Figuring out your career path can get overwhelming. While you watch others find their way in the world, you continue to wonder for yourself. There are so many options and paths to take that it can feel like you’ll never find the one that’s right for you.
So how can you determine your career path or figure out which direction to head? To help point you on the right track, we asked 11 professionals to share their insights on finding a career path.
Know That Career Pathing Is a Powerful Tool
Employees can no longer expect to follow a vertical path to the top of the company, which is why career pathing is such a powerful tool.
Be self-aware. Take an assessment of the skills and talents that you already have, then consider which area you would like to be stronger in.
Create a plan that will help you understand the path you need to take. For example, If you work in advertising and want to be a major account executive one day, be aware of the different jobs you will need to hold to get there. This could include starting as an advertising account coordinator, then moving to assistant account executive, then to the major account executive position.
Write it down. Goals become more real if they are on paper. Moreover, it will give you the chance to review it and change it if needed.
Stay flexible. As you work along your career path, stay aware of different opportunities that come your way. Consider how these opportunities could fit into your path and lead you to the dream job you want to have.
Jamie Schneiderman, Career Spark
Conduct Informational Interviews
Post college, I bought an RV. In that RV I traveled 16,000 miles, went to 38 states and interviewed more than 300 people about their career path. I stepped foot in different workplaces, explored all curiosities and discovered which lifestyles most resembled my aspirations. Informational interviews provided me with career clarity, and I’d highly recommend them as a way to discover what career paths may be right for you. In 30 minutes, you’re able to discover whether a career fits you, or if it doesn’t. Interviews are much lower-risk activity than accepting a job and hoping that it’s the right decision. Try it before you buy it. It’s good advice for the RV I purchased, but also for career paths.
Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
Go on a Listening Tour
I fell onto my current career path when I was laid off on Election Day in 2000. Corporate America did me the biggest favor of my life by kicking me out of the conventional work system! For the next 5 years, I experimented with a variety of different ways of working. I eventually decided to work as a solopreneur. I feel in love with working on my terms as a freelancer, consultant and eventual founder of a training business.
For anyone figuring out their career path, I strongly recommend meeting new people and listening to their stories about why they do the work they do. Challenge yourself to go on a “listening tour”. Make a list of 20 people you’d like to learn from over the next 30 days and you will gain insights into the work you really want to do that have eluded you.
Stephen Warley, Life Skills That Matter
Discover the Overlap
Most people say that when finding your career path, you should follow your passion. While this is ideal, there may not be a job that exists for the thing you are most passionate about. What you should try to do instead is find overlap between what you are good at, what companies need and what you like to do.
Pete Newstrom, Arrow Lift
Combine What You Love and What You’re Good At
Combine what you’re good at with something you love and find a career that utilizes both. It’s important that you have both criteria rather than one or the other because possessing just one will only partially satisfy you. Doing something you love won’t last long if you’re not very good at it, and doing something you’re good at will be a bore if you don’t love doing it.
Rex Murphy, American Pipeline Solutions
Keep Building Your Skills and Insights
Absolutely nobody should follow my career path. I started as a professional chef, became a lawyer and then abandoned it all to open restaurants then join the startup world. I’ve freelanced, bootstrapped and adventured along the way; in a very roundabout path, I became CEO of a medium sized enterprise. If your 20s are as indecisive as mine were, then consider this: your contribution to the workforce is the sum of your skills and insights. Keep building skills, and a path will start to emerge before you.
Michael Alexis, Teambuilding
Keep an Eye on Opportunities That Come and Go
I fell into what I am doing now, kind of by accident. I wanted in the healthcare space because all of the research I’d done had shown that it was going to be a booming field for 30+ years. Then I had to buy part of a medical transcription company in order to get into the space because no one would hire without any experience in the medical industry. I then ended up spinning off my own full service transcription company because of technological changes happening within the healthcare industry.
There is no right path for someone in my opinion. Do your best at whatever job you have and keep an eye on opportunities that come and go. When you see one you’re interested in, take it and don’t let it slip away. Always make sure you are doing the absolute best you can at everything you do and good things will happen to you.
Ben Walker, Transcription Outsourcing, LLC
Adapt to the Curveballs
As an online merchant, I was confronted with an unexpected challenge that nearly ruined my business: chargebacks. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I developed a strategy to solve the problem and became an expert in the payments industry. My advice for those looking to find a career path is to do the hard work and be adaptable to the unexpected curve balls life will throw at you. You can’t always plan for everything, but it’s often during moments of hardship that open up new opportunities and really prove to us what is most important.
Monica Eaton-Cardone, Chargebacks911
Clarify What You Want and How to Get There
Finding a career path was an iterative process of clarifying where I wanted to get at and the best and most fulfilling way to get there. Early on, I developed an aspiration to lead a product-driven organization. But then, rather than aiming directly at that goal, by starting a company, for example, I took the longer route.
I’m a person who needs to know the ins and outs of a domain to be effective as a leader. My area of choice was technology, and thus I graduated as a software engineer. I then worked for a while in the industry and later made a shift to product management. My motto is to focus on what I’m most passionate about, strive to improve every day and take calculated career bets to push toward my career goal.
Yaniv Gilad, Listory
Just Start Trying Stuff
I tried a lot of different things – retail service, cleaning office buildings, admin work, event management, sales, and through those experiences I discovered my passions, interests and aptitudes. Those eventually led me to graphic design and specifically managing and growing teams of creatives. Today I get to utilize all of those experiences and skills as I continue to grow my own 11-year-old award winning creative agency.
For anyone looking to find a career path: start trying stuff. Don’t be held back, waiting for ‘just the right job’. Everything you try will teach you more about what you’re good at, what really gets you going and where you can best apply your talents and skills in service of others.
Mike Jones, Resound
Test Things as Private Projects
Technology is always changing and sometimes even magic and that is what attracted me to it. There are always new opportunities to improve within the field, especially when it comes to data management as there are so many possible ways to do it. Play around and test things as private projects. That is my tip, as well. Look for careers and opportunities that will allow you to continue learning and growing and offer many different tasks. When you become stuck in one stage, the work becomes tedious and uninteresting.
Dr. Marc M. Batschkus, Archiware