If you’re anything like me, you remember being eighteen and having no clue what to do with your life when people would ask.
Deciding on a career is not something you do right when you graduate high school or college. You may have as many as 15 to 20 jobs in your lifetime, according to a Forbes article. Additionally, you could be changing jobs every 4.4 years, according to Fast Company.
Did you know that you may have to answer the question, “What are you going to do with your life?” multiple times?
[Related: What It Actually Means to Figure Out Your Dream Job—and Go for It]
It can be tough to figure out if an industry is a right fit for you, especially when there are many stimulating options out there. If you’re a fan of writing like I am, some potential jobs might include being an author, professor, journalist, content strategist, or PR executive. But that’s just a tiny slice of what’s possible – there are endless other possibilities!
With so many possible job options, how can you be sure which one is right for you?
A few years ago, I was in your shoes and understand the feeling of being unsure about what you want to do with your life. It’s normal to feel like this- at one point, I was applying for jobs in a bunch of different industries because everything seemed interesting. What helped me narrow down my options was understanding what I didn’t want rather than what I did want.
I originally started writing blog posts as a hobby, but it eventually turned into a career I’m passionate about. When I was working as a paralegal, I would write blog posts every weekend and schedule them to be published during the week. Through continuous writing and promoting my blog on social media, I picked up some marketing skills along the way. This then led me to pursue a career in social media, blogging, marketing, and freelance writing- an industry much different from law.
I found my dream job by pure luck, but I want to help other people do the same thing—but with a plan.
Here are my top tips for finding the perfect career for you.
1. Use Your Strengths to Guide You
Keep a list of your best strengths in a safe place. I recently read StrengthsFinder 2.0 as part of a book club at work, and it had great advice that I could use. Another self-analysis resource that can help you figure out what kind of career and work environment will be the best match for you is the Myers-Briggs personality test.
Most people believe that if they try hard enough, they could be good at anything. However, your strengths should show what you’re best suited for and make you happier in the long run. Therefore, finding a career based on your strengths will make you better at your job and content with what you do daily. After taking the StrengthsFinder and Myers-Briggs tests, I have a much better understanding of what I value, where my strengths lie, and what type of work environment would be best suited for me.
[Related: 42 Little Things You Can Do Today to Find Your Passion]
For example, you might think that you hate math because it was always hard for you in school. But what if you learned that you love using logic to solve problems? In that case, there’s a chance you would love something like coding!
2. Check-In With Your Past Self
What did you like most and least about each company you’ve worked for? What was your favorite and least favorite thing about the company culture at each place? What were the things I liked and didn’t like about my manager? What did I think of the people I worked with? What was the most challenging thing about working there? When was I the happiest or proudest while employed there? What was my biggest accomplishment in the position? What did I like and dislike most about my responsibilities?
By answering these questions about your previous workplaces, you will get a better understanding of what you want and don’t want in future jobs.
You can change the type of work you do, but it’s always helpful to look back on past projects to rotoscope what you enjoyed, didn’t like, and which situations make you perform your best. Doing this helps maintain a happy attitude too.
3. Get out There and Talk to As Many People As You Can
To gain more experience and knowledge, speak with as many professionals as you can. Attend informational interviews to learn about their backgrounds, career paths, and what kind of advice they would offer. Make sure to ask questions beforehand so that the conversation is beneficial for both parties involved.
And don’t only speak to people you are familiar with or have a connection to. Do research on LinkedIn and read people’s job descriptions, and look up interviews or articles by individuals you admire.
It’s crucial to explore what a job entails daily before making any sort of decision about it.
4. Classes Are a Great Way to Meet New People and Learn New Things
To improve your skills, take classes and attend workshops. You can also read books or watch YouTube tutorials on the subject matter. Of course, gaining experience is the best way to learn anything new. With technology becoming increasingly prevalent in society, it’s easier than ever to explore different passions and skills. By dedicating time to learning something new, you may eventually find a hidden talent or career path, as I did.
5. Reflect on the Type of Workplace That Would Foster Your Success
Do people work together or compete with one another? Are they friends outside of the office? Is the company hierarchical or flat? Do you work as a team or primarily on your own? Does the company have a lot of bureaucracy, or can employees make decisions and move quickly? Can people work remotely, or are they expected to be in the office? What is the typical workday like? How many vacation days do you get? What are your thoughts on raises and promotions?
Consider the type of workplace that would fit well with the lifestyle you aspire to have. If you’re unsure, take up some part-time work to help solidify your decision. If you work better in a collaborative environment, try freelancing. If you prefer to work independently, consider finding a coding project that you can work on with others.
6. Do What Brings You Joy, and Don’t Let Anything Stand in Your Way
When I was stuck choosing a career, two people gave me some fantastic advice that helped me make my decision. They said to think about what I do “for fun” and if there’s something that I love so much, Would I be willing to do it even if I wasn’t getting paid?
The second reason was something my dad said to me once. He explained that you don’t need to always take the most “prestigious” job, just so people will be wowed at parties when you tell them what you do. His suggestion was to instead of looking for the opportunity that looks best on paper, go with the one that makes you happiest and provides room for growth.
This article is by Elana Gross and was originally published on Skillcrush.