Choosing a Career Path in 11 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Focusing on a particular career path can help you make a sound decision about your professional growth as you gain experience and skills. It's important to review your career goals, skills and interests as you make certain choices in life, such as which university to apply for, which entry-level position is right for you and whether to earn a specialised certification or a master's degree. In this article, we'll discuss how to determine your key interests and skills, match those qualities to a potential job field and start your professional journey.

What is a career path?

A career path is composed of positions you hold as you grow in your field. For example, your first college degree or the first job you've held can mark the beginning of your career path. As you gain more skills and knowledge, you may advance into higher positions or get a different job role as you specialise or shift into a different career path.

How to choose a career path

Your career path should account for your personality, future plans and career goals. Taking these factors into account can help you select the right starting position and make smart decisions over time. Here are a few steps you should consider as you prepare a career path:

1. Define your career goals

Before choosing a career, make time for self-reflection. Consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are my interests?

  • What are my aptitudes and strengths? Hard skills? Soft skills?

  • What are my core values?

  • What do I want from my career?

  • What activities do I enjoy the most, in my free time or professionally?

  • Do I want to take on management roles or specialise in certain technical skills?

Once you answer questions like these, you can easily find a career path that suits you best. It's also important to review your career goals as you develop professionally and personally to ensure your goals remain attainable and aligned with your interests.

To make sure your career goals are clear and reachable, each one should be SMART:

  • Specific: Make your goal detailed and clear for more effective planning.

  • Measurable: Determine what evidence will prove you're improving and reevaluate when necessary.

  • Attainable: Make sure you can reasonably achieve your career goals within a certain timeframe.

  • Relevant: Your career goals should align with your values and long-term objectives.

  • Time-based: Set an ambitious, realistic end-date for motivation and task prioritisation.

2. Establish a five-year or ten-year career plan

Once you have set your career goals and narrowed down your choices, consider creating milestones for your career. Find out where other professionals in your industry are at five or ten years into their career and make a note of their roles. Determine what advancements or role you want to have at these future points. Then, come up with a plan on how you can reach those goals. You may need to hold prerequisite positions, take on specific responsibilities or undergo training programs.

By setting career goals five or ten years in the future, you can easily make a career plan based on the progress you should expect each year. Make sure to schedule time regularly to review your goals and career.

3. Find out your personality type

Your personality type encompasses things like how you make decisions in the workplace, process information and interact with others. There are several personality tests that you can use when drawing connections to career opportunities. If you take several personality tests and one or two careers emerge across multiple tests, that particular career may be worth researching. Some of the tools you can use to determine your personality type include:

  • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): This is a questionnaire that identifies your personality, preferences and strengths. Based on your answers to the questions, you are identified as having one of 16 personality types. The primary goal of MBTI is to allow you to further explore and understand your own personalities, including your career preferences, weaknesses, strengths, likes, dislikes and compatibility with other people.

  • The Keirsey Temperament Sorter: This questionnaire is similar to the MBTI, but it focuses on temperaments and behaviours rather than preferences.

  • The Jungian Type Index: This self-assessment tool can give you an overview of your personality type and suggested careers by determining Jungian cognitive functions—intuition, sensation, feeling and thinking—or reasons behind your psychological preferences.

4. Review your previous experience

Your job satisfaction in your previous jobs can also help guide your career choices. Determine trends in your previous roles, such as focusing on a specific technical skill. You may also review your job history to identify roles that you felt fulfilled.

5. Compare job requirements against your education

There are plenty of jobs that have specific education requirements for candidates and new hires, such as earning a Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, earning a bachelor's degree or getting an advanced degree. Some jobs also require you to have your degree in a specific field related to the position.

Thus, make sure to review education requirements for positions you are interested in and apply for jobs that accept your current level of education. You can also research additional certifications or degrees you may need.

6. Evaluate your current skill set

Make a list of your current certifications, skills and areas of expertise. You may also ask for feedback about your interpersonal, people management and technical skills from colleagues and coworkers. This assessment can help you find careers that match what you're best at.

Related: Selecting the Right CV Skills in 5 Simple Steps

7. Review your interests

Depending on your personality, you may have interests that are suitable for different careers. Review your interests, hobbies and previous volunteer experiences to identify fields or activities you enjoy. Although this information is outside of a professional context, making a list of activities you like can help you focus on your career search. For instance, you may enjoy a career in education if you love working with children, or you may enjoy a tech role, such as a cybersecurity specialist, if you enjoy logic puzzles.

You can use this knowledge to apply for volunteer opportunities or short-term roles to explore new career options. This first-hand experience can help you determine whether you're suitable for a career. If you have a job or you're currently in school, consider taking a certification program or course that is required for a field you're interested in. This experience can help you determine if the career's content and skills are something you enjoy.

8. Determine your core values

Determining your core values can help you focus on a career you find fulfilling. It can also help you find niche areas or fields that you're passionate about. Consider creating a list of qualities you believe are important in a company or for its employees. You can use this list to look for job descriptions or companies that share these values.

9. Consider your salary requirements

Depending on your lifestyle, you may need a certain salary. You can use Indeed Salaries to find average salaries by location, company and job title. This can be a good starting point for identifying how much money you will make initially as well as your earning potential after you have gained several years of experience. Although salary may not equal a satisfying, engaging role, it's a very important factor to consider when planning your career path.

10. Research the responsibilities of several positions within the field

Although certain positions may sound awesome in theory, it's important to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Find out the daily responsibilities of several jobs within your field to help you narrow down your choices. You can use the Indeed Career Guide website to peruse job profiles for thousands of positions. Think about whether you can imagine yourself performing the tasks happily or if the work seems overwhelming.

You may find it helpful to create a list of things you don't want to do for a job, such as working uncertain or long hours or constant travelling. These things can help you decide between different positions. For example, you may love animals, but if you get nervous when you see needles or blood, becoming a veterinary technician may not be the right career for you. However, a pet groomer or dog walker may be a better fit.

11. Sign up for an apprenticeship or an internship to see if it's a good fit

One of the best ways to determine if a career is right for you is to actually experience it. By signing up for an apprenticeship or internship, you'll get to see what the daily experience in a particular field is like. You'll also meet other people in the industry and make connections.

You can do an online search to find apprenticeships or internships in the field you want to work in. You can also tap into your network and see if you have family or friends that work in the field. They may be able to help you find an apprenticeship, internship or volunteer opportunity that matches your career goals.

Explore more articles