1. Informational interviews
Informational interviews are a great way to seek insights into different career paths and find out more about employers in certain industries. For example, if you’ve been thinking you might enjoy a career in dentistry, you can start by connecting with some local dentists in your area. You may wish to do this through a LinkedIn message or an introductory email.
If the person agrees to chat with you, you can ask them about how they got to where they are, how they found the study, what they like most about the career path, what they don’t enjoy about their role and even what advice they would provide you if you’re considering a career in their field. If they are working for an employer you’re interested in, you may even ask about the company culture and if they have any suggestions for seeking a role with that particular organisation.
2. Acknowledging where your strengths lie
Understanding your strengths is hugely important when it comes to both deciding on your career path and job-seeking. Although there’s a lot of information available on the internet about “following your bliss” or “working your dream job”, this advice doesn’t take into account what you’re good at. For example, if you have terrible attention to detail and your analytical skills aren’t strong, you’re probably not going to thrive in a research or analysis role. Similarly, if you aren’t a confident communicator, a role that involves a lot of public speaking or negotiating may not be suitable.
This is definitely not to say that skills can’t be learned, but the interesting thing about your strengths is that they’re usually in areas that you enjoy. This is likely because you’ve been engaged enough to develop these skills and have honed them throughout your life, career and/or study.
If you’re not immediately sure what your key strengths are, there are a number of tools available to help you explore this. These include CliftonStrengths, How to Fascinate by Sally Hogshead and the VIA Institute Character Strengths Test. If you’d prefer to get some extra help with this, you may choose to work with a career coach, who can help you to interpret your strengths and provide you with information about your potential career options.
3. Experimenting with volunteer work
Finally, you may decide to experiment with some volunteer work. I am a huge advocate of volunteering, because it gives you the option to “try before you buy” and gain some experience in your chosen field before you commit to one career path. Of course, if the job you’re interested in is in an industry that is heavily regulated or requires specific qualifications, you may not be able to experience the exact role you’re thinking about, however, you may get to work in a similar environment.
For example, if you are thinking about pursuing a career in the medical field, you won’t be allowed to perform heart surgery, but you may find a volunteer role in a hospital or have the opportunity to shadow one of the medical professionals or support staff. This will still give you some insight into the work environment and give you a taste of what is possible.
Got a few career options? Don’t be afraid to take on multiple volunteer opportunities in different fields. You can then compare your experiences and make a better judgment about the career path you’re most interested in.
We hope these ideas help you in choosing your first or next career path. Best of luck!