8 Steps To Effectively Approach Career Exploration
Updated 18 April 2023
Exploring different careers can provide you with clarity about your next steps, whether you're a new graduate or you're unsure about your current job and want to change careers. Exploring different careers can also build confidence that may appeal to a recruiter or potential employer. Knowing how to approach exploring different career options and sticking to the plan can help you find what you love doing and stick to it to succeed professionally. In this article, we explain what career exploration is and give you eight easy steps you can consider to approach the process.
What is career exploration?
Career exploration is a process of reviewing different careers, industries or professions to understand what you'd like to do in life. It involves analysing your personality, values, skills and interests to see where you'd perform best. An important element of this process is making sure the career path you choose can meet your salary and growth expectations. As you go through this before deciding, you may find that some professions match your interests more, whereas others guarantee better growth opportunities.
The goal of career exploration is to perform your due diligence to learn more about your options and narrow down your choices to one career path that best fits you. By continuously evaluating where you are in your career, if you're happy or not and how to find a more fulfilling career, you're learning more about yourself and can gain an understanding of new concepts and skills.
Related: How To Choose a Career Path
How to explore your career options
Here's a list of some steps that can help you explore different career options and choose which one could be the best fit for your skills and expectations:
1. Perform a self-assessment
Getting to know yourself, discovering your talents and assessing your strengths is one of the most important steps in discovering what you'd like to do professionally. You may choose to perform self-assessment in various ways. For example, a good way to understand what types of careers could be good for you is to find your unique personality type.
Be sure to consider what you like doing and what motivates you. If you're a recent graduate, think about all the different kinds of tests and projects you completed in previous years and ask yourself which ones you enjoyed the most. If you have some work experience already but want to change careers to something that better suits your personality, think about what you do in your free time that makes you feel accomplished and happy. For example, this could be gardening, writing or cooking.
Related: How to Write a Self-Assessment
2. Set goals for your career
Setting realistic goals for yourself may help you better organise your academic or career path and succeed professionally. To do that, you can focus on developing SMART goals. Typically, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Be sure to break down your long-term goals into smaller tasks that you can complete in a month or week. This way, you can also maintain high motivation levels and invest enough time and effort into exploring various careers that you'd enjoy the most.
Related: How to Develop SMART Goals
3. Explore potential careers
Once you've fully assessed your personality, skills and strengths, consider making a list of responsibilities and growth opportunities you'd like to have and start researching careers and available job openings. You may want to read some job descriptions to discover growth opportunities within different industries and roles. It's also important to research average salaries, education requirements and daily tasks. Once you've done that, you can make a list of careers that seem interesting to you and are your top choices.
Related: What Does a Careers Adviser do?
4. Create a career shortlist
The next important step in exploring careers is narrowing down your options. Consider creating a career shortlist by eliminating those industries or professions you're unsure about based on your research and findings. You may choose to eliminate those careers that require more education than you have, have the desire to have or that pay less than you want to earn. It's important that you approach this step with a clear mind and that you're assertive or even as picky as you need to find those careers that most appeal to you.
5. Decide on the employment type
Deciding on which employment type best suits your lifestyle is a great way to find a career path that you'd be satisfied with. Be sure to consider all advantages and challenges of working for someone full-time first, as this is one of the most popular types of employment available. If you have some experience working a full-time job already, you can create a list of the pros and cons of such employment.
Once that's done, you can analyse other employment types, such as becoming self-employed or starting your own business if your chosen career path allows you to do that. If running your own business is something you'd enjoy, you can consider working for one or many clients at once as a freelancer. Although this requires more planning and researching, it can help you better understand your expectations, limitations and opportunities.
6. Network with experts in the field
Talking to someone who already works in the field you're interested in is a great way to get some insight into the career. For example, you can reach out to those who work in the profession via a professional networking site. You can also consider talking to your lecturers if you're still a student and ask for their opinion about the career path that's most appealing to you.
7. Gain experience to eliminate some careers
Gaining work experience is one of the best methods that allow you to test if the career you've chosen for yourself is the right fit for your skills and talents. If you're not ready to find employment just yet, you may consider shadowing someone who already works in the field. You can also get involved in the workplace by finding a summer internship or a part-time or seasonal job.
8. Revisit your choices
Once you've worked somewhere for a while, you can review your choice to make sure you're fully satisfied with the career you're exploring. If you've been working for just a few months and are feeling unsure about the job, changing careers early on might not be an issue and allow you to find something else that you'd truly enjoy. Be sure to stay assertive and confident about your professional journey. Exploring careers may take some time, and even though some people know what they want to do right from the start, it's perfectly fine to take more time to discover that.
Additional tips for choosing a career path
Consider these additional tips if you're currently exploring different careers for yourself:
Be assertive. Although your friends or family may want to help you find the right career for you, it's important that you choose something that you'd be truly satisfied with. Listen to yourself and take into consideration your needs and expectations.
Review your transferable skills. Transferable skills, also known as portable skills, are those skills that you can use in many different positions or disciplines. Highlighting them may be especially useful when you're in the process of changing jobs or industries.
Focus on your achievements. Making a list of your past work and academic achievements is a great way to objectively assess your strengths. This is because if you're successful in one field, you may have relevant skills and passion for it that could help you succeed professionally.
Discover your talents. Knowing your unique talents is a great way to make sure you can enjoy working in the role you've chosen for yourself. Identifying your talents can help you decide if you'd like to work independently or within a team and give you a chance to utilise them at work.
Find a mentor. Participating in a mentorship programme can be a great way to understand each career path. If you have a mentor who's an expert in the industry, they can help you assess your strengths or skills and give you an honest opinion if it's the right journey for you.
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