If money is not an issue, what career would you pursue? Ah, if only it’s that easy! But, as you probably already know, choosing a career is complicated. Many factors such as natural interest, personality, work environment, salary, job demand, and required training among others, influence your decision. They all matter. So how do you choose the right career? In this blog, I’m going to show you how to choose the right career for you.
Note: I’m going to be mentioning career and occupation almost interchangeable; however, they differ slightly. An occupation is your livelihood, chosen profession, or business. A Career, on the other hand, is an occupation that you undertake for a long period of time.
At this time, please take out a piece of paper. This is a hands on activity!
The Three Steps Process
My process for helping college students decide on the right career for them consist of three steps.
Each step is going to require you to dive deep, and work hard to discover the answers. The three steps are:
- Know who you are
- Identify the occupational factors important to you
- Research career options that satisfy both: who you are and occupational factors important to you
Let’s explore each of the steps.
Step 1: Know Yourself
Get to know yourself better by doing some self-reflection. Take out a blank piece of paper and free write by answering this question: Who are you? Write everything that comes to mind when you think of who you are as a person.
Additional prompts to keep you going:
- What are your strengths? Are you resilient? Determined? Energetic? Do get along well with others?
- What are your dominant traits? Are you outspoken? Shy? Assertive? Loyal? A natural leader?
- What do you value most about a job or career? A fun work environment? Opportunity to meet new people? Flexibility in your schedule? Ability to work independently? Freedom to be creative?
Write as long as you can, fill at least 2 pages, without editing, brainstorming, or pausing for more than 5 seconds. The goal is to unload the most raw honest truth about who you are as a person.
Now that you’ve brought out the real you—the person with unique characteristics, desires, and understanding of her role in society—circle your most important qualities (i.e., introvert, outgoing, assertive, leader, creative, patience, love traveling, etc. ). Then, write five occupations that you feel match those qualities you have. Go!
You should have a good idea about your personal qualities now. If you want to make sure or confirm, take one of the free personality assessments available online:
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the most widely used and accepted personality assessment in the world, but it’s expensive. You don’t really need to take it in order to figure out your preferences. You know yourself better that anyone. With a little guidance, you’ll be able to figure this out yourself. Let’s go over the MBTI in detail below.
There are four dichotomies that the MBTI assess you on:
- The way you interact with the world. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- The way you absorb information. Are you the sensory type? (i.e., you want facts to analyze the details and come up with practical solution to problems.) Or are you the intuitive type? (i.e., you like to focus on the possibilities and the big picture.)
- The way you make decisions, or your decision-making process. Are you the thinker? Meaning you decide by analyzing situation and things? Or are you the feeler? You decide based on how you feel most of the time?
- The way you organize things in your life. Are you more of the judger? (i.e., you like to be organized and prepared and have a place of action,) or are you the Perceiver type (i.e., someone who likes to keep their options open, actions spontaneous and being flexible with things ahead.)
At this time select one side of the four dichotomy and write the four letters on top of your paper.
(Addison Ruble wrote a great article about the MBTI with a clear explanation of the four dichotomies. Read his article here: Understanding My MBTI)
In many cases, you will discover that you have both sides of the dichotomy. Don’t approach it as an “either one or the other” decision. View them more on a spectrum. From one side to the other, how close are you to being an introvert than an extrovert? If you realize you lean more towards extroversion in most situations in your life, or if you feel energized when you are around people, then write “E” for extroversion.
Based on your preferences on the four dichotomy, you’ll come up with your personality type. There are 16 possible combinations and each is a personality type according to the MBTI. These types will be your guide to starting your career exploration.
Occupation for Certain Personality Types
The Human Metrics is a site that provides a good explanation the 16 personality type. Certain careers require certain skills and qualities, or in other words, certain personality to be able to do the job well, and for the person to have a fulfilling experience. so with teach personality type, there are careers that are the right fit. The Human Metrics site suggests a list of career/occupation for each personality type.
Indeed also has a very nice article on the 16 personality types and the types of career that matches each type. However, you could get bogged down with the information—of like information overload. Personally, you don’t need to make complicated than they need to.
Take some time to do the self-reflection free writing exercise. When you are done with that, evaluate your trait based on the four (4) dichotomy. Do not proceed reading below until you’ve identified your four dichotomy preference and identified your personality type. Are you an INFJ or ESTJ?
Step 2: Identify the Occupational Factors that are Important to You
Let’s now identify the occupational factors that matters in your career choice. This shouldn’t be too complicated so let’s dive straight to it.
You can either do another free writing, or check off the items below that matters to you:
- Salary Range
- Job growth (or Job Outlook)
- Work Environment
- Training Required
- Typical work schedule
- Largest employers (i.e., government, nonprofit, private, etc.)
- Geography (i.e., rural, urban, etc.)
- Other options (i.e., remote work, travel opportunities, etc.)
So now you know what your personality type is and have identified the occupational factors that matters to you. Those are the two things that we can now use to research a career. Are you ready? Let’s go researching!
Step 3: Researching Occupations
Many resources and tools are available online, but to avoid confusion and information overload, we are going to use just one resource for now: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States (www.bls.gov)
At this time go to: www.bls.gov/ooh. It’s the online version of BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), which is the official occupation reference book in the USA. You can also buy the book. But, it’s free online!
Step-by-Step OOH Research Guide:
Step 1: Go to www.bls.gov/ooh.
Step 2: On the search box found on the upper right side of the page, type an occupation/job/career that you have in mind, or that was suggested in the Human Metric site. Note: If you wish, you can also follow my example and type software developer. Once you hit “go”, you’ll see a list of occupations related to software developer (next step below).
Step 3: Click on the occupation that is closest to what you are looking for (Note: sometime, you’ll see a list of related occupation.)
Step 4: The link will take you to the occupation summary tab. What you’ll see on this default tab is a summary:
- Average pay
- Typical entry-level education
- Work experience in a related occupation
- Number of jobs
- Job outlook
- Employment change
Those are things that will help you decide if a career is worth exploring further or not. Now, don’t be discourage by national median pay (the whole United States). Obviously, certain states and cities will have higher pay than the median (there’s a way to find that out later.) But, suffice to say, you can see what is the entry-level education required and the occupation growth (job outlook) among other criteria that are important to make career decisions.
You can view the “What They Do” tab to see more details about what your chosen occupation actually do, including their duties on a typical job.
You can also click on the “Work Environment” tab to see where your chosen occupation are getting hired at.
Click on the “How to Become One” tab to see what type of education is required, what major to pursue, or what certifications to acquire.
Click on the “Pay” tab to see how much your chosen occupation are getting paid in certain job settings.
Click on “Job Outlook” to see the growth of your chosen occupation. Is it growing? Are there jobs for you after
Click on “State & Area Data” for a more specific salary range of your chosen occupation at your state.
Once you are in the “State & Area Data” page, scroll down until you find your state or your area. You can then see a more specific pay scale for your chosen occupation.
I suggest to research between 3 to 5 occupations and write down the most relevant information you find.
Conclusion: Yay, you did it!
Choosing a career is one of the most important decision you have to make in life. Although people do change careers throughout their lives, choosing an occupation that gives you a sense of purpose is important to overall life satisfaction.
Lastly, career exploration and career decision making is not easy. I encourage you to reach out to others, discuss your findings, and email me for any questions. I can give you some advice and point you in the right direction.