Are you ready to graduate but need tips on how to find a career path? Luckily, the job market for new and recent graduates is good – actually, better than good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has ranged from 3.4% to 3.7% since March 2022. The low unemployment rate and millions of job openings in various professional sectors mean employers have difficulty finding the right talent for their open positions. As a result, there are many opportunities and career paths for workers with in-demand skills and experience. This also means potentially higher wages since many employers are willing to pay for top-notch talent.
With a hot job market comes greater control and leverage for the prospective employee. This is especially true for job seekers who graduated from college. For example, surveys have shown that approximately 83 percent of senior managers are likely to hire someone who recently attained a college degree. A strong job market and the possibility of receiving multiple offers leads many people, especially those with in-demand skills, to ask this important question: “What career is right for me?” If you are wondering how to find the right career path for you, read our tips and examples to help you get started.
How to find a career path that is right for you
1. Do not focus solely on following your passion
Many recent college graduates have been told throughout their lives to simply “follow their passion,” and the rest will work out. That is far too simplistic and lacks a strategy for thriving in the real world. Many college graduates are “passionate” about fantasy football. This does not mean they should narrow their job search solely to sports teams and sporting websites.
When deciding on a career path, you should focus on four things:
- Your passion;
- Your personality;
- Your preferences (e.g., geographic location, commute, etc.); and
- Your principles
You should assess each of these four things when applying for jobs. It is wise to consider the intersection between these considerations to understand better what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and what prospective employers need.
2. Note your ideal work environment
You also need to consider your preferred work environment. For example, do you excel when you move around all day or when you get uninterrupted time in an office? Do you enjoy a predictable schedule or encountering new challenges and meeting new people each and every day? Do you enjoy interacting with others or working solo on complex projects? Think about when you’ve done your best work and felt your best, and use that as a guide to narrow down what type of career might be best for you.
3. Be strategic in your job search and ultimate selection
If you’re like most new graduates, you are probably under some form of pressure, whether it be self-imposed pressure, family pressure, or financial pressure to secure employment sooner rather than later. This could lead you to make a poor professional choice and choose a job purely for the paycheck or because it was the first official offer you received. Do not let this happen. You need to be strategic and analytical when assessing a job offer. You will likely feel more confident about your job search process if you do some preliminary research before sending out your resume.
As mentioned, many factors come into play to achieve career satisfaction, including the culture of the company you work for and the growth opportunities there exist. This is as personal as it gets, so figure out which factors are most important to you. Then, as you evaluate job offers, you’ll be prepared to determine which opportunities check the proverbial boxes of what you value most.
4. Consider different career on-ramps
Applying for full-time jobs is not your only path to the workforce after you graduate from college. For example, you may want to consider an internship if it is in a career field that stokes your interests. Another on-ramp to consider is freelance or project work. This is a growing trend in all industries. This path enables you to work on an interim basis with various employers. As a result, you can learn new skills, gain new experiences and broaden your professional network. Through these employment opportunities, you can also determine the type of company you want to work for over the long term.
5. Do not shy away from a professional pivot
Even with careful planning, you will likely switch career paths, especially during the first few years. This means you should develop a level of comfort with change and have an open mind. If you graduate from college with a degree in one specialty but work in a completely different career, you will not be the first or the last.
6. Persistence is key
If your immediate career outlook is somewhat murky after college graduation, do not get discouraged or give up hope. You will likely experience challenges and unexpected turns over the next few years. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. A wise approach is to pursue work consistently that you believe will best use your talents and abilities. It may take some time to discover the right career path for you, but with persistence, patience, flexibility, and dedication, you will achieve that objective.
Examples of career paths
When deciding how to find your career path, seeing examples and a better understanding of what is available can be helpful. Here are a few examples of general career paths in different industries.
Once you have a college degree, you can get your teaching license and become a teacher. Teachers can advance by continuing their own education with a master’s degree. There are also administrative roles, like curriculum coordinator, assistant principal, and principal positions on the education career path.
An example career path in healthcare for a surgeon begins with a college education and medical school. Once education is complete, there is a five-year residency where you can practice your operating skills and focus on a specialty. You can apply for a fellowship once it’s done and work your way up in seniority within the hospital to Chief of Surgery or Head Surgeon.
There are many different technology career paths. Many IT career paths start with a college degree and an entry-level help desk position. With more experience, you can advance to an IT management position and eventually a Chief Technology Officer (CTO.)
Retail stores offer a great career path for advancement. Entry-level positions are sales associates and cashiers. You can be promoted to manager or team lead, where you can develop and train others. From there, you can move up to an assistant store manager and store manager or into the corporate side of the retail brand to work behind the scenes.
With a business degree, you can work an administrative career path. Start as a low-level manager and work your way up through a corporate ladder as a director and potentially an executive-level leader.
What are the different types of career paths?
Each industry has its own career path. A basic framework shows you the career possibilities for each field, and you can decide how to find your career path based on which direction you want to go.
When do you need to find your career path?
Students finishing their college career should be starting to find their career path. It can be altered and changed later in life, but it will give you a good place to start.
What is an example of a career path?
The retail career path starts with an associate or cashier position. From there, people can be promoted to team leaders, assistant managers, and store managers. There might also be a corporate career path with the same company that helps with multiple stores.
How many career paths are there?
The National Career Cluster Framework has defined 79 career pathways in 16 job groupings, but each can be completely customized and personalized for each person based on skills and what direction you want your career to go.