What Career Is Right For Me: Knowing Yourself And Your Options

By Nicole Beasley |Updated July 11, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Rashonda Douthit , LCSW

Narrowing Down Your Career Choices Can Be A Difficult Process

Starting a new career is exciting and sometimes a little intimidating. Whether you're preparing for your first job or making a midlife career change, the first question to answer is "What career is right for me?" You probably won't find a satisfying answer until you know who you are. Once you understand yourself, know where you started and where you are on your journey, you can move on to exploring possible careers as a good fit for you.

Know Yourself First

What does it mean to know yourself? If you examine your innermost qualities, your skills and talents, and where your passion lies, you'll probably find a very complex answer to that question. The result is worth the effort it takes to arrive at that conclusion. It can help you immensely whenever you're thinking "I don't know what career I want."

Identify Your Skills and Talents

Chances are, you already have job skills and talents. You can find them by examining your past school work, job experiences, hobbies, and interpersonal relationships. How do you do it? You can start with a period of reflection. Talking to a counselor can help you reflect on past successes and identify the strengths that allowed you to accomplish them.

Take an Aptitude Test

If you're unclear about what you have to offer as an employee, there are a couple of ways to find out. You can take an aptitude test online or through a local college. An aptitude test will tell you the subjects you excel in and what careers use those subjects most. If you want to get a rough idea of careers to consider, you can also go online and take a "what career is right for me quiz."

Talk to a Counselor

Another way to find your greatest abilities is to talk it out with a counselor. They can help you answer a variety of helpful questions, such as:

  • What are my job skills?
  • What are my people skills?
  • What personal characteristics do I have that would make specific careers easier or more challenging for me?
  • Do I need to work on coping skills before I start a new career?
  • What strengths have I never had a chance to show on a job before?
  • What talents have I used in non-work settings?
  • What have others noticed that sets me apart?
  • How are my communication skills?
  • Do I have skills that would help me in certain careers?
  • What career should I choose, given my skills and strengths?

A licensed counselor can guide you as you reflect on what you want and what you have to offer. It's a fantastic way to begin when you're wondering "What career is best for me?"

Look at Your Work Experience from a New Perspective

Think creatively about your talents that could be used in other career fields. What skills did you cultivate in your current and previous jobs that made you successful? For example, someone who has been an accountant in the past might choose to put that knowledge and experience to use in starting their restaurant or sporting goods store. The financial end of it would be a breeze for them, so they could focus more on areas like product and vendor choices, marketing their business, and satisfying their customers.

Reassess the Value of Your Current Education for a Different Career

Do you feel like the education you have now is not what employers are looking for? This usually only happens to people who are changing careers, re-entering the job market, or starting their first career late in life. Their education may not be very suitable to today's technologically-advanced job market. Or, maybe they are just starting out. If they went to college with an idealistic mindset, they may not have considered the marketability of their degree until they were faced with finding employment.

Since you don't want to feel like your earlier education amounted to wasted money and time, think about how it could be put to use in a new way. You may want to pursue additional education that builds on an earlier degree. Another option is to think about how that old degree applies to current workforce needs. Once you see a connection, construct an argument as to why it would be advantageous. This exercise can help you build confidence and give you the information you need to convince an employer to hire you.

Find Your Passion

While it's helpful to figure out where your strengths and skills lie, usually, weaker skills can be developed. What's even more crucial to your success in a new career is finding a career that excites you. Discover what you're passionate about to get a more complete answer to your question of "What career should I pursue?" If someone asks you what your passion is, the answer might not come to you immediately. The following questions can help you see what career might interest you most.

  • What first excited you about your current career?
  • What work activities and rewards kept you motivated?
  • What tasks made you feel most alive?
  • What do you want to do that you're unable to do in your current career?

Know Your Options

Without knowledge of the job market, it may be difficult to find a career that helps you answer the question, "What career should I choose?" While any career might be possible, the question is: "How risky is pursuing that career going to be for me?" , "Am I likely to find a job right away, or are the number of positions available so limited that it might take months or even years to get started?"

In addition to learning what jobs are available, it's a smart idea to get out into the world of work and get a more concrete idea of what different jobs entail. Remember that a career that's right for someone else may not be right for you.

Explore the Job Market

You do need to know yourself, but you also need to know what kinds of jobs are available. This will depend on several factors, including how much preparation you're willing to do first, where you want to live, what salary you need to make, and other considerations.

A good place to get started understanding the job market is the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. It's available online or in book form. You can also find information on local industries from the chamber of commerce in the city or town where you want to live. However, remember one thing as you check out these career paths. Even if there aren't many opportunities for a career, as long as there are some, there's a good chance you can make your way in that career if you feel strongly about it.

Get Exposure to New Career Fields

There are many different ways to get some first-hand experience and understanding of a career. You can do volunteer work within the industry. Take an internship if you can arrange it. Find a mentor who's already engaged in that career. Take a tour of a company where people follow that career path. Whatever you can do to see the reality of what happens in that career can help you in your quest to determine "What career should I choose?"

Narrowing Down Your Career Choices Can Be A Difficult Process

Commit to a New Career Path

Once you have all the information you need to decide, you need to make a firm commitment to yourself that you will follow that path to its conclusion. With so many options available to you, it's easy to keep changing your mind until you accomplish nothing. Tell others about your decision and begin immediately to prepare yourself for that career.

Getting Help For Answering "What Career Is Right for Me?

Help is available as you research different career paths. You can receive guidance in discovering who you are and what makes you uniquely qualified for different careers. A counselor can help you find your way to a fulfilling career.

Licensed counselors are available at BetterHelp.com. Start this preliminary journey by answering a few easy questions and choosing a counselor. Even if you aren't quite ready to start your career, you can begin to answer your questions now. It may take some time to decide "What career is right for me?" After you decide, you still may need to develop coping skills, job skills, or communication skills. By starting now, you can increase the time you have to grow mentally and emotionally. Are you ready to start your career and change your life? It's a wonderful time to start!

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