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

5 Creative Ideas for Virtual Multi-Employer Job Fairs
The Brazen Blog
Apr 15, 2021

5 Creative Ideas for Virtual Multi-Employer Job Fairs

Creative virtual career fair events give employers opportunities to strengthen employer branding. Mixing up event features and formats differentiate your organization from your competition, and help you build relationships with candidates you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. We’re not talking about reinventing the wheel here. But it’s time to infuse some innovative thinking into your virtual expo event strategy. Here are five creative event ideas to get you started.
Read More
The Future of Virtual Hiring Post-Pandemic: Lighthouse Research Recap
The Brazen Blog
Apr 13, 2021

The Future of Virtual Hiring Post-Pandemic: Lighthouse Research Recap

Are virtual events here to stay, or will they fizzle out once the pandemic is over? Ben Eubanks, author, speaker, and Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory answered this key question and more during a recent webinar with Recruiting Brief: “A Guide to Virtual Recruiting Events Post-Pandemic.” This webinar was based on his preliminary study on over 856 TA leaders from organizations of varying size, and we’ve got a look at some of the stats he shared and more.
Read More
8 Best Practices for Career Fair Events
The Brazen Blog
Apr 06, 2021

8 Best Practices for Career Fair Events

Successful virtual recruiting events don’t happen by accident. Savvy talent acquisition leaders put a lot of work into creating virtual events that attract top talent and deliver a stellar candidate experience that creates a foundation for a productive recruiting process. We’ve been listening to our customers’ success stories for years, and we’ve seen a number of best practices emerge that any organization can use to create a new virtual recruiting strategy or level up existing practices. Here’s a look at eight key best practices every virtual recruiting strategy should include, and how each step gets you closer to crushing your recruiting goals.
Read More