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Advice on How to Find Your Best Career Path

Female professional waiting in a chair for an interview and holding her resume

The job market for new and recent graduates is good – actually, better than good. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.7 percent in September 2018, a low not seen since 1969, according to PBS. The low unemployment rate, coupled with millions of job openings in various professional sectors, means many employers are having a difficult time finding the right talent for their open positions.  As a result, there are many opportunities and career paths out there for workers who possess in-demand skills and experience. This means potentially higher wages as well, since many employers are willing to pay for top-notch talent.

With a hot job market comes a greater amount of 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?” Here is some advice to help answer this key question.

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 devoid of an actual strategy for how to thrive 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:

  1. Your passion;
  2. Your personality;
  3. Your preferences (e.g, geographic location, commute, etc.); and
  4. Your principles

You should assess each of these four things when applying to jobs. It is wise to think about the intersection between these considerations so you can develop a better sense of what you are good at, what you enjoy doing, and what prospective employers need.

Work Environment

You also need to consider your preferred work environment. For example, do you excel when you are moving 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 having solo time to work on complex projects? Think about when you’ve done your best work and felt your best and use that as a guide to narrow what type of career might be best for you.

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 prior to sending out your resume. As mentioned, there are a multitude of factors that come into play in order to achieve career satisfaction, including: the culture of the company you work for, and the growth opportunities that exist there. This is as a 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.

Related: Job Search Tips For Recent College Grads

Consider Different Career On-Ramps

Applying for full-time jobs is by no means 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 a variety of 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 what type of company you would like to work for over the long term

Do Not Shy Away from a Professional Pivot

Even with careful planning, you will likely make some major changes in the direction and trajectory of your career, especially during the first few years in a career. 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 end up working in a completely different career, you would not be the first, or the last.

Related: How to Switch Career Paths

Persistence is Key

If your immediate career outlook is somewhat murky after graduating from college, 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 consistently pursue work you believe will make the best use of 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.