You’re in college and having second thoughts about your career choice; you’re in the workforce but hate the job for which you have been trained; you’re midway through your work life, and your work is no longer fulfilling. What do you do? Fortunately, this is really O.K. Job forecasters tell us that the average stay in one position for Millennials is 1 ½ year, and that changing jobs frequently is no longer a “black mark.” Further, they state that many of those, ages 18-34, will not just change jobs but will change careers 3-4 times in their lives. The question then becomes, what career should I pursue? Here are 9 things that you can do to find out what you should do next.
1. What things do you do or read about that really excite you? More than one person has turned what began as a hobby into a career, including Bill Gates. Ask yourself another question: Is there some kind of job that you like so much you would do it for free? Make a list of these things. You will be using it later as you go through the rest of the items on this list.
2. What are you good at? Make a list of these things too. Include both “hard” skills (math, writing, science, etc.) and “soft” skills (getting along with diverse people, being a good team member, leadership, etc.). If you see any crossovers between list #1 and list #2, then you may be on to something. But don’t stop yet.
3. Take a career inventory test. There’s are plenty out there, and most are really quite good. You will answer a long list of questions, and you will get a report on your basic personality and preferences (outgoing, introverted, hands-on or not, etc.). Then you will be given a long list of potential careers that will be fit for your personality and your preferences. If you took one in high school and haven’t taken one since now is a good time to do this. You can even find a bunch of them on About.com – it’s a job search site.
4. If you are still in college or a very recent graduate, apply for an internship based upon your lists or your career inventory tests. Even mid-career people, who have either lost or left their jobs are getting into the act on this one if they can afford to do it. And for these older career pros, an internship is a great thing to do before sinking money into going back to school. If there are no internships available, ask if you can just volunteer a day a week or so. Just being in the environment might let you know if a specific career will excite you.
5. Take a Look at Unusual Careers: You won’t find these listed in normal career handbooks and materials. All you will find there are the typical accountant, teacher, nurse, business administrator, science researcher, musician, and so on. If you feel that the normal careers would bore you, then break out. There are some sources for this – the Bureau of Labor Statistics has an occupational handbook that is huge – you’ll find unusual careers in it. You can also Google the term “unusual careers” and find hundreds of sites that list them.
6. Talk to people in careers you might be considering. There is only so much information you can get from reading about a career. One college student who was really anxious about a career choice got a bit creative. He had his options narrowed down to 4, but still wasn’t sure. So, he found 4 companies that had positions in his options, called up, and asked for the person in that position. He then explained that he was doing a research project and would like to interview the individual. He got the interviews – every single one – and he got first-hand information.
7. Use the G + P + V = Career formula. You may not have heard of this formula, but an amazing number of career coaches are now using it. G stands for “gift,” or what you are just naturally really good at; P stands for “passion,” or what really excites you; and V stands for “Values,” or your criteria for a career or workplace that does not compromise those values. Suppose, for example, you are like a growing number of Millennials who now believe that the workplace should be very different – then you should have the flexibility of hours, be able to work remotely when appropriate, and should be judged by productivity, not by the number of hours on the job. If you don’t want to compromise those values, then that will impact your career choices. So, look at those two lists again, for what you are good at, what really excites you, and what careers will not compromise those basic principles you have.
8. View Your Career as Only the first Step. What career might you choose now that, as you continue to grow professionally, would allow you to move into other careers that might become more interesting and exciting in the future? You need to know that you do not have to be “stuck” in something you hate or in which there is not the kind of future you want.
9. Make a Plan: Once you have made your selection, make an action plan. What steps do you need to take to get there? Do you need to change your major? So you need to do some self-education on becoming an entrepreneur? If you are an accountant and your dream is to own your own restaurant and feature your grandmother’s recipes, how will you make this transition?
There is a freedom in knowing that the career you choose today does not have to be the career you may want in 10 years. Such changes are totally acceptable and may, in fact, become necessary.