It happens to the best of us. You spent years getting an education and training that will help you pursue a career, but then you find a job in your chosen field and realize it’s not as great as you expected.
Of course, you can always go back to the drawing board and pick a new career; however, switching fields is often expensive and difficult — especially if it means going back for more schooling or training. Wouldn’t it be nice to get it right the first time around?
Here are some tips on how to pick a career the right way, the first time.
1. Learn about different job titles
If you spend just five minutes sifting through a job board, you’ll quickly learn there’s no such thing as simple job titles anymore. For example, if you go to a traditional online job board and search for marketing positions, it’ll return openings ranging from “marketing manager”, to “social media and PR coordinator”, to “public information officer.”
As if choosing a field wasn’t hard enough, you now need to pick which of the thousand different varations of job titles is your best match. You need more direction about what positions would interest you. So, dive in and learn about what’s out there. Find out the basic distinguishing characteristics of different roles so you can begin to rule out which won’t suit you.
Once you’ve narrowed your focus, reach out to real people and ask for a short informational meeting or phone call. Ask them not only about their own jobs, but also other jobs in their department that they may be familiar with. If you’re having trouble finding people in your network who can answer your questions, get involved with online forums like Reddit or Quora. These are great resources to connect with people in specific industries and ask them direct questions.
2. Take advantage of technology
In the past, if you wanted the best guidance in choosing a career you needed an expert to help you out. Decades ago, you had to hire an expensive career coach to give you personality tests or arrange informational interviews so you could figure out what you wanted to do. Luckily for you — and unfortunately for career coaches — you can now get expert guidance from your phone.
You have access to multiple tools that will give you a more complete picture of what your ideal job would look like. Just Google a phrase like “career exploration apps” and you’ll find a lot of effective tools you can download onto your smartphone. Leverage the technology available to you and get a leg up in your research.
You can also use online career resources from prestigious universities like Berkeley, Northeastern, and MIT. Google “career center .edu” to find their career center pages. Next up, peruse resources that have been compiled by career guidance professionals. They have already done the hard part of researching and vetting the best career tools, and in many cases, you can access the information even if you’re not a student at the school.
3. Think about what interests you
Forget what grades you earned at school in various subjects. Forget what you majored in. Just answer this question: What do you spend most of your time doing when you could be doing anything at all?
Make a list of your favorite activities and then ask yourself: Why do you really like to do that thing? Suppose you love to knit. Unfortunately, there are few careers related to knitting, but if you think about what draws you to the activity, new options arise. Sure, you might like knitting because it’s fun and relaxing, but why is that specifically true for you?
Do you like the end result of producing tangible results after meticulous effort? Or do you like the creative side of your hobby? Dig deep and you’ll find out more about the type of work you want to do and your ideal workplace. This can lead you to an unexpected career that is perfect for you.
If you’re about to enter the workforce, the odds of choosing the right career can seem like a million to one. However, with the right research and guidance, you can beat those odds by finding your perfect career and position on the first try.
The article first appeared on lifehack.org.
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