How do most people choose a career?
Well…they don’t. They stumble into a job after college, take whatever they can get, then follow one of the few paths available from that random job.
No wonder most people are frustrated in their careers.
But there actually IS a way to narrow down your potential interests to choose a career that you will love.
Ramit Sethi, our founder and career-path guru, has put together a Dream Job system that helps you explore ALL the careers you’re interested in, test each to see if you’d really enjoy doing them, and move on to other jobs if they’re not a good fit.
Here are some of our best tips on finding a career you love – even if you have no idea what you want to do.
A good evaluation of your personality defines the kind of job you would fit into. And we’re not talking about taking a random career personality test and doing whatever it tells you to do – those tests are usually unrealistic, and can’t paint a clear picture of what really drives you.
Instead, ask yourself the following questions and let your responses guide your career search.
The first step in assessing your personality is finding out what motivates you. If you can’t answer that question on your own, turn to friends, family, and colleagues to understand your driving force. When do they recognize your eyes lighting up? Maybe it’s after you’ve helped someone, or when you’ve solved a difficult problem. Understanding what gives you energy can help point you in the right career direction.
Some jobs tap into soft skills, like communication and personality, while others demand a particular academic skill set. For instance, technical jobs automatically require you to possess an analytical mindset/background. You cannot apply for a scientific research position when your only training is in art history. If you do want to make a career switch, that’s ok, but understand that you’ll likely need additional training.
Have some self-awareness and get clear on your major weaknesses and dislikes. You may realize that you have poor delegation skills or that you hate team collaboration. You’ll need to recognize where you have weaknesses or outright dislikes. For example, if you don’t like talking to people, you probably won’t want to consider a career in customer service.
One of the most daunting parts of choosing a career is picking just ONE job…that you’re supposed to do for the rest of your life.
Just start by listing ALL the careers and job titles you might be interested in.
Anything you want to explore, just write it down.
Ramit call this the Cloud Technique because your options are as open as the sky.
This lets you say “Yes” to EVERYTHING you’re curious about instead of constantly saying “No, I can’t do that because…”
Where should your ideas come from? Here are a few career brainstorming tips:
Once you’ve tentatively selected a few job titles, it’s time to do some deep research. This is where you go from “Hmm…sounds interesting” to truly understanding what the job is about.
Remember: You don’t have to become 100% knowledgeable about these roles… just yet. You just want to learn as much as you need to see if a job is right for you.
Let’s use the job title of “engineer” as an example of what you’ll want to look for.
The first thing, you’ll want to do is get a bird’s eye view of the job:
You can find this info with a quick search through Wikipedia or Googling “introduction to [INSERT JOB].”
As you tackle those broad and sweeping questions, you may start to eliminate some options you originally listed. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s expected. Just because something sounds interesting in theory, doesn’t always mean it will be.
You actually want to narrow things down in this stage. If at any point, you run out of job titles on your list, simply go back to step three (with your new insights on what you want from a job) and start again.
Once you have a basic high-level understanding of the positions, you can dive deeper into the nitty-gritty details:
The whole time you’re going through this process, ask yourself “Could I see myself doing this?” and “Is this something that still interests me?”
This process helps you discover what it is you truly enjoy. Once you’ve narrowed your list down again, you’re ready to hear from people who actually work in these roles. That’s how you guarantee this is the right career choice.
An informational interview is an informal talk you have with a subject working in your desired profession. It is the last step you take when deciding your career path.
You may have heard about informational interviews before, but few people actually take this critical step. Two things you need to know:
Here’s how to set up an informational interview:
First, identify people who you’d like to speak to. Then, reach out with a friendly email asking if they’d be willing to meet with you. Here’s a sample email script you can modify and use.
Subject: Hello, Allen!
I hope all is well and that this email finds you in good spirits. I’m thinking of catching up on a few things regarding my career choice.
I read about quality control in large pharmaceutical companies and am passionate about it, but there is not much information on the ground experience. The job will have me on the production line, and I’m interested to know what that looks like and what should I be ready for? I know you are resourceful, given your over a decade-long career in the same line, which I admire greatly!
Would you mind virtually connecting with me for a brief period where I can get your ideas on quality control as a line engineer?
Please let me know a good time to connect.
Keep it short. Go straight to the point and give a compelling reason.
You don’t want to show up to an informational interview with nothing to say. Prepare your questions ahead of time, and do a little research on the person you’ll be interviewing, too. This will help you connect with them while getting the most out of the interview.
An informational interview is the perfect place for you to share reservations about the job you’re learning about. After all, you haven’t chosen it as a career yet. It’s better to find out that it’s not a good fit for you now than in the future once you’ve started in that line of work.
Be attentive and take notes during your informational interview. Ask questions during the conversation. If you don’t know what to ask, you can always ask an open-ended question like, “Is there more you can tell me more about XYZ?”
Sending a thank-you note is mission critical after an informational interview. Even if you don’t want to go into that line of work after the interview, you never want to burn a professional bridge by not following up. Drop the person you spoke with an email and let them know how their advice is helping you achieve your goals.
While a dream job falling into your lap is rare, you can systematically find one. We see many students struggle to get a job of their choice, and we step in to help. This is not to say that it is always easy. But it is possible.
Let us help set you up for success by guiding you on a career path you love. Let us help you in your quest to find your dream job.
Bonus: If you’re worried about your personal finances, you can improve them without even leaving your couch. Check out my Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance for tips you can implement TODAY.
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