How do most people choose a profession?
Well… they didn’t. They stumble into a job after college, take whatever they can get their hands on, and then follow one of the few paths available from that random job.
No wonder most people are frustrated with their careers.
But there is actually a way to narrow down your potential interests to choose a career you love.
Ramit Sethi, our founder and career path expert, has put together the Dream Job System that helps you explore all the jobs you’re interested in, test each one to see if you really enjoy doing them, and move on to other jobs if they aren’t a good fit.
Here are some of the best tips on finding a career you love – even if you have no idea what you want to do.
1. Understand yourself and your personality
A good assessment of your personality determines what kind of job is right for you. And we’re not talking about taking a random personality test and doing whatever it tells you to do – these tests are usually unrealistic, and can’t paint a clear picture of what really drives you.
Instead, ask yourself the following questions and let your answers guide your search for your career.
What motivates you?
The first step in assessing your personality is to find out what motivates you. If you can’t answer this question on your own, turn to friends, family, and colleagues to understand your driving force. When do they recognize your eyes light up? Maybe it’s after you’ve helped someone, or when you’ve solved a difficult problem. Understanding what gives you energy can help point you in the right career direction.
Rate your skills
Some jobs make use of soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal, while others require a specific academic skill set. For example, technical jobs automatically require you to have an analytical mindset/background. You cannot apply for a research position when your only training is in art history. If you want to change your profession, that’s fine, but understand that you will likely need additional training.
Understand your weaknesses and dislikes
Have some self-awareness and point out your main weaknesses and what you don’t like. You may realize that you have poor delegation skills or that you hate team collaboration. You’ll need to recognize weaknesses or outright dislike. For example, if you don’t like talking to people, you probably wouldn’t want to consider a job in customer service.
2. List potential careers to explore
One of the hardest things about choosing a career is picking just one job… that you’re supposed to do for the rest of your life.
- “What if I decide that I hate doing X? Can I do something else?”
- “What if I want to change my profession in a few years? What do I do next?”
- “What if I like to do a lot of things and can’t decide where to focus?”
Just start listing all the jobs and job titles for you may be be interested in.
Anything you want to explore, just write it down.
- Do you think copywriting sounds fun? Add it to your list.
- Can you imagine yourself as a marketing manager? Put it on the list.
- Do you know someone who does inside sales and what they do sounds great? Put it on the page.
- Did you toy with the idea of being a baker? There is no remainder of the field. Write it down.
Ramit calls this cloud technology because your options are as open as the sky.
This allows you to say “yes” to whatever piques your curiosity instead of saying “no, I can’t do that because…”
Where do your ideas come from? Here are some functional brainstorming tips:
- List any jobs or titles that have caught your eye in the past.
- Go to LinkedIn or another job listing site and read the job descriptions. If anything caught your eye or seemed like it would be interesting, add that to your list of potential ideas.
- Think about the skills you already have or those you would like to develop. Then look for jobs that involve those skills. For example, do you really like design and creativity? Find out what jobs require these skills by searching online. Put these options in the list of potential jobs as well.
- Think about the people you envy about their jobs. Have you always been jealous of your aunt for being a tour manager with your favorite band? Write this here.
3. Research your best options
Once you’ve initially chosen a few job titles, it’s time to do some deep research. This is where you go from “Okay…looks interesting” to really understand what the job is about.
Remember: You don’t have to become 100% familiar with these roles…yet. You just want to learn as much as you need to know if the job is right for you.
Let’s use the job title “Engineer” as an example of what you want to look for.
The first thing you want to do is get an overview of the function:
- What do engineers actually do?
- What different types of engineers are there (petroleum, electric, civil…)?
- What types of companies do they work for?
You can find this information with a quick search through Wikipedia or Googling ‘Introduction to [INSERT JOB]. “
As you address these general and comprehensive questions, you may begin to rule out some of the options you originally listed. that’s good. In fact, this is expected. Just because something sounds interesting in theory, doesn’t always mean it will be.
You actually want to narrow things down at this point. If you ever run out of job titles on your list, simply go back to step three (with your new insight into what you want out of the job) and start over.
Once you have a basic, high-level understanding of functionality, you can dive deeper into the finer details:
- What does this job pay?
- What type of educational experience is required?
- What is the path?
- What does the job look like on a daily basis?
- How many hours per week do they work?
- Is there travel?
- What makes a great engineer vs. a good engineer? Is it a strategic vision? Creative ideas? Quantitative skills?
- What blogs/books/websites do they read regularly in order to stay “informed?”
All the time you’re going through this process, ask yourself, “Can I see myself doing this?” and “Is this something that still interests me?”
This process helps you discover what you really enjoy. Once you’ve narrowed down your list again, you’re ready to listen to the people who are already working in these roles. This is how you ensure that this is the right career choice.
4. Conducting informational interviews
An informational interview is an informal conversation you have with a subject working in the profession you want. It is the last step you take when determining your career path.
You may have heard of media interviews before, but few people actually take this crucial step. Two things you need to know:
- An informational interview is an opportunity to meet and learn from someone who sparks your curiosity. So if you’re interested in what a product manager or engineer really does and want insider advice on the job, this is how you find out.
- People want to meet smart people who are curious about the same things. This means that if you send a great email, you have interesting and insightful questions.
Here’s how to set up an informational interview:
Reserve their time
First, select the people you want to talk to. Then, reach out to a friendly email asking if they’d be willing to meet you. Here is a sample email script that you can edit and use.
Subject: Hi Allen!
I hope all is well and this email finds you in good spirits. I’m thinking of catching up on some things related to my career choice.
I read about quality control at the big drug companies and am excited about it, but there isn’t much information about the experience on the ground. The job will get me on the production line, I’m interested to know what that looks like and what should I be ready for? I know you are resourceful, given your career of over a decade in the same streak, which I admire very much!
Would you mind actually contacting me briefly as I can get your ideas on quality control as a line engineer?
Please let me know the right time to contact you
cut short. Go straight to the point and give a compelling reason.
Prepare talking points
You don’t want to come to an informational interview without saying anything. Prepare your questions in advance, and do a little research about the person you’ll be interviewing as well. This will help you connect with them while getting the most out of the interview.
Talk about your challenges honestly
An informational interview is the perfect place for you to share your reservations about the job you are learning about. After all, you haven’t chosen it as a profession yet. It is better to discover that it is not for you now than in the future once you start in this kind of business.
Be a good listener
Be attentive and take notes during the informational interview. Ask questions during the conversation. If you don’t know what to ask, you can always ask an open-ended question like, “Is there more you can tell me more about XYZ?”
Send a thank you note
Sending a thank you letter is critical after an informational interview. Even if you don’t want to delve into this kind of work after an interview, you never want to burn a professional bridge by not following through. Leave the person you spoke with via email and tell them how their tips help you achieve your goals.
While having your dream job on your lap is rare, you can systematically find your dream job. We see many students struggling to get a job of their choice, and we step in to help. This doesn’t mean it’s always easy. But it is possible.
Let us help prepare you for success by guiding you to the career path you love. Let us help you in your quest to find your dream job.
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