Do you have doubts about the career path you chose? Are you having trouble choosing a career path? You’re not alone: Many people have a hard time choosing a career path or have doubts about the wisdom of their choice later down the line. The Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report in August 2019 that showed even Baby Boomers had trouble picking a career.
The report, “Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey” showed:
- Those born between 1957 and 1964, held an average of 12.3 jobs from the time they turned 18 through age 52.
- Almost half of those jobs were held before the age of 24.
- Thirty-six percent of jobs started by those aged 35 to 44 lasted less than a year.
- Seventy-five percent of those jobs in the same age group lasted less than five years.
- People in the survey—the same individuals were surveyed over 37 years—worked an average of 78 percent of the weeks from the time they turned 18 years old until they were 52 years old.
When you choose a major, look at all of the pros and cons, and then ask yourself: Can you see yourself working in that profession in 15 years? If so, where would you want to be in that profession? Look at the kind of advancement opportunities available for your chosen major while deciding on a career path. When you do choose a major, make sure you can use it as a stepping stone for different but similar careers. Or, choose a major that will help you climb the ladder quicker.
How to Decide on a Career Path
When you are figuring out how to choose a career path, you should consider several things, especially whether you think you could do a specific line of work for many years.
Choose a Career You Have a Strong Passion For
What type of work can you get lost in? What do you feel strongly about? What could you do every day and not get tired of it? List the activities you do that you love to spend time on. For example, if you love to watch crime dramas, or you enjoy researching legal issues, you might enjoy working as a legal assistant or paralegal. If you loved biology in high school, you might satisfy your passion by becoming a doctor. If you can’t get enough of professional sports, you might go into sports management. Or, if you can never seem to find enough time to ride your horses, you might look at a degree in equine studies or even as a veterinarian.
Know Your Strengths
While you can learn how to do something new, it’s much easier if you know what your strengths are. If you are great at math, you might choose a career in programming or science. If you are a logical thinker and will spend hours crafting a logical response, you might want to look at legal careers. If your forte is being able to create budgets or you love financial analysis, you might consider a degree in accounting or another finance degree.
Choose a Career That Fits Your Personality
How well do you know yourself? If you are not sure whether you are introverted or you are an extrovert, if you use senses or intuition to interpret situations, if you make decisions based on thinking or feeling, and if you are open to new information or not, you should take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory.
This test will help you determine whether you would be a good fit for certain professions when you are researching how to choose the right career. If you are empathetic and compassionate, you might look at a medical degree. However, if you are introverted, you might not be happy in a profession that requires you to be outgoing, such as sales or a legal profession where you have to speak in front of people often. (Certain legal professions allow you to meet clients one-on-one, and you rarely go to court—which means you rarely have to speak in front of others.) And, if you’re an introvert, you might not do well in a career that has a loud environment or that has a lot of public contact.
Know What the Deal-Breakers Are
Certain professions require long hours. Others don’t require you to invest long hours, but may have other cons, such as difficulty finding work certain times of the year or requiring you to sit for many hours. Once you think you might have found the perfect profession, think about what you would do in a job in that profession. If you don’t mind long hours, then go for the medical degree or the law degree. If you prefer regular 8-hour days, you might consider becoming an architect or accountant, though accountants often have to work more than eight hours during tax time.
Traveling and Schedule Changes
Do you like to travel? If so, look for a career path that allows you to travel. Going into politics or certain law enforcement careers may require travel. If you prefer a set schedule because it’s easier to plan your personal life around a set schedule, then look at career paths that offer typical working hours, such as the legal profession or an accountant.
How flexible do you need to be? Some people can do the same job day in and day out, and prefer that. Others prefer a career that offers the flexibility of working different hours, whether the hours are late at night or during the day. Medical professionals often have to work different shifts instead of a set shift. Law enforcement also has areas that allow you to work different shifts.
Some people just want to help others, so they might go into politics or some other form of civil service. Others have the American Dream firmly entrenched in their minds and would do better to look at a career path that allows for extensive advancement or a major that helps when you want to start a business. Real estate, the legal profession, accounting, business and administrative law, and many others are a step up the ladder to a high-level corporate position or business ownership.
Most people want excellent benefits, especially those that plan on raising a family. While most careers offer benefits, some do not—and some offer better benefits than others. When researching a career path, check benefit packages in different professions. Some things to take into consideration include:
- The size of most companies in the profession. The Family and Medical Leave Act applies to public companies and private companies with more than 50 employees.
- Some companies offer matching retirement contributions.
- Many have a health insurance program.
When choosing a career, benefit consideration matters. After all, some jobs just don’t offer extensive benefits. If you plan on working for yourself or if you plan on working in a field such as real estate, which uses independent contractors, you may have to pay out of pocket for benefits, and you may not get benefits afforded to larger companies, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Whether you choose a location and then a career path or vice versa, you should look to see what your chosen profession’s average salary is in that location. That could be a deal-breaker for some people. For example, the average salary for a legal assistant—across the United States—is $51,740 per year. However, when you look at the individual states, there is quite a discrepancy in salaries. The salary for a legal assistant in California averages $61,800. If you were to go into this profession in Arkansas, the average salary is $37,500.
Many people do not take boredom into consideration when they choose a profession. Though boredom is not the only reason people might change professions later in life, it often plays a part in many career change decisions. People could find professions boring for many reasons, including:
- Advancement does not exist or is very slow due to limited opportunities.
- You are performing the same demanding tasks every day, which can lead to burnout.
- You are being held back by a supervisor, boss, or company owner because he or she is promoting friends and relatives. This is more likely to happen if you work for a small, family-owned company with little room for advancement because of limited positions.
- Your co-workers and bosses do not foster a team atmosphere, so everyone feels as if they should stay in their own cubby/office and not help others.
- And the list goes on.
You can help combat the boredom problem by choosing a career path that provides for plenty of changes, whether it is traveling, schedule changes, or advancement. Or you can choose a profession that offers different work. For example, a real estate agent sees different homes and people all the time. A legal assistant works on cases with different facts. It’s hard to get bored in these types of positions.
Go With the Flow
Choosing a major might seem difficult, but if you look at the various aspects of it and research different professions before you choose, you can use your major as a stepping stone to get to ultimate goals in your life. And, never forget, you can always change your career later in life.
Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.