When choosing a career path, it is essential to bear in mind that it is a lifelong commitment. The career you decide to pick will impact other areas of your life (e.g., family, relationship, faith, social status, etc.). Choosing which occupation to focus on is a decision that must be made very carefully as it would directly impact your long-term professional career objectives and outcomes. If you are thinking about which professional path to embark on, it is imperative to seriously weigh the reasons why you are leaning towards a specific field. For instance, why would you choose to major in Robotics Engineering as a career path over Communication or Law? Why would one pick a career in Criminology and Law Enforcement over a career in the Medical Sciences? You must understand the root of your motivation and inclination towards a specific field.
So, what if you already have a job you have worked at for over five years? A lot of people find themselves in this scenario. They become career-locked in a vocation that is not ideal for them. Standing from where you are, it would look impossible to entertain the thought of switching professions. People in such circumstances wrestle with the challenges that they may face in trying to change to an entirely new field. Do they have the academic qualifications? If not, what kind of duration are they looking at to be able to acquire the skills that they need for the change? Some folks may think that it is too late and making a mid-career switch may be seemingly impossible. Embracing this mindset cannot help you in any way. People switch career paths every day. The catch is not to shift too often in order not to lose precious years you could have used to become an expert in one thing. However, it is possible to make a mid-career change should you find yourself in that boat. It may be time for you to press the start button and begin exploring the possibilities of a new career shift.
We live in a fast-evolving macrocosm that is changing at astronomical breakneck speeds. We live in times where there is an evolution in technologies, methodologies, and processes. These new changes are redefining the way we live and work. Many systems that defined the way we worked several decades ago are quickly becoming moribund. Because of this, we need to also evolve in the way we think. Our thoughts should not be the only thing emerging, the way we approach work should also be experiencing the evolution. We now live in a technology-infused generation. In other to be in flux with the change, we may need to change careers from the get-go or midway. The reason hinges on the fact that we need to stay relevant amid the changes that we are seeing and experiencing. Just know that all that is important from here on is that nothing is stopping you from changing careers midway. However, bear this in mind that to fully benefit from any chosen field, you must put in the time required to gain the experience that is needed to achieve expert status in the profession.
10 Questions People Should Ask Before Choosing A Career
Making a career choice as we have seen above can be difficult at times, especially when we know that the outcome of our decisions will have a lasting impact on our lives. Because of this fact, we must not make this choice nonchalantly. We must ask ourselves a series of questions that will help form the foundation of our decision. Whether you are a high-schooler trying to decide on a career before going into college, or you are already working in a profession but entertaining the thoughts of making a career switch—we must ask ourselves some pertinent questions and answer them candidly. These questions will help us make an informed choice in other to eschew any form of regret later down the roads of our career lives. The answers to these questions will be the ammunition that you need to wage your future career war. Hence, be sure to be well equipped in other not to suffer a career defeat. So, as you stand there undecided, pondering which path to take, think on the questions that we will tackle below.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
First, what are your interests? What are you so enthusiastic about that you could find yourself doing for several hours without getting tired of it? It could be your hobby, your talent, or something that you just do for fun. What would you like to do for extended periods of time without getting bored? When you have decided on the activities that can give you long-term fulfillment, that is the time to begin to narrow it down. After you have narrowed down your list of interests, develop a scale of preference starting with the one that peaks your interest most on top. From that point begin working your way down the list. For instance, work on the top five career interests that you have and use this in establishing your scale of preference list. Formulating this list will give you an idea of the path(s) you are most likely to follow when you make your final career choice.
Second, what are your skills? What are you good at or find easy to do? If you are naturally good at a particular thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it can translate to a fulfilling career path for all. However, it gives you some sense of direction about what you could possibly do. If you choose to harness this potential, it is possible that you could make a career out of something that you find easy to do. For some though, it can be easy to excel at it as a career; however, for others, it may be an uphill climb to translate such skill into a vocation. However, this should never stop you from trying to make a career out of it. Skills can be gained through self or corporate training. Today, we have corporations like Udemy, an online-based platform for training people in various skills. Also, if you have picked up any craft from learning and practice, think of where it can be of use. Polish and grow your skill-set until you become a sought-after expert at it.
Third, what careers have room for professional mobility? Take some time to find out professions that are organic rather than being overly rigid. Professional plasticity means being able to move up in your career and being able to transfer skills that you have acquired in the process in one field of work to another if need be. The worst career experience you will ever have is to choose a career that you feel pigeonholed in. To be pigeonholed, from a verb perspective of its meaning is, “to assign to a specific position or to definite places in some orderly system.” From a career standpoint, people who are pigeonholed in a career are clasped into a position or a set of duties based on past accomplishments. You become a “career-lake,” with nothing flowing in or out of it. There are careers out there that don’t give you room for professional plasticity. Take time and research and find out what these occupations are. Make an educated decision from the facts of your research and be sure that you do not put yourself in a pigeonhole situation. Choose a career that makes room for professional mobility and plasticity, all things being equal.
Fourth, what exactly are your goals in life? Your goals give you direction. Your goals are the harbingers of your life vision. Your goals give you the building blocks that allow you to construct the career plan for your future. Do you have a career goal? Have you used that goal to craft the career plan for your future? Remember, if you have a goal without a tangible plan, it then becomes just a wish. The two go together, you can’t have one without the other. Remember what Carl Jung said, “When goal goes, meaning goes; when meaning goes, purpose goes; when purpose goes, life goes dead on your hands.” Define your career goals. Use your goals to formulate a plan of action. Remember, plan thoughtfully what you do, and whatever you do will turn out right. An unknown author once said that “People are like buttons, unattached, useless. Attached, indispensable. People, unattached to a goal, useless. Attached, men with missions.” Your chosen career should help you achieve most of your professional goals while giving you room to grow and also think up new goals to achieve. You should be able to see the clear path that your career can give you to achieve your goals and more.
Fifth, what did you study academically and what are you naturally good at doing? Josef Stalin once said that “Education is a weapon whose effect depends upon who retains it in his or her palms and at whom it is pointed.” (Paraphrased). I am an avid advocate for academic acquisition. Once again, what did you study academically and what are you naturally good at doing? What do you hope to study in college? What other academic qualification do you desire to acquire and add to the one(s) that you already have? Typically, it is difficult to attempt a career you did not get an educational qualification in, even if you think you have a natural flair for it, you must think twice before you proceed. Apart from acquiring an actual degree, you can also teach yourself a set of academic skills that will help you choose or advance a career. For instance, Elon Musk has a bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics from the University of Pennsylvania; however, he literally taught himself rocket science by reading textbooks and talking to enterprise heavyweights. Today, he has advanced his career by establishing SpaceX, a company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Talk about being ingenious and industrious. So, it is not impossible, it’s all a function of grit and purpose. Try your best to acquire the right qualification needed for this skill.
Sixth, how much money can you make at starting level? What kind of salary requirements and expectations do you expect at the inception of a career? Everyone’s life situation is different. You need to know what you can live with at the start of a profession. Having this knowledge will allow you choose the career that you would like to venture into. For instance, every job has its established salary bracket. The salary bracket of a Medical Doctor may not be the same as that of an Engineer, or an Agriculturist. Having a ballpark figure of the salary requirements, you believe that you can live with can help you in zeroing into a career that you eventually want to go into. This amount should not be the sole reason for your choice, but you need to make an estimation of your projected expenses and compare the value with your researched estimates of a starting level salary. So, if you have not already cudgeled your brain or done your research, take some time and do some digging and exploration to find out what your salary expectations are. Based on your interests from your scale of preference that you developed earlier, find out whether any of your professional choices are able to fulfill your financial expectations and future obligations. You should be able to afford your living costs from your career choice.
Seventh, how saturated is the field? The oversaturation of a career field will create a scenario where we have an excess supply of graduates in that area in comparison to the market demand for those professions. You need to ensure that you do this research timely. Do this research before you enter college if you are still in high school. Do the same research before you make a career switch should you already be in a profession but considering a change. Are there already too many university graduates or skilled personnel gunning for employment in this field? If yes, you may want to consider alternative pathways to still achieving your personal goals through a similar but less saturated career path to reduce the risks of disappointments. An oversaturated career field can lead to a lot of college graduates being jobless after spending all that time and resources acquiring that degree. Better be sure that you are making the right investment of time, effort, and resources when making career a choice. Save yourself the agony of having a degree but standing in the unemployment line because of an oversaturated career marketplace.
Eight, how relevant will your options be in the field? When choosing a career path, think of flexible fields and organizations that are open to innovations. Organizations today are fast evolving due to advancement in technology, globalization, and fast-changing consumer needs. Organizations that turn their backs on the shift, quickly go out of business. They failed to think long-term. Innovation is the golden keys to long-term thinking. For instance, Blockbuster is now defunct. They missed the mark and did not see consumer needs for entertainment shifting towards movie kiosks (e.g., Redbox) and at home movie streaming via video-on-demand (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, HBO Live, etc.). Sears is pretty much extinct now. They stood flat-footed as companies like Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon grabbed all their market share by being more innovative than them. Toys “R” Us finally went to the cemetery of organizations this year. They could not compete with the likes of Wal-Mart and Amazon who play the fields by being obsessed with the needs of their customer base. Career fields that are slow to embrace innovation also quickly lose their relevancy. Think about career fields that can adapt to suit changes in customer’s needs. Think of a profession that offers services that will stay in demand for years to come into the future. Don’t hop into the latest find, just because it’s the current fad. Think long-term. Think innovation.
Ninth, do you know anyone in this field? The people we know can make all the difference. No person should be an island. It is often beneficial to network with people in our current or future career fields. A George Ross once said that “To become a success, you have to be able to relate to people; they have to be pleased with your character to be able to do business with you and to establish a relationship with mutual trust.” (Paraphrased). So before venturing into the uncharted waters of a new profession, do yourself a favor and commence networking and making connections with people in your field of interest. Today, the art of networking has been made as easy as A, B, C. Today, being a part of the career network platform “LinkedIn” is pretty much synonymous to the word “networking.” Are you part of LinkedIn yet? Consider joining and begin networking in your current or future field of interest. Connections are a useful thing, not only for employment opportunities but also for mentorship. Mike Murdock on mentorship once said that “Someone has heard what you have not heard. Someone has seen what you have not seen. Someone knows what you do not know. Your success in life depends on your willingness to be mentored by them.” (Paraphrased). When you find people in your vocation of interest, you could ask them if they would oblige to be your mentor. Learn all you can from them, so that you can possibly earn in the career of your dreams. It is always beneficial to gain some pre-knowledge in a professional area you would like to venture into. It is always important to find someone ahead of you in a field of your interest. A person with a similar vision like you, to guide and help you from their wealth of tacit knowledge and experience. On a side note, apart from learning from a mentor, this is also one of the reasons why some people get into internship programs with organizations that they hope to work for as an avenue to learn the ropes of a possible future vocation before they venture into it. Leverage your networks. Leverage your internship possibilities. Get some pre-knowledge before venturing into a field.
The tenth and final question is, ‘Would you enjoy this?’ Never settle for a career where you will work and live your life in perpetual misery. In an ideal state, work should be fun. An organization that has happy associates or employees will always translate their happiness to serving customers with a high level of enthusiasm. When customers are content with their experience, they will always return to that point of satisfaction. Richard Branson of Virgin Group believes that his associates or employees should always be happy. To do so, Mr. Branson first believes that you should give your employees the freedom to be creative and innovative. Second, he maintains that organizations should have the foresight of knowing what keeps their employees happy. Third, Mr. Branson believes that organizations should never panic when you have jet-setters as employees who may one day launch out and become entrepreneurs of their own. In his opinion, he believes that this is not a setback. It is only an opportunity to bring new people into the fold and continue the track record of making them happy. Only happy and satisfied employees seek to remain with organizations. Disgruntled and unhappy employees always look for ways to exit an organization. Therefore, I implore you to research the day-to-day activities of a field that one envisages to embrace. Research the daily activities of the future organizations that they choose to forge a career path with. Ask people who already work in the field. Weigh all the pros and cons carefully. Decide if you will be happy waking up every day for the rest of your professional life doing that job. Whatever your choice, make sure you have fun doing it.
These may be a lot of questions to ponder on and digest. However, the fact remains that in answering these questions, you are building a solid foundation for your future career. You are making sure that you are removing any hurdle that may impede or stop your career growth and aspirations. A stitch in time they say saves nine. It is better for you to ponder on these questions now and make an informed decision today that will benefit your future career tomorrow. Once again, what are your interests? Identify your interests. What are your skills? Acquire a valuable and profitable skill-set. What vocations have room for professional mobility? Don’t join a rigid organization. What exactly are your goals in life? Discover your life and career goals today. What did you study academically and what are you naturally good at doing? Education is essential—get a degree if you can. Use your talent and make it a profitable venture. How much money can you make at the starting level of your future career? Decide what your financial needs will be at the inception of your future career. How saturated is the field? Do yourself a favor and eschew an oversaturated career field. How relevant will your options be in the vocation? Choose organizations and professions that are open to innovation. Do you know anyone in this field? Embrace the law of connectivity through networking. Find a mentor. Get an internship. Would you enjoy this? As you tow a career path, make sure you have fun doing so. I will spare you the labor of going through each of these questions again, we have already done so above in the article. These ten questions are remarkably crucial to making the right career choice for your future. Ponder on them. Answer them honestly. Read them repeatedly if you must. Digest the questions and master your answers if you must. Then forge ahead and build the golden career of your dreams. Carpe diem!