How to Choose the Right Career Path?

When I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career path. All around me were those who seemed to have it figured out. I remember everyone looked like they took the whole thing in their stride. But it wasn’t until a few years later that I realised that there were many people just like me. We’d put a brave face on it. And yet we had no clue what to do for a career.

Early Career Options

I’ve written a previous post concerning the UK’s education system and its impact, or lack of, on how it helps us choose a career path.

Too many people leave school either not having a clue of what to do for a career or thrust unwittingly down a career route by their parents. For those parents who simply want their children to pursue whatever they want to do, for many children it isn’t really all that clear what that is. For example, my hopes of becoming a Footballer were dashed by my inability to play to a standard worthy of an amateur teams reserves bench. Unless a talent or childhood hobby could be realistically envisioned as a career route at an early stage, most school leavers are unsure of what to purse for a career upon leaving school.

Parents Input

During our upbringing our influences consist of parents and family, friends and celebrity type figures who exist in what we see as popular at that time. As your friends are typically around the same age it isn’t likely they’ll have made anymore headway than you in their careers. The celebrity and famous icons of our age perhaps exist in career paths that are unrealistic or at best highly unlikely for the average Joe. This leaves your parents and family who set the example of possible career paths.

The Problem with Parents and Family Input

The problem is that often what your parents envisage you doing may not be what you want to do. Many parents will have found a trade or type of job that they know. Others may have always respected a type of profession as it is what is considered respectable in their community. Of the options given they aren’t necessarily always desirable. For example, some parents may recommend you to become a plumber. Sitting under a toilet to unblock it or fitting some pipes into a wall aren’t my idea of what I’d want to do for the next 40 years. How about becoming a Doctor? Sitting in a room with old people coming in with coughs and hip problems, although commendable, never excited me all that much to be honest.

I understand why some people would enjoy either of these career choices. But neither are for me and trying to be encouraged to commit to a career for the next 40 years doing something I’d yearn for as much as an ingrowing toil nail, never appealed.

Where do you discover favourable career options?

From experience of anyone I have met who found their calling and it wasn’t from a talent or childhood hobby, their discovery came from two places. It was either from a college or university prospectus or by accident.

My calling, Recruitment, wasn’t even a known career option when I left school. Nor when I left College or even University. Why would it be? How can being sat in a room and speaking to people on a phone about jobs I’ve never done sound like a career move I’d absolutely love? It was an accidental discovery. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but wanted to earn a lot of money and I quite liked sales. I came across it as a career and I’ve been in it ever since.

Another friend of mine chose Geography at college. It was a subject he’d enjoyed at school, but freely admits wasn’t something he wanted as a career. The choice of college over full time work appealed more at the time. It wasn’t until he discovered Geology, a sub-genre of Geography, that he found his calling and has gone on to be a PhD in the subject and a national expert.

How do you find your calling faster?

Pushy parents don’t help with this if they are unmoveable on their desires for you. I have friends with parents who wanted their children to pursue law or medical professions. Their families felt that this was best for them. Yet, all bar one person I know who pursued the career route their parents had advised are unhappy in their career choice. They’ve since either left or have resigned themselves to their fate.

If you are fortunate enough to have less invasive parents when it comes to your career choices it is pro-activity that it is your friend. You need to start looking as early as possible, but more importantly, you need to be patient. Trying to flick through a prospectus to find your career calling is like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles (a plagiarised line from a famous Spielberg film – no points if you guess it).

You see the problem is that a college or university prospectus is written as a course sales brochure, not a career advise resource. They’ll try to sell you the appeal of the course in question in as fewer words as possible. You don’t really get much of a feel for what the career would actually involve. This is why many people study for a career in University and then leave their following career quickly when they realise it’s like chalk and cheese.

Narrowing Down

In most cases you’ll gather a small range of possible career routes, but will remain unsure on them. This is where you need to do your research. And by research I don’t mean have a quick look at company’s career pages and generalised websites on the subject. Do as much research from as many routes as you can.

You may find many positive reviews of the career route and related information supporting what a wise choice that path would be. Although, this is helpful if you’re smart this isn’t what should make your choice.

Negatives and Drawbacks

Look for the negatives and drawbacks before making a decision. This may sound counterintuitive. Why listen to naysayers if it’s what you want to do, right? The fact is though that no career route is perfect. For example, you may find a career that has great perks, tons of money and is very interesting and fun. But if once a week you have to play Russian roulette with a pistol, it may lose its appeal quickly.

What are the drawbacks? Where are the negatives in the otherwise dream occupation? Why isn’t it for everyone? Once you discover these and look into them you then need to be really honest with yourself. Could you suffer the negatives day in, day out for the next 40+ years? Take your time to consider this. If after a week you’re still thinking that the pro’s far outweigh the con’s then it’s worth pursuing as your career path, but if not, keep looking. Remember, be patient.

Jumping in and Getting Stuck

The biggest mistake you can make from a career move is jumping into something and getting stuck in it, when you hate what you are doing. When you love the job but hate the employer, you’ll have other companies who’ll want you. You can always move company. But when you hate the job itself, the employer can be as lovely as can be, but it won’t fix what you are doing day to day.

In early career jobs, think bar, restaurant or retail work, they’re not really quicksand careers where you’ll get stuck if you want to leave. But once you’ve completed a degree and spent 5+ years in something it starts to get increasingly difficult to get out of it. Sure, you can change company, but if your stuck in the same career it won’t change what it is you are doing. If you hate the occupation you may feel like you’ve missed the boat off that career island. Therefore, getting what you want to do right long before it gets to this stage is very important.


On this occasion, although money needs to be a consideration in a career due to the practicalities of modern life, it shouldn’t be the only thing to consider. For some if you can do what you love and it pays what you need to live, you may well be happier than doing a well-paying job that you hate. It really depends on you. Remember the negatives and drawbacks and whether you can deal with those? Money is a possible on that list.

Sum Up

The earlier you start thinking about a career, the better. By the time you leave school you should ideally have some possible career routes narrowed down. But you can still re-adjust in your early to mid-twenties. After that it becomes increasingly hard. You may have bills, responsibilities and obligations that limit your freedom to change career path by your mid or later twenties.

Explore the options, be proactive and start early. Don’t just look for what appeals. If it appeals, look into the drawbacks and negatives. Can you deal with those? If you can then this should be on your shortlist. Narrow down the shortlist and eventually you’re calling will reveal itself.

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