A reader recently asked me how most people determine what career might be a good fit.
Specifically, he asked, “Do most people determine their future career paths at the end of high school or at some point in college?” He noted he has never been able to find a career that suited him well.
The process, of course, varies greatly from person to person — and as executive coach Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That, emphasizes, it’s a journey many people travel for most of their adult lives.
“We all wonder what we want to be when we grow up — it’s a process that never ends,” Scherwin says.
And that is especially true today, when career paths tend to evolve over many years, veering away from what used to be a linear route.
“What you think you want in college may change after you enter the workforce,” says Scherwin, who notes that changes in an individual’s personal life also often impact their career path.
Here, Scherwin offers tips for anyone, no matter their age or career level, trying to figure out the kind of job they’re not only best suited for, but one they will enjoy, too.
Using these steps as a starting point just might help you avoid taking a job that doesn’t fulfill your expectations.
The bottom line is to be clear about what you want, then be patient, confident and open for the unexpected, Scherwin says.
“All too often otherwise successful professionals walk into their dream job only to learn it’s not really what they thought it was.”
Ideate — and be self-aware in the process
Scherwin says it is important to consider your strengths: What comes effortlessly? What do you love to do? What do you hate?
Part of this step is being clear on the trade-offs you’re willing to accept. “What really matters to you, tangible and intangible? Consider all of the variables,” Scherwin says.
That means weighing things like salary, benefits, office environment, your commute, work-life balance, support systems, opportunity for growth, the value you contribute and what a work day looks like for you.
Find industries that interest you
“You will be much happier working in an industry you like or admire — you will be more passionate about their product or service offering, which will lead to greater success,” Scherwin says.
“Make a list of brands within that sector that you love and explore what types of roles they have (that) you’d be qualified for.”
Do your research
Do you really understand what some careers entail?
Do a deep dive by reading trade articles and talking to people who work in a career you’re considering (and in a specific company if you’ve developed a target list).
“Connect, get more perspective on potential fit and get your questions answered before you make any jumps,” Scherwin says.
Prioritize and narrow long list of opportunities
Are there a few career options in the list you’ve created that really stand out? If so, great!
If you don’t have what it takes to be considered for a job in your field of choice, explore the kind of training you might need or the steps you’ll have to take. “Create a plan to get there,” Scherwin says.
Refine, decide and execute your plan
Once you’re set on a path you’re excited to begin, Scherwin says to “craft your unique proposition for your dream job,” detailing your strengths and why you are well-suited for the role.
Then, network and begin interviewing “informationally, informally and then formally,” she says. “See who the key players are and if your personalities connect — make any decisions accordingly.”
“Your dream job will fall in the intersection of what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and what someone will pay you for,” Scherwin says.
“And of course, remember that what you pick today may not be where you end up tomorrow. Embrace the adventure instead of being scared by it.”