Picking a Career

Picking a Career is probably one of the most important decisions you'll make and yet most of us spend very little time doing so. The majority of people drift into a career, because they were good at a certain subject at school, because they majored in a specific area in college or because they know someone who already works in the field concerned. 

But are these really the best steps towards finding a career in which you will be happy?

One of the problems most of us face is a lack of good quality career information, with secondary schools providing only one or two half hour sessions with a careers counselor or advisor. This is fine if you know exactly what you want to be and need to know how to get there, but what happens if you have no idea?

Getting a college degree or career training is becoming increasingly important, but can be a waste of money if you make the wrong choice. Financing a college education is often a big sacrifice for parents or involves a lot of hard work for the student who is paying his own way.

This will often lead to feelings of guilt - my parents paid for it, I have to stick with it, or bitterness - I worked 2 jobs and studied all those hours for nothing. However, it's better to admit that you've made a mistake than to spend the rest of your working life feeling miserable, no matter how hard it might be to make the change.

Your parents might not understand, but will probably accept your decision when they see that you are happier elsewhere. It will help to focus on the positive aspects of what you've been doing - the skills and experience which you have gained, including a greater understanding of yourself. Nothing is ever a complete waste and if you look hard enough you'll see that you have gained a great deal, even if the original decision was "wrong".


Learning how to identify your interests, strengths and existing skills is only part of the story. Just because you are good at something doesn't mean you'll enjoy doing it for the next 40 or 50 years and things which interest you now may hold little appeal 10 years from now.

Discovering your core values is a crucial part of the process, for example, if you enjoy teaching, the job you eventually decide on could be very different if you value helping people more than you value money or vice versa. I

f helping people is more important, you might end up in an inner city school, inspiring kids who might otherwise end up unemployed, in low skilled jobs or in prison, whereas if money is higher on your list of priorities, you could end up running courses for high powered business men and women.

 If you find yourself unsure of the steps needed for successfully picking a career, whether you are just starting out or are changing career midlife, here are some tips which will help you reach a decision:

Identify your core values - what are the main values in your life - family, friends, spirituality, money, helping people, expanding knowledge, the environment (add your own and put them in a list with the most important at the top).

List your transferable skills - skills gained not only from previous jobs, but also from studying, sports, any other interests, being part of a family, bringing up children, in fact, from any role you've had in your life.

Write down your dreams - what did you want to do when you were younger? What ideas and plans were buried because you needed to pay the bills?

Do some research - find out as much as you can about jobs that interest you.

Be prepared to move outside your comfort zone.

Once you know what you want to do, make a plan and break it down into manageable steps. Then find something you can do today to take you closer to your goal - and do it.