A Streamlined (But Good) Way to Choose a Career

By Marty Nemko

Part of Careers For Dummies Cheat Sheet

In finding a career, many people take career “tests,” struggle to get informational interviews, and even take career workshops. And despite all that, they end up far from sure they’ve made a wise choice of career. These steps can help you pick a career wisely:

  1. What career type are you?
    Which one or two of these are you: a word person, people person, Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) person, hands-on person, or entrepreneurial?
  2. Scan the options.
    Most people consider only a small fraction of worthy careers. A fast way to broaden your options is to scan books that profile lots of careers. Careers for Dummies provides a scoop on 340 good careers plus self-employment ideas. Also, the federal government publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which offers more detailed (if drier) introductions to 250 careers.
  3. Embrace Google Search.
    Because Google Search is free, it’s easy to underestimate its potency. But it’s a remarkable curator of incomprehensibly large amounts of information. So do use Google Search to find articles and video introductions to careers that pique your interest. Particularly look for those that focus on a day in the life. These articles and videos are often more valid than an informational interview or three because each article or video may distill the experiences of multiple people in the field.
  4. Use a pros-and-cons list with a twist.
    Make pros- and-cons lists of two or three careers you’re now considering. Pick the one that feels best. How are you feeling about that? Now imagine that you picked the other career. Feeling better or worse?
  5. Now pick.
    Even if your top-choice career doesn’t feel perfect, it’s usually wiser to start preparing for that career. Most people who end up happy in their career feel that way after only they’ve become competent at it and have tailored and accessorized it to fit their preferences and strengths. If you wait on the sidelines for the perfect career to hit you upside your head, you may be waiting a long time. It’s wiser to pick a career sooner than later and then tweak as you go.

Of course, the devil is the details. Careers for Dummies gives you all the details you need to wisely choose your career.