What Career Is Right for Me?
Updated 31 October 2020
Whether you are a school leaver, a graduate or already out there working, discovering which career is right for you can be a challenge.
You might even wonder why you would spend time finding out when there are plenty of job adverts to apply for.
Finding the ‘right’ career can:
Help you to play to your strengths and preferences, both of which increase the chance of success and longevity in your career
Save you time by making sure you do not apply for unsuitable vacancies or spend time working in the wrong job
Allow you to build a well-thought-out career plan so that you can take control of your future
Determining what career is right for you may be one of the most important decisions you will be asked to make.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Career
Discovering what the right career is for you can seem an overwhelming.
As with any complicated process, however, the key is to break it down into smaller steps.
Consider each of the following factors:
Skills and Education
Consider what you are good at. It might be:
- Working in a team
- Social media
- Analysing data
These are all skills that would transfer to a work environment, regardless of whether you have relevant work experience.
For more insight into how your skills could influence your career choice, read Transferable Skills.
Find out which jobs are a match for your skills and qualifications.
What is most important to you? What inspires you? These factors are your values.
In essence, these point to what makes you happy.
For instance, you may prefer to work for an organization that is supportive of green energy and environmental issues because these topics are important to you.
Working for an employer or in a job that goes against your values is likely to make you feel miserable, trapped and undervalued.
Identifying what your values are before you begin a career search is always recommended.
Who Are You?
This is all about your personality. Factors to consider include:
- Are you a team-player or happier to work alone?
- Are you self-motivating or do you need to be supervised?
- Are you competitive?
- Do you prefer to work to a regular routine, or do you enjoy change?
- Are you creative?
Considering your personality when deciding what career is right for you can mean the difference between an art graduate working as a graphic designer or as an art gallery manager.
Read Personality Tests for more help on this topic.
What Do You Need to Live?
There is no getting away from the truth that whatever career you choose, it must provide a sufficient income to support you.
What you need to live, however, includes more than simply your salary.
You may also need:
- A pension
- Health insurance
- Flexible working
- Paid or unpaid holidays
Consider exactly what compensation package you need as a minimum, what would provide you with a comfortable lifestyle and what would be ideal.
For more information, read How to Evaluate the Compensation Package and Job Offer.
Limitations on Your Career Choice
There may be factors that limit your career choice. These may only be temporary limitations that can be remedied by taking a further course of education or gaining work experience, for instance, or they may be factors that are unlikely to change.
Limitations could include:
- Location – do you need to work in a particular place?
- Minimum salary
- The hours you can work
- Your current level of education
- Your current work experience
For instance, you may be attracted to a career in investment banking, but you are unable to commit to the long hours required because of family commitments.
Future Developments in the World of Work
Nothing stands still, including the world of work. As technology develops and consumer habits with it, certain jobs and industries become less relevant and new ones evolve.
Take the time to research what jobs will be affected by future developments.
For instance, with an increasing reliance on online shopping, the retail industry is becoming less reliant on physical stores and making greater investments in their online presence.
While this may mean a shrinking demand for retail staff, it builds the need for online marketing.
For more on this topic, read Top 10 Best Jobs for the Future.
Putting It All Together
- Your skills and qualifications
- Your values and personality
- Your life needs
- Any limitations on your career choice
- What jobs and industries may be affected by future development
You should now be able to build a picture of what job would not only suit you now but assist in your future career progression.
If you still have no idea what the right job for you could be, read on for more ways to find out.
Top Tips for Discovering the Right Career for You
There are numerous ways to land on the right career for you, whatever your budget or however much time you have to invest.
Take a Career Quiz
A career quiz is a great way to land on your ideal career fit, whether you are a school leaver, graduate or already working.
Quizzes vary but will generally ask you to consider aspects of your personality, how you like to work and what career areas you are interested in.
There is a wide variety of career quizzes available, but here are five to get you started:
O*NET Interest Profiler – Sponsored by the US Department of Labor, this career quiz is free. The quiz asks 60 work-related questions, prompting you to answer on a scale between 'like' and 'dislike'. The quiz uses your answers and your current status to point to suitable careers and exactly what experience and qualifications you will need to land those jobs.
Myers Briggs Type Indicator – This is much more than a career quiz and is widely used by recruiters and employers. The MBTI produces a personality type based on extroversion or introversion (E or I), sensing or intuition (S or N), thinking or feeling (T or F), and judging or perceiving (J or P). For instance, you may be an INFJ or an ESTJ. Each personality type points to a range of suitable careers. The online MBTI costs $49.95, or for an additional charge, you can also receive personal feedback.
123 Career Aptitude Test – This quiz asks you to consider 15 sets of four work-related pictures and choose which picture you like the most and which you dislike the most for each set. Your answers are used to provide a Holland Score which assigns you a personality type based on artistic, conventional, enterprising, investigative, realistic and social. You are provided with a list of jobs that your personality type may be suited to. The career quiz is free.
MAPP Career Test – Claiming that it takes 22 minutes to complete, this career quiz features 71 'like' or 'dislike' questions. The MAPP (Motivational Appraisal Personal Potential) Career Test provides you with information on your personality and demonstrates how you are matched to particular jobs. This test is free.
My Plan Career Assessment Tests – My Plan offers a set of career-related tests including the career personality test, career interest inventory, career skills profiler and career values assessment. Buy them together for $19.95 or individually (career personality test $9.95, career interest inventory $9.95, career skills profiler $7.95, career values assessment – free).
Find a Career Coach
If you value the opinion of an informed outsider, then hiring a career coach may be the answer.
A career coach can:
- Drill down into your skills, qualifications and work experience to find suitable job matches
- Help you to create a polished resume and career plan
- Answer your questions and concerns about specific industries and employers
Using a career coach generally means investing a few hundred dollars, but there are free career coaching services available too.
However much you decide to spend, you should always research a career coach before working with them. Look them up online and, if possible, speak to their other clients.
One of the best ways to find a good career coach is to ask your friends and contacts for referrals.
Set Your Career Goals
What do you want your career to do for you? It can be helpful to ask questions such as:
What salary do you want to earn, and what effect do you want that salary to have on your life? For instance, do you want to buy your own home in a set number of years?
Do you want a steady, predictable career progression or are you happy to be more reactive to how the industry develops?
Do you want to start in a generalized role before progressing to a more specialized role?
Is this job a stepping stone to an ideal career?
Are you happy to trade long hours for a higher salary or do you want to shape your working hours around family commitments?
Do you want to work up through the ranks to a managerial role?
Do you want an employer who will provide a pension scheme so that you know your future is safeguarded financially?
For information on planning your future career, read 10 Key Tips For Career Planning.
Research Different Jobs
It can be difficult to know whether your personality, qualifications, skills and experience are suitable for a job unless you have a full understanding of what that job entails.
For instance, a finance graduate considers three careers:
They are also unsure exactly what the application of statistics would be in the world of work.
Recruitment adverts can be an easily accessible way to find out exactly what roles and responsibilities are involved in a job.
Visit company websites to find out what their workforce are involved in. Read trade magazines, such as Publishers Weekly, US Banker or Communication Arts to learn about related career paths and developments in that industry.
Researching a range of jobs can pinpoint exactly which careers are suitable for you as a whole, and which only fit certain aspects of who you are and what you want.
Think Outside Your Passions
It may well be that your passion is:
- Working on cars
- Musical performance
While it is perfectly acceptable and possible to turn any of these into a career, limiting yourself to what you like to do in your spare time can be a mistake.
First, it may be that while you enjoy creating artwork and animations at home, earning a living from that day in and day out, would leech the joy out of it.
Second, the fact that you do this passion as a hobby does not mean that you have the training or expertise to work in that area.
Finally, searching for jobs that are linked only to your passion can blinker you to other perhaps more suitable and rewarding careers.
Find out how your hobbies can prove useful by reading How to Make a Great Resume With No Experience.
Try It Out for Real
If you want to get a taste of a career or industry before you apply, the answer may be an internship or a placement.
Placements can happen during high school, college or university, whereas an internship is generally offered to a further or higher education student or graduate.
Placements are unpaid, whereas internships may be paid or unpaid.
For more information on this topic, read Work Experience, Placements & Internships.
Talk to People in the Know
Talk to people who already work in the careers or industries you may be interested in.
Conducting an informational interview and asking the right questions can be very illuminating.
These could be:
- Family members or friends
- Teachers, lecturers and other academic staff at your current educational establishment
- People you know in your community
Alternatively, contact relevant companies expressing your interest, and ask for information.
Narrow Down Your Options
Now you have all this information to hand, you should have some idea of what career you would like to follow and what you would be suited to.
Narrow down your options by:
Making a list of all the careers you are suitable for and would like to follow
Place these in an order with the most appealing and suitable at the top
Find the pros and cons of each career; for instance, high salary but long hours, or an absolute fit for your qualifications and experience but an industry that may become less relevant with future technological developments
In light of the pros and cons, re-order the careers
This should provide added focus on what is the right career for you.
Most of us will spend a large percentage of our lives at work.
Put the time, effort and necessary research in at the beginning to improve your chances of following a rewarding and successful career.