How to choose a career path in 3 easy steps
Still not sure what you want to do with your life? These resources can help you figure it out.
Knowing how to choose a career path after graduation is one lesson they don't teach in school. If you’ve earned your degree, you might be already entrenched in a career. Then again, you might not be.
A 2018 report by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and Burning Glass Technologies found that more than 40% of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree, and more than one in five college grads still aren’t working a degree-demanding job a decade after leaving school.
So, if you’ve graduated and are still wondering how to determine a career path, you are far from alone.
Well, that may be somewhat comforting. But it’d probably be even more comforting to feel like you’re on a path that you’re passionate about—especially since passion ranks highly in surveys about what millennials want out of work. So, uh, how exactly do you go from being undecided about your career to being on a track toward something real? Start with these resources.
Use proven career assessments
Google search “career assessment” and you’ll return about 434,000,000 results. Do they actually work? Should you shell out money to take online quizzes? Clearly, there’s a big market for career aptitude tests, many of which are unproven and costly. That’s why you should stick to ones that are inexpensive or free and have helped millions find careers.
Atlanta-based career coach Kathy Brunner recommends clients take John Holland's SDS (Self Directed Search)—an assessment, that helps determine potential occupations and corresponding work environments based on your personality type.
The test is based on the scientific findings of award-winning psychologist, John Holland, who invented the “Holland Codes,” a system that places individuals into one of six categories: Doers, Thinkers, Creators, Helpers, Persuaders and Organizers. Each category corresponds to a variety of different career paths. The test will cost you $9.95 to take, but if it helps you find your true calling, it’ll have been the best $9.95 you ever spent.
Don’t want to spend the money? Monster reviewed some of the free tools out there and picked these 10.
Seek out career coaches
In Brunner’s experience, people who hire career coaches are typically frustrated by a prolonged period of job seeking without results. Why wait for it to get to this point? Brunner says get a career coach early. “Those who seek out these services prior to gainful employment generally have a better chance at working in a field that resonates with them,” she says.
How exactly will a career coach help? Well, it’s this person’s job to help connect people with careers they’ll love.
“Career coaches are generally masters at networking, and can often access resources you may not find without their help,” says Debra Yergen, executive director of Yakima (Washington) Schools Foundation and author of Creating Job Security.
We know, you’re thinking you don’t have the $150 an hour or so that that might cost you. But you do have a very free resource at your disposal: Your college’s career center. Counselors in the center are trained and experienced in helping people find the right career fit.
Start interviewing...other people
Career advancement coach Lauren Milligan (and CEO of ResuMAYDAY based in Warrenville, Illinois), advises millennials to seek out informational interview opportunities. “Better than any assessment or app, sitting down with someone, looking them in the eye, asking them questions and getting honest feedback is the best way to not only get your career questions answered, but is also a great way to build a team of career advocates,” she says. “When someone gives you their time, they become invested in your success.”
But with whom should you meet? Milligan suggests starting with the people who already know you—a supervisor, professor, or someone you already know working in a field you’re interested in. You also shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know, too. “Be friendly and willing to learn,” Milligan says. “That's the type of person the 'older' generations are willing to help.”
At the very least, you’ll likely get some reassurance from this person that your current path is not as purposeless as you may think. While a first job is important, it’s not the be-all-end-all. Ask any baby boomer how they got to the position they’re in now, and they’ll likely tell you that it was a long, winding road of varied jobs.
Grow every day
If you're still figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, you're in good company—and chances are you'll wind up being more than one thing. Your career path will likely take a few twists and turns along the way to achieving whatever dreams you've got tucked away. What's important is that you remain committed to your professional development. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get career advice and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. No matter where your career takes you, Monster can help prepare you to come out on top.