How to Choose a Career Path at Any Age

In this article, we discuss how to choose a career path that’s perfect for you.

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How to choose a career that fits you is a question most people ponder upon. Many associate it with a singular decision that will shape their life. That’s why it’s shrouded by worry and indecision.

The truth is quite different. The majority of adults don’t have one career in their life. While your career path tremendously impacts your life – work-life balance, financial stability, and professional development – no decision is irrevocable.

And, with proper research, there’s a great chance you’ll make a fantastic career choice.

Why Is It Important to Choose a Career?

A career is a long-term commitment to an occupation. You can have multiple jobs in diverse companies while following the same career path.

Choosing a career that’s right for you can bring personal satisfaction, skills development, networking opportunities, financial security, and a sense of purpose and direction.

How to Choose Your Career Path at Any Age

There are several misconceptions about finding a career that most people face at some point in their lives.

So before we dive into how to find your career path, it’s important to clarify that:

• Choosing a career is no cakewalk. It requires self-awareness, an understanding of the current job market, and continuous effort to keep your profile desirable.
• No decision is irreversible – you can start in one field and later decide to switch careers. An Indeed report from 2019 demonstrated that dramatic career change is more common than you may think.
• Out of the 662 US-based workers they surveyed, 49% had undertaken a new career at some point in their lives. What is the average age when people decide to change professions? It’s 39. So, how to choose a career is equally relevant to fresh and seasoned workers. There’s no ‘right’ age to make the move.

Now that we have the fear of the career choice out of the way, let’s see how to approach it in five steps.

1. Start With a Self-Assessment

Finding a career starts with understanding what activities energise you, whether you prefer solo or teamwork, how you respond to stress or conflict, and your values, goals, and skills.

One of the most acclaimed ways to self-discovery is journaling – it helps you structure your thoughts, and having them in writing means they’re easy to reference. Use lists with personality questions as journaling prompts to dig deeper and improve your self-understanding.

2. Take Personality and Career Discovery Tests

Consider career discovery and personality tests as another tool for career exploration. While no test can tell you what’s the best career for you, combining them will give you new insights and perspectives.

Many tests can be completed online on your own and for free. Others need to be performed with a counsellor or come at a fee.

Research different options to find what is most convenient and fits your budget. Some popular tests include the Myers-Briggs Test, Kolbe Test, Holland Code Quiz, Strong Interest Inventory, and the Values Assessment.

3. Research Industries and Career Options

It’s time to define your job-specific expectations and research industries and positions matching your priorities. If you can’t have it all, what are your must-haves?

• Salary and benefits.
During your research, evaluate the pay and benefits for employees with different experience levels. You’ll get an idea about the salary progression you can expect in a specific field and diverse roles.
• Work-from-home policy. Do you aspire to join over three million professionals, chiefly freelancers and entrepreneurs, developing their businesses from coworking spaces? Or do you prefer having the routine of going to an office and working with people face-to-face? Deciding on this is crucial because some fields, like marketing and IT, are much more likely to offer remote-first opportunities than healthcare or construction jobs.
• Career growth. Growth may look different across industries. It might be related to managing budgets, clients, or teams. But it might also be about becoming the go-to person in an area. Which type of growth resonates with you?
• Perfect work day. What do you want a day at work to look like? We often judge careers based on job titles and forget about the daily routine at work. A few ways to gain insight on a day on the job are researching job descriptions and going to career fairs or open days at companies.

4. Make a Shortlist and Narrow Down Your Options

List down the industries and jobs that seem like a fit.

Next, start narrowing down your options. Some activities include:

• Researching the entry requirements into a field. Does it require, for example, years of education, training and licences? You may not be ready to make the time or financial commitment to enter an industry.
• Looking into predictions about the future of a career. Is it a developing field, or are jobs expected to be fully automated in the next five to ten years?
• Put into perspective the current and expected demand for specialists. Getting first-hand experience on a small scale. Explore options to volunteer or intern in a similar role or organisation. Try launching a personal project related to your career of interest – design your business card, launch a blog, develop an application, etc.

5. Seek Out Advice and Mentorship

Philosophers in Ancient Greece, painters and sculptors of Renaissance Italy, and spiritual seekers across different religions all studied with mentors. In recent years, we’ve gathered a wealth of data on the value of mentorship for individuals, small businesses, and even Fortune 500 companies.

Talking with a mentor, or mentors, will open your eyes to information and possibilities you didn’t know existed. Find someone who has already succeeded at your goal – building a career they enjoy or switching from construction to IT.

You can look for mentors within your circle, and that’s just one of the ways to find a mentor for free. Online communities such as PushFar are growing in popularity because they offer an easy way to connect with people across the globe. Review their profiles, experience, and achievements to evaluate who’s a fit. Another benefit is availability – you can work with diverse mentors on different aspects of your profile and gain something from every mentor-mentee relationship.

Next Steps to Your Dream Career

1. Upgrading Your Skills

New technological developments keep shaping the job market every year. The skill sets for jobs have changed by 25% in just eight years, making specific technical competencies indispensable. This number is expected to double by 2027.

ChatGPT launched in late 2022, and soon after, job listings for copywriters and content marketers required experience with generative AI. The same is happening across the board with the developments in every field.

When choosing what skills to upgrade, focus on general technical competencies and career-specific skills.

2. Creating Your Resume

You might have heard the statistics that recruiters spend a few seconds on a resume. In many modern companies, especially those that handle a large volume of applications, that’s not how it happens.

In most cases, your resume is not even reaching a person. Why? Roughly 75% of recruiters rely on ATS, an applicant tracking system. This is a type of software that sorts through and extracts data from resumes based on filters and keywords. Understanding how ATS works is essential to optimising your resume for passing the first automated review.

Don’t forget that your resume is just part of your presentation in a digital world. Consider polishing your LinkedIn profile, creating an online portfolio, or hosting a resume website.

3. Applying to Jobs

Job applications take time. You're looking for opportunities that fit your criteria while ensuring your skills match the job requirements.

Approach job applications like another step in your research. You will see more examples of what tasks, skills, and experiences your career of choice entails. Explore the market and understand how working for small, mid-sized, or large companies differs.

4. Preparing for Interviews

Many applicants either rarely get called to interviews or have multiple interviews but have yet to get to the final stage of the hiring process.

These bumps are valuable feedback to leverage and improve your profile. If you’re getting interviewed but have no job offers, you need to work on how you present yourself.

Interviews are an excellent chance for an insider’s view of a company and a career path. Prepare questions that will help you gather information about a typical day on the job, the company culture, and development opportunities.

5. Continuously Seeking Support

Seek feedback and advice on every step of the process. As mentioned, you can connect with diverse mentors while defining your career goals at the start of your career or after years in the field.

You can gather information and opinions outside of a formal mentor relationship. For example, post your resume on relevant online communities to see how it’s perceived. Or, prepare for interviews with someone you trust and get their perspective on how you can improve.

Ultimately, you don’t need to be alone on the way to your dream career.

Author Bio

Evelina Milenova is the Outreach Manager at Opinion Stage. Her expertise lies in SEO and content marketing – two topics she often writes about on her LinkedIn page. Evelina is passionate about providing mentorship to Gen Zers who want a career in marketing.

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