Can't decide on a career? Here are some tips.

Published Aug. 20, 2020

Can’t decide on a career? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals held “an average of 10.8 jobs from ages 18 to 42” throughout their professional career, with over 60% of those job changes taking place between the ages of 18-27.

Can't decide on a career? Here are some tips.

Illustration from Icons8

These trends show that a vital step in deciding on a career is anticipating change somewhere down the line, especially in the early years.

Here are some tips to help you make the ultimate career moves for yourself. In this blog post, you’ll learn:

  • How a career is a series of stepping stones based on your skills and personality
  • How seeking mentorship can help you decide on a career you love
  • The importance of pursuing side projects to keep you sane
  • Being open to change

Can’t decide on a career? Don’t worry. Your career is a series of stepping stones.

Get rid of the idea that career choices are linear paths independent of one another. In fact, discovering your career is based on a series of moves, both small and big, that will lead you to where you want to be.

You have a much higher chance of finding a meaningful career if you allow for some wiggle room to discover yourself on the way there.

Rather than targeting specific jobs, look into career clusters. Keep an open mind about your job choices by looking at positions that require similar skills. Instead of hammering down a career in UX Design, extend your sights on cross-functional fields like Product Management or Product Design.

By doing your research, you’ll discover that you have infinitely more avenues without sacrificing your interests.

Some tips on deciding a career based on your talents and skills

Identify what you want based on your personality and skill set

Most of the work towards deciding your career lies in assessing yourself. What are your interests and how much do you value involving them into your work-life?

Choose whether you slot into the category of people who gladly separate work and play, or that of those who see their career as potential grounds for deep-diving into their passions.

Soul search! Evaluate your personality and look into how your characteristics inform certain career paths. Here are some ways on how to do this:

  • Take advantage of personality assessments used by career counsellors such as the STRONG Interest Inventory or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which show you the fields your personality type is most likely to thrive in. Sure, you might not agree with the results. But they can still help you discover a type of starting job for you, when you still can’t decide on a career.
  • Ask yourself what kind of lifestyle you want. Are you looking for work that provides you with more flexibility to invest in your extracurricular hobbies? Or maybe you thrive in smaller, more community-driven work environments with a clearer sense of collaboration? While considering your practical needs, don’t neglect what will offer you more for your well-being and job satisfaction in the longer term.

That said, nobody at the starting line of their career ever dreamt of spending the rest of their life pushing paper from 9-to-5. But very little comes before putting a roof over your head and being able to to cover the costs of your necessities.

Identify your practical needs based on the lifestyle you want for yourself and map out a road for how they can be met. Be honest and realistic with yourself.

Nevertheless, put your talents and passions into consideration. It can feel outrageous seeking anything other than job security in this economy but the physical and psychological toll of burnout is still a pretty high price to pay.

Seek mentorship

Ever dabbled in coding and web design? Enjoy them as hobbies but can’t see them as a viable career pathway to actually make a living?

Outside of traditional higher education, these skills can even be enhanced with the help of a career mentor who has insider experience in whatever field you want to enter professionally.

Having access to remote mentorship gives everyone a fair chance at paving a career pathway on your own terms, even unlocking the potential in pre-existing skills you didn’t know you had.

Mentors keep you accountable. They get down to the nitty-gritty of everything you need to know and, with MentorCruise, they’re readily available whenever you need the extra push. Here’s what people have to say.

Cold email companies for work

If you don’t have a degree, it pays to be brazen. Literally. Here are some tips in cold-emailing companies to get a job that you think you might like:

  • Make sure that your personal brand is on-point. Have a professional website with your own email domain. Make sure that everything looks slick for your potential employers (or clients) and email them through that email.
  • Keep your emails short and clear. 50-150 words max. No one has time for a 500-word essay. Most of the time, they won’t read emails that are that long. And busy people appreciate short emails. It shows that you’re thoughtful of their time.
  • Make sure you define your contact person. Want to work for a 10-person startup? Email the founder. Want to work in marketing for a 100-person company? Contact the person who’ll be potentially responsible for managing you. Figure out who to contact to increase your chances of getting a response.
  • Follow up. One email might not be enough, so send another email if they don’t respond after a certain amount of time (e.g. a week). Some people send up to 4 follow-up emails.
  • Add them on LinkedIn or Twitter. If they don’t answer via email, maybe other social media channels might work.

Pursue side projects while having a full-time job

Loving what you do and being good at what you do can be mutually exclusive things. Deciding on the right career that caters to your passions and skills can help you become successful and happy in the long run.

But what you love doing might not be the same as what you’re good at. When this is the case, choose a job based on your existing skills and work on your passions on the sideline. This can be a weekend side project or an after-work pursuit.

With this situation, you can still bring in money to pay the bills, while working on what you want. This lets you have the financial security that you need. At the same time, working on your side projects might lead to you being able to monetize your passions. When this happens, you can effectively quit your day job and live off what you love.

Look at what you have to offer from all facets of your life like extracurricular hobbies or volunteer experience and assess how they can be either monetized or push you into further self-discovery towards your career goals. In this respect, there’s value in seeking guidance from a mentor if you’re wanting to refine your skills and take your professional portfolio to the next level.

Get started on the right qualifications and transferable skills

Assess what careers are afforded to you with the degree or qualifications you possess. If you have a degree then you probably already have some idea of what direction you want to go in job-wise.

At the same time, what does having the right qualifications even mean? Product managers have Philosophy and English Literature degrees. Julian Canlas, founder of Embarque, a successful productized content marketing agency has an objectively useless degree in Creative Writing.

While the hiring landscape isn’t looking too promising at the moment with high unemployment rates and a shortage of work opportunity in the midst of COVID-19, take this time to review your transferable skills and how you can slot them into pandemic-proof work opportunities.

Get an apprenticeship

No degree? No problem! Some of the most successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are college dropouts. At this point, you can’t decide on a career, so discovering it on the job might be the way to go.

In this case, look for apprenticeships on fields that you might be interested in. From banking to programming, there are apprenticeship programs available everywhere. Just make sure to have a look.

Be open to change and upskill

You change. The world changes. The only constant appears to be that working on harnessing a broad skillset is the one thing that will give you a competitive edge as you’ll always be able to adapt to these changes. Fact is, we’re no longer assigning to the notion of the job for life and according to the rest of the world, we have no reason to.

A vital step in deciding on a career is anticipating change somewhere down the line, especially in the early years. With the reverberations of digital transformation in the workplace, we’re all given very little choice but to upskill.

That said, mentorship is one solution immune to the effects of change. Getting hands-on support from a mentor and putting yourself in a mentee mindset means that you’re constantly in a position to anticipate development.

Whether to educate you further into a field or give you the career advice you need for deciding the most suitable path to take within the industry, the necessary upskilling for a transforming economy is on the table for you.

Finally, contentment > happiness

Everyone dreams of taking a gamble in finding a career that brings them happiness. If this is your biggest hurdle in committing to a career choice, consider this: Wouldn’t there also be value in choosing contentment in whatever position you find yourself?

Learning to find your own job satisfaction eliminates future disappointment or “if only” beliefs that poison whatever happiness you can develop for your career.

Target goals that do contribute to overall workplace satisfaction. This might come in the form of taking time off to pursue what you love, setting work-life boundaries or establishing a solid line of communication between you and your higher-ups that make you feel both respected and valued in the workplace.

Like all of life’s biggest decisions, it’s difficult to feel like you’re truly making the right moves when you decide on a career. But with these tips, you can make the process less painful with a little self-evaluation and a lot of research into how you can fit yourself into the world around you.

Regardless of what stage you are in finding your professional path, be realistic, do your homework, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.