How to Decide on a Career (Even If You Don’t Know What You Want)

Aug 18, 2017 -
Editor’s note: Times have changed since this was first published! This post was geared to candidates when our economy was considered a “recruiter’s market” - job seekers were abundant, work was scarce. Now, Brazen and the world has shifted: the economy has cranked up, jobs are being filled rapidly, top talent is snapped up like fish in a barrel. Our blog now focuses on how to help recruiters and HR managers find the best candidates for open positions. That is our mission with our chat platform. Recruiters, we think this article is a great one to share with your potential candidates who are still in-between careers, struggling to decide where to put their energies, or job seekers who don’t recognize their own soft skills and how to put them together in a career. Take a look, and tell us what else you think your candidates need to know in the comments!   Choosing the right career is tricky. Economist Neil Howe estimates that only five percent of people find a good career match on the first try. And even beyond this chilling stat, there’s so much external pressure to land the perfect job, follow your passion and be super successful by the end of your 20s. No wonder most people break into a cold sweat when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But deciding on a career can be simplified into three basic problems. Conquer these, and you’ll dramatically up your chances of finding the job that’s right for you.

Problem #1: You don’t have enough information

There are literally thousands of careers out there—some of which could be at the perfect junction of what you’re good at, what you love, and what’s in demand. It’s amazing how many successful people didn’t know their dream job even existed when they were younger. To combat this problem, try this: devote one hour every day for a week (or heck, a month!) on pure research. Check out career exploration sites, top job lists, your favorite blogs or even a new section of the newspaper. Your mission? Write down any and every job that catches your eye. This minimal routine will skyrocket your list of career ideas.

Problem #2: You don’t know what you want

There are many great jobs in the world. But there are fewer great jobs that are right for you. Making a good connection between yourself (your values, interests, personality, etc.) and a career can be tough. For some people, personality tests to discover if you’re an introvert or extrovert, or heart-to-hearts with a career counselor can jumpstart this stage. But if you’re short on time, money or patience, assess career ideas with this practical checklist:
  1. Does this career sound interesting?
As author Cal Newport has so eloquently advocated, you don’t have to be passionately head-over-heels for a career in order to thrive. (In fact, following a passion can be a big mistake.) However, a career should genuinely interest you on a gut level. It’s a good sign if you hear about a job and think, “Yeah, tell me more about that!”
  1. Does this career involve work that you could be good at?
Many skills can be learned if you commit the time, but pursuing a career that actively goes against your natural tendencies is a giant fail waiting to happen. If you’re an introverted research type, don’t force yourself into a sales job—no matter how cool it sounds. Likewise, big-picture people will not find happiness in a tiny-details job. If the work itself clashes with your personality or skill set, move on.
  1. Does this career fulfill your essential needs?
What you need from a career can include everything from basic salary and education requirements to more complicated concerns related to disability, family situation, religious beliefs and beyond. Once you’ve nailed down what you want from your job, you can match those needs to career options. For example, if a six-figure income tops your priority list, choose a field where you can feasibly make that kind of money (think science, healthcare, technology, business) and avoid lottery industries (like filmmaking and fashion design) where only a lucky few will strike it rich.
  1. Does the world need this career?
Practically speaking, you need a job. So before diving down a new career path, see if there’s a reasonably good chance someone will hire you at the end of it. Check out employment projections or industry chatter to gauge if your career is in demand.

Problem #3: You can’t make a decision

You’re 99.99 percent guaranteed to find multiple career choices where you can shine. In this situation, it’s easy to fall into a perpetual motion machine of angst and second-guessing. What if you don’t pick the right career? But here’s the secret: don’t worry about choosing the best option; choose any (well-researched and practical) option. “Just pick one thing to do,” suggests Brazen Careerist founder Penelope Trunk. “And if that doesn’t work, then pick another. Making a choice and trying it is an important career skill.” So be brave and take action—and you’ll be that much closer to finding a job you love. Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps people discover strong careers and connect with the right education to achieve their goals. Follow her on Pinterest.

Related Articles/Posts

Rock Your Next Career Fair: Best Practices for Employers
The Brazen Blog
Jan 21, 2021

Rock Your Next Career Fair: Best Practices for Employers

Career fairs are one of the best ways for employers to connect with a lot of prospective candidates in a short amount of time. Since the onset of COVID-19, most job fairs have transitioned online, but the shift to virtual is a trend that shows no signs of slowing. Learn more about career fair best practices in this post.
Read More
What is the best online recruiting platform?
The Brazen Blog
Jan 20, 2021

What is the best online recruiting platform?

When considering the best online recruiting platform for your organization, it’s key to acknowledge that no singular tech solution can serve all online recruiting needs. To be effective and competitive, successful TA teams need a well-curated stack of tech tools. In this article, we’ll look at several different categories of online recruiting tools, explain their functions, and offer suggestions for finding the right solution for your organization in each category.
Read More
Virtual Recruiting Events Are Here to Stay
The Brazen Blog
Jan 15, 2021

Virtual Recruiting Events Are Here to Stay

Whether your company is planning to stay remote for the short term, gradually return to the office, or consider a permanent work-from-home solution, at least some of your recruiting will likely remain virtual from here on out, as the rise of hybrid recruiting (the combination of virtual and in-person recruiting tactics) is helping companies get better results at lower costs than a fully offline approach. One of the most important components of virtual recruitment is hosting virtual events. This guide will share an overview of how virtual recruiting events work and why they should be an integral part of your recruitment strategy--even in a post-COVID world.
Read More