What To Do If You Don’t Know What Job You Want

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 11, 2020

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Choosing a career path is something that everyone has to do. People arrive at their decisions in many different ways, whether they stumble upon the perfect profession or they’re set on doing something since they were a kid.

It may be a daunting task, but the good news is that there are just as many ways to pick a career as there are careers out there. Not everyone will choose a profession in the same way, so you can get experimental in your approach.

While you might be tempted to delay your decision, so you don’t get trapped in a profession you don’t like, it’s a good idea to get working and gain experience as soon as possible so you can test out different skills and positions.

One bright side to starting your career now is that there’s always the possibility for change. You can take your first job in a field you’re interested in, but if you don’t like your work, you can switch paths fairly easily.

There are so many opportunities to continue your education and pursue other interests. No matter what stage of your career you’re in, you can enroll in classes or programs to gain the skills you need to change career paths.

So while the career decision process can be a daunting one, you have plenty of room to experiment, learn, and make mistakes on your path. Everyone comes to this stressful decision in life, and you’re not alone.

We’re going to help you ease your anxiety and show you a few ways you can go about choosing your career path. We’ll give you some general advice, but at the end of the day, it’s your decision to make, and you can approach it however you want.

How to Find the Career You Want

The most important part about finding the right job is taking time to think about your future and what you want out of life. You don’t have to get philosophical or plan out your entire future, but you should have an idea of what will make you happy and what you want to achieve.

Ultimately you want to find a career that fits your lifestyle and excites you, so you should take some time to figure out what that means. Here are a few common questions to ask yourself that can help you find a career that you’ll love:

  • What are you passionate about? A lot of the time, people start the job search process by asking this question. Finding something you’re interested in and excited by will make your work feel more rewarding and fulfilling.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    You don’t have to end up in a profession you’re passionate about, but thinking about your hobbies and interests can help you find work that will keep you engaged. Being passionate about your job can help you avoid ending up in a job that doesn’t motivate you at all.

  • What are your goals? Thinking about what you want to get out of life is a good way to think about your career. Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you want to help others? Do you want to spend more time with your family than working?

    Defining your life goals will help you determine which career options will help you achieve your goals rather than distract you from them.

  • What are your priorities? You should spend some time thinking about what’s important to you and what will make you happy. Would you rather pursue a passion even if it doesn’t pay well? Are you willing to sacrifice your free time for long hours as an executive?

    Everyone has different priorities, and figuring them out early can potentially save you a lot of unhappiness in a job that isn’t the right fit for you.

  • What’s your dream job? Not everyone has a specific dream job in mind, but odds are you can highlight a few qualities or responsibilities that you want in a job. Think about what kind of work you want to be doing, where you want to be living, or what kind of work-life balance you want.

    You don’t need to have a fully thought-out dream job, but choosing a few key aspects of what your dream job would be can help you determine the right career path.

  • What are your strengths? People tend to feel the best when they do something they’re good at. If you can figure out where your strengths and skills lie, you can find a job that will be a good fit. Don’t be afraid to use personality tests or aptitude tests to figure out what you’re best at, or ask around with your friends and family for advice.

  • What are your qualifications? Sometimes picking a career is a pragmatic choice, and people go with what’s in front of them. If you have training or a degree in a field, you might want to pick a job based on what you’re qualified for. Odds are you like the field if you have the skills or training for it, so it can be a straightforward way to choose a career.

  • What have you learned from your past? A lot of the time, reflecting on your past can help you make a decision for the future. Think about any work experience you’ve had and how you felt about it.

    You can also think about when you were happiest or proudest of an accomplishment and figure out a way to incorporate that into a career decision. There’s a lot you can learn by reflecting on the past that can ultimately guide you to your dream job.

What to Do if You Don’t Know What Career Path to Choose

One of the best things you can do when deciding what career you want is to change your approach. Many people think that finding a career path is about making a single decision and acting on it. That might be the process for some people, but most people make their decision over time.

If you reframe your approach to picking a career, so you see it as a process instead of a single decision, you’ll be able to relieve some stress and give yourself more time to consider your options. With a career choice process, you have more time to experiment and figure out what you really want, which will help you make the best decision in the long term.

Approaching this process can take many forms for different people, but we’ll give you some tips for getting started. The most important part of the process is doing what feels right for you, so keep that in mind as you work through this decision.

  • Get to know yourself. The best thing you can do to figure out what career path you want to pursue is to think about your interests and what you want out of life. Getting to know yourself will help you choose a career that will fit your life and allow you to grow.

  • Get experience. You might be tempted to stall and put off making a career decision for as long as possible, but that can actually hurt you instead of help you. Spending time getting experience in different industries and roles will help you figure out what you like or don’t like.

    You don’t have to find internships to help you do this, though they will help. You can pick up odd jobs in your community or volunteer with different organizations to get exposure to many options. Getting experience is one of the best ways to start your career process and bulk up your resume.

  • Dream big. You might have a dream career in mind, but you think it won’t be realistic or easy to achieve. When you’re setting out to find a career, keeping your options open and dreaming big is an important initial step. There are plenty of ways to pursue your dream job or weave elements of your dream career into your real career, so keep your options open.

  • Seek career advice. Odds are, you know a few people who have established careers. There’s a lot to learn from anyone who’s chosen a career and worked in a field for a few years, even if they’re not in an industry or profession you can see yourself in.

    Learning about other peoples’ processes and getting their career tips can inspire you to try something new or approach your career differently. You’ll be surprised by how many people had nonlinear journeys to get where they are today.

  • Take classes. If you’re in school or have access to community or online classes, you should definitely take advantage of them and learn more about different subjects.

    When in school, take electives to explore more topics or find online classes to expose you to new subjects. There are many free resources online so you can learn the basics about different professions, so take advantage of everything you can.

  • Explore your interests. You also don’t have to feel limited by the classes you take, and there are always opportunities to explore things outside of what you study.

    Find ways to explore your hobbies and other interests. You might find a new interest that you want to pursue professionally or find a way to incorporate your passions into your career. Taking the opportunity to try new things is a great way to figure out what you’re passionate about or what you want to do professionally.

  • Keep pushing forward. No matter what, keep moving toward your ultimate goal of finding a job. You can use any experience to explore your interests and career prospects, so don’t lose hope. Keep learning, reflecting, and working toward finding a career, and eventually, you’ll find a fit.

  • Reach out to your network. Networking can be scary, but contacting people in industries you’re targeting, or just close connections can have unexpected rewards. You might get some great advice or get introduced to an amazing contact through networking.

    Reaching out to your network can also lead to opportunities for internships, shadowing experiences, apprenticeships, or even job offers, so don’t hesitate to rely on your network.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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