someone who would be more qualified to assist you with those career paths. Good luck!

  • Gunidiya Gaurav

    hi casey i am gaurav saini from jaipur ,rajsthan i am pursuing my b.tech from vit campus ,jaipur in electronics and communication branch i am confused between my studies actually its embedded system or linux-rhce or rhcsa so which one is best for me so please help…………..?

  • rahul

    Hi ,
    I am in problem of confusion and blank head it from long duration since from Education till job i have decided to become a business man but after completing PG in MBA Marketing i joined Pharma company as MR which i hate even today then also following it may be due to easy way .If i try to move out from it i see no idea or other job in any other industry ,want to start business but which business because
    no idea i am having in my mind this disease i am suffering can you guide how i can over come from it .
    Thank you.

  • ppati

    hi this is ppati.I am a mechanical engineer.right now i am working as fabrication engineer at a work shop.its a low paid job.whether i should change my job or not i am confused.
    regards
    ppati

  • tanya

    i m vry much confussed abut wat to adopt for future nt able to select ny course plzzzz help me..

    • vishal

      u got a way

  • Beth

    CareerQA is an online tool that helps you decide what you should choose as a career path before you start college.

  • rohith

    hi ,i was forced to do my engineering some how i completed but now im confused with mba or taking career as a cabin crew(flight attendent)as im intrested in traveling and staying independently but ppl around me are saying that cabin crew career is not good for guys as you cant gain more experiance or even money. my career will not last in this field is it true.but when i see the male cabin crews walking at the airport i get exited my paasion wakes up please help.

  • Karim

    I am already in a kind of study that i am realy not interested in it i am currently studying business administration but i failed 3 times and i am currently struggling with my fourth try and i dont know if i would manage it , i always wanted to join the special forces but in my country wasn’t allowed due to my dual nationality so i am tryin to find something else but there is no other options to me except business so i dont know what to do

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