In a “perfect” world, you start the career exploration and planning process while you are still in school, getting a degree that will eventually lead to a job.
But what if that’s not where you are at? What if it’s been a few (or more) years since you were in school?
Maybe you pursued other interests that didn’t pan out as you had hoped. Maybe you took some time off to travel the world.
Regardless of what your situation is, here you are and you want to find a meaningful career, not just a job to pay the bills. But where should you start?
The following 8 points are avenues that you may be able to pursue. Not all options will apply to everyone, but the more exploring you do, the better:
1. Make a list of all your jobs
- Make a list of all the jobs you have had, however odd they may have been.
- What did you like/dislike about each of them? This simple activity can lead you to some of your top skills, values, passions, and what motivates you, which in turn are helpful to consider when deciding which career is right for you.
2. Consider volunteering
- If a pattern arises that points to a particular career and/or industry, then consider leaping into the pursuit of part-time volunteer opportunities related to that particular career/industry. Doing so can help you keep busy, showcase how proactive you are, build related career experience, network, and reality test whether you really enjoy that particular career/industry.
3. Take interesting classes
- Are there any classes you are interested in taking? If so, what are they? Could they possibly lead to a career? Community colleges offer a wide variety of classes. Reading the class schedule of a local community college may give you some ideas of what may be interesting to you.
- In addition, community colleges often offer career exploration classes, which usually include taking the Meyer’s Briggs and the Strong Interest Inventory, which are two prominent career exploration tests.
- If you are a student you may also qualify for internships to further explore possible careers.
- Plus, community colleges usually have career centers with many career resources.
4. Use career centers
- Utilize the career center at your former college(s) for taking assessments like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory.
- You may also be able to get some career counseling through your former school’s career center, often at a reduced fee.
5. Critically evaluate any career assessment results
- Use the interests and values that you identify through career testing and exploration activities to discover possible careers. Testing WILL NOT necessarily, nor neatly, point you to a career. But it will help you explore areas you may not have even thought about.
6. Do your homework on researching possible careers
- Read through some career focused reports to see if a certain career may be something you want to pursue.
Utilize social media websites like LinkedIn and Facebook for career exploration and research purposes.
7. Establish a who-you-know list
- Create a networking grid with all the people you know (friends from high school, friends from college, parents’ friends, etc.) and write down their jobs and careers.
- Are there any careers you are possibly interested in? If so, research those careers online and possibly do some informational interviews with some of the people on the grid.
- Ask for reality checks from those closest to you whom you most trust.
8. Conduct informational interviews to get the inside scoop
- Identify people to do informational interviews with. Your networking grid should be useful in identifying people you can interview or people who may know someone you can interview.
Finding a meaningful career is hard work. The more you explore, the better your chances of finding a satisfying and fulfilling career.
Questions: Where are you at in the career exploration process? Which career exploration techniques have you used so far? Which ones do you plan to use in the future? What’s one tip you have for someone who is just starting the career exploration process?