Important questions when choosing a career: a guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

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.

When you're learning more about the career you have an interest in, knowing more about yourself and the prospective careers available is important. This means you know as much as possible before taking decisive action on the career you have more of an interest in. Making an informed decision increases the likelihood of job satisfaction, which is why asking yourself questions about your career desires is essential. In this article, we discuss some of the questions when choosing a career and how to go through the process of answering them.

Questions when choosing a career

Here are some of the most important questions when choosing a career to consider:

What do I value?

The first question you ask yourself is what your own personal values are. This includes the ethics you have in the workplace, the way you work and even the things you value the most outside of a work setting. Answering this is vital as different workplaces have an emphasis on different values. For example, where some focus on maximising profit, others focus on employee welfare.

Finding the ideal balance for you is important for a more positive workplace experience. When answering this question, note the things you find necessary in a workplace. This includes a range of factors, from camaraderie to the time you spend working in the office and at home. Noting the most valuable aspects of a workplace for you ensures you have a checklist for ideal aspects of a workplace.

Related: What Does a Careers Adviser do?

What do I enjoy?

Knowing more about what you enjoy about work is another integral part of the career selection process. This means you have a better chance of enjoying your time in the workplace, increasing your investment in the workplace and keeping you as satisfied as possible with your work. Knowing what you enjoy is a relatively open question, including everything from the specific tasks you complete in a workplace to the subject matter you work with.

When answering this question, consider enjoyable days in your previous workplaces. Establish what made those days so good, from the material work you completed to the format of the office and even who your colleagues were. This narrows down the aspects of your work you enjoy the most and guides later career decisions.

What is my skill set?

Choosing the right career depends on having a position that suits your skill set. This means you have the right ability for completing all of the tasks in the role to a high standard. Working in an industry or specific position where you already have a high level of skills limits the amount of training necessary and means you spend less time adapting to the challenges of a new role.

When learning what your specific skill set is, talk to some of your friends, former colleagues and even fellow students about where you excel. Assessing your own strengths is challenging as you approach each of your tasks with a degree of bias. Having an external point of view means you have the most accurate perspective possible, leading to a better list of skills that reflect your talents.

Am I willing to learn?

Another aspect of establishing the ideal career for you is your willingness to learn. You have a good idea of what your skill set is and expanding these skills in a practical manner opens a range of new career options for you. For example, training in a specific programme an industry uses or working with a specialist machine is an excellent opportunity for opening more lucrative career options.

When understanding your willingness to learn, consider previous development opportunities from a range of former workplaces. This includes training on the job or completing courses outside work hours. If your experience is one of enjoying learning opportunities, consider more industries for work.

Related: What are common workplace training methods? (With tips)

Does a large salary matter?

The amount of compensation you have an interest in also matters. The ultimate intention of building a career is earning a salary, so knowing the extent to which salary matters is vital. If you place more importance on job satisfaction, then lower-salaried options are ideal. For those placing importance on larger salaries, the field of potential roles is thinner.

For this question, consider what your financial goals are. This means understanding what your lifestyle is, the home you have an interest in owning and the necessary salary for this lifestyle. By budgeting a minimum salary, you have a better chance of shortlisting the roles that suit your lifestyle and how necessary you perceive salary.

Am I willing to move?

Several industries have a 'hub' focus, with certain cities or regions acting as a central point for the majority of available jobs. This means that for some jobs, potential employees relocate so they're a part of the larger hub. Consider your ties to where you live. This includes any family, friends and the financial cost of moving. If you have an interest in moving across the country for work, this means you have more opportunities available for your career in the long term.

Related: How to negotiate a relocation package and what to include

How competitive is the industry?

Whilst knowing more about yourself is a vital part of the process, understanding the job market is similarly key. There's a range of industries available for someone with an interest in building a new career, but the level of competition in each industry is key. As a newcomer in an industry with a high level of competition, securing a role requires more time and attention.

When answering this question, complete thorough research into the industry itself. This means looking at the vacancies available to you and learning more about the number of applicants for each position and the standard level of qualifications for this role. Doing so builds a better idea of the challenges necessary for securing a role in the industry and whether the industry is an attractive prospect for you when you consider the competition.

Related: What is a non-compete agreement? (A comprehensive guide)

Am I a specialist or a generalist?

In a range of industries, categorising employees by whether they work as a specialist or a generalist is vital. Specialists have more specific skills for precise tasks, whereas generalists use wider skill sets and complete a range of roles in an organisation. An example of a generalist is a full-stack developer. Understanding whether you work better as a generalist or a specialist means choosing the right roles in the industry.

When establishing whether you work better as a specialist or a generalist, consider how well you do when learning about topics in great detail. Specialists know about their topic in significant depth, having a strong understanding of every detail of their area of expertise. If you enjoy completing thorough research and learning precise information, working as a specialist is ideal for you. If you prefer more broad research, look for generalist work.

Related: How to become a full-stack developer (with salary)

Do I want job mobility?

Many people seek a greater degree of mobility in their careers. This includes upwards mobility, with members of staff having potential for promotion, and horizontal mobility, retaining the same level of seniority in the company whilst changing their responsibilities. Choosing the right option here means you have an appropriate career path ahead of you from the start rather than reconsidering your path later on.

Completing thorough research into interesting careers is ideal at this stage. Look at specific companies and consider how different members of senior staff find themselves in the position they do. By then considering how important promotions are to you, you get a better idea of whether a role is suitable for your motivations and aspirations in the workplace.

Related: What is a job promotion? (Plus types and how to get one)

Does the position interest me?

The most important question for anyone seeking a new career is whether the role holds your attention. Different people have an interest in a selection of different roles and the more a person pays attention to the role the more likely they are to enjoy it.

When choosing a long-term career, enjoyment is a vital factor, as enjoying your work means you enjoy your life more. For this question, look at the most feasible roles available after answering the previous questions. Consider which you actively have an interest in and would enjoy working in as soon as possible. This means that you choose a position you care about and enjoy in your career search.

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