Originally posted on Forbes.
Do you ever stop to question whether or not you’re on the right career path? I know I have… I went through a radical career shift in my early 20s when I went from counterterrorism expert to career coach! It was difficult realizing that the career I had spent so long building and working towards wasn’t actually right for me, but actually finding my true path was so incredibly satisfying.
And I’m not alone in making that transition. About 75% of Americans have changed careers at least once, and about 33% are currently thinking about it. Finding your perfect career won’t happen overnight, and it may take time to really find the right trajectory for you. You might even be thinking, “How do I even know what the right career is?”
Luckily, I’ve been there, and I’m here to help!
If you’re feeling stuck, unsure, or confused, don’t worry. Here are five steps you can take toward discovering the career that will truly satisfy you.
1. Take career assessments.
Remember in high school, being given career personality tests that would tell you what you should be when you grow up? They may have seemed silly, but the right career assessment can actually be an incredibly useful tool in discovering your path , especially if you aren’t sure where to start. There are two elements to a career assessment.
- It should be valid and reliable. The test should actually measure what it claims to measure, and you should get consistent results over multiple tries.
- You should know how to use the results to your advantage. It’s one thing to have a list of potential careers. It’s another to use a career assessment as a starting point for insight and self-reflection. Remember, a career assessment isn’t a shortcut; it’s a tool. It’s up to you to use it.
2. Make a list of your options.
Overwhelmed by the need to make a decision? Whether you know exactly what you want to do or not, knowing how to get there is tricky. In order to find your dream career, you need to carefully sort through your options in order to find the best route.
Make a list of all your options, whether those are tangible job opportunities, education, or career paths. Once you have everything written down, you can parse out what isn’t exactly right, and narrow your goals. Try to create as many options for yourself, so you have plenty to choose from. You can also rank your options from best to worst, and even combine some that may be similar.
3. Look for overlap.
What you’re good at, what companies need, and what you like to do might all be different, but it’s important to try to find the overlap between the three. That’s how you find your optimal career path. Rather than looking at job titles, consider your interests, hobbies, and skills, and then work out how those translate.
While you’re at it, look back at your previous experiences to inform your future. What did you enjoy doing in previous jobs? What did you dislike? Knowing your values, passions, and skills will help you understand what kind of career you should pursue. And being alert of these factors means you can actively seek out careers that require your specific talents.
Whether you’re actively searching for a new career, or just trying to get a sense of what path you should be on, networking is a great way to dip your feet in the waters. The more people you meet, the more insight you can get into what the work environment is like, what the people are like, and how they enjoy the work. And if you are looking for that next job, networking is crucial. Surveys show about 85% of jobs are filled through networking!
5. Ask a mentor.
Never underestimate the value and power of a good mentor! When I made my career shift, I knew I couldn’t go at it alone. I decided I wanted to learn from the best — so I started working with mentors.
There are many different types of mentors, from the kind you pay to the kind that has been there, done that, to the kind that can advocate for you at work. The right mentor, no matter what type, will give you guidance and help boost your career. And the studies back it up — about 80% of CEOs attribute their success to having worked with mentors.
Trust me — I know finding your dream career isn’t easy, and the path can be scary. I remember it well. But just because it’s daunting doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! Think about how much time you’ll spend at work in your lifetime — 90,000 hours for the average person. You want to make sure you’re using your time to your advantage, by pursuing a career that makes you happy, aligns with your values, utilizes your talents, and more. You have the power to get there, and now you have the tools to get started. Are you ready?
Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.