Not sure what to do with your life? You are not alone. Many students (and non-students) struggle to figure out what career will make them happy.
Finding a career that is a good fit takes time, patience, research and an understanding that even once you figure it out, you will constantly be re-evaluating your choices as your interests, skills, job(s) and life circumstances change.
With the holidays coming up and semester break approaching, many students may soon face pressure from parents to decide on a major or a career path. Or, you might be thinking about internship and job options but need some direction and focus.
Here are some things you can do right from your computer to discover and examine your career options:
Social Networking Sites
User profiles on sites like LinkedIn give you the opportunity to check out other professionals’ resumes. Profiles usually include tons of information about the day-to-day responsibilities of jobs (both current and past) as well as indications about typical career paths in a given field. While the purpose of most professional online social networks is to stay in touch with contacts, don’t look past social networking sites as resources for career information.
Created and maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET has tons of information about careers and what it is like to work in different industries. Entries for each job list typical work activities, describe the work environment, provide average salaries and include projected job growth.
If looking through tons and tons of occupational descriptions seems intimidating, check out the Skills Search section. With this tool, you can select the skills you have or plan to acquire and it will generate a list of possible careers that match those skillsets. It’s not the most in-depth or complex tool, but it’s an easy-to-use starting point for someone who has no clue what path they might want to pursue.
This site is similar to O*Net, but has additional job search articles and resources. Check out the Careers & Industries section for their take on different career paths.
Online Job Boards
You’ve probably heard that the best way to find a job is via networking, not on public job boards. But, those sites can be excellent sources of information about various career paths. Don’t worry about whether or not you are qualified for the position – you’re not necessarily even applying now, anyway.
Pay more attention to the knowledge, skills and experience necessary for the job. If it is a position far beyond your current level of experience or skill set, you can work backwards and figure out what you need to do now and in the coming years in order to advance toward this target position.
Part of figuring out what to do with your life is knowing yourself and the specific strengths, values, interests, goals and priorities you bring to the table. Once you’ve identified these things, you can search for a career that matches all (or most) of them. Assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Strong Interest Inventory can help you see patterns of behavior or thought that you had not noticed before.
Check with your college career center before paying for any of these assessments elsewhere, as many offices offer assessments (online or off) for little to no charge. Otherwise, check out these lists of online assessment resources. Keep in mind that these assessments offer suggestions, not magic, easy answers to tough, complex career decisions.
These tools are just the beginning. What other online resources have you used to think about what kind of career you might like to pursue?
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Kelly received her masters degree in Higher Education/Student Personnel Administration from New York University, and her bachelors degree from UW-Madison, where she majored in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.