Choosing a Career

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the five-step process for choosing a career, which includes aligning your personal interests and skills with appropriate fields

Many of you may already know what you want to do with your career; that’s why you are in college! That being said, you might already know what your personal interests are and how they connect to your interests and skills. If that’s the case, you can use the following steps to reflect on your current career goals. If you’re unsure what you want to do, that’s perfectly fine. Classes like this one can help. Keep an open mind, and pay attention to what interests you.

Let’s start with the idea that there are five steps to choosing a career. There are potentially many steps on the path you will take to discovering your career, but let’s start with five. We’ll begin with a question, and then we’ll provide some suggestions for you to do your own research. There are no right answers, and you are welcomed to change your mind. As you read, take notes about your immediate thoughts as you work through the steps and the questions.

Step 1: What interests you?

You’re the only person who can answer this question.

There are many resources on the Internet that can help you sort out what you are most interested in, so if the answer doesn’t appear to you immediately, that’s fine. Try doing an internet search to find a career interest survey. Take notes of your answers and spend a minute or two reflecting on what matters to you. There are also many videos that you can watch to help you.

to Watch

Take a few minutes to listen to a consultant who gives career advice on how to match your skills to a career.

Do any of her points resonate with your life and goals?

You can view the transcript for “Matching your skills to a career” here (opens in new window).


This next video looks at the connection between childhood interests and career options. Several successful entrepreneurs and employees share stories about how they turned childhood interests into careers that suited them. Learn how listening to your inner child can help you find the right career.

Step 2: What kind of knowledge, skills, and abilities does your field require?

If you’re still unsure of what you would like to do after Step 1, take a minute to think about what you do not want to do for a career. Are you interested in statistics? Do you like talking about the latest technology trends? Do you like building things using tools? Do you like helping others solve problems?  Are you interested in healthcare?

Now that you have a list of what interests you, spend a minute thinking about what you already know, what you have to learn, and what you need to do in order to get the career that you want. Spend a little time searching for the level of education your career requires. Do you need an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or doctorate degree?

Step 3: What do you want from a career?

Now that you have spent a bit of time learning about the education that you need for your career, let’s spend some time thinking about what you want from a career. You might take a minute to write a list of “deal makers” and “deal breakers” as a way of organizing your ideas for what matters to you. For example, do you want to work for a small company in your community or a large corporation? Does it appeal to you to work for your local government or for a brand new business? Do you want to work for a close-knit team in an office or do see yourself working independently with a remote team? Do you see yourself growing into a leadership position or do you want to work in the behind-the-scenes of an organization?

These are a lot of questions to consider, so take a minute to think about the career that would make you the most satisfied and why. Some people are most interested in financial stability, and if that’s you, that’s fine. Others want financial stability and the feeling that they are contributing something greater good. Whatever your motivations, it’s helpful to think through what you want from your career.

Step 4: What is your ideal career choice?

Some of you will read this question, and you will hear the words immediately. You know exactly what you want! Some of you may have already had one career, and now you’ve gone back to school to pursue another. Others may still be wondering what it is you want to do, and that is a fine place to be as a college student.

Barbara Sher, a best-selling author, is famous for saying, “Find a career that you love and you will never work another day in your life.” This is a nice sentiment, but let’s face it, you are still going to be working! What does this quote really mean to you? Perhaps it’s a helpful perspective that if you’re going to spend most of your waking hours working, you might as well be doing something you enjoy.

Step 5: Who can help you with your career goals?

The last four steps have asked you to brainstorm on your own so that you have a plan. Now it’s time to think about who can help you execute this plan. A counselor or an advisor can help. If you aren’t sure how to get started, ask your teacher how to get started on your campus’s resources.

Is there a career center on your campus? You might be able to find information online to set up an appointment to talk to somebody. If you are unsure of how to get started, check with your teacher about what your campus offers students.

Finally, one idea that might help the most is to talk to somebody who has the job or the type of career that you want. Start with your friends and family to see if there is somebody in your network who might be able to introduce you. You might also use a professional career network like LinkedIn to find somebody who might talk to you about what they do. Don’t feel pressured to complete this step. Focus on your interests and goals for now.

This isn’t necessarily an easy process, but you’ll find that your goals so much more tangible once you’ve set a preliminary career goal. Don’t forget: There is always support for you. Ask for any help you need!


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