Here are 5 recommendations that we have for discovering possible career interests while building your skills.

Identifying a company and starting a job that can launch your dream career is no easy feat. For most people, we don’t know exactly what we want to be when we grow up. We don’t have a strong gauge of all the different jobs that we could consider, within the areas we’re passionate about. When we ask others, we often learn that they entered into that role by accident. Several questions that come to mind can include:

  • What do I want to do?
  • Which industries should I explore and what types of careers exist within those industries?
  • What’s a good starting point, i.e. an entry level role?
  • What’s a recommended career path?
  • How can I blend my passions into a realistic role that I get excited about?
  • How can I make ends meet, while enjoying the work I do?
  • So how do we determine what roles that we should be looking for?

There are a couple of tips and resources for how you can start to identify and then explore different career paths that match your interests. You want to try different approaches, to truly discover the types of things you’re interested in and then determine possible career entry-points, based on those interests!

Here are five recommendations that we have for discovering possible career interests, while building your skills: 

  1. Training and Courses. Whether it’s taking a course at school, online training or going to a session at a local MeetUp or association, you want to find different learning opportunities and then gauge whether the topic you’re learning about is of interest to you. When I was in school, I started as a Finance major, but then changed my major to Management, after I realized that while I was energized by my Management and Marketing courses, I was ready for a nap halfway through each Finance class. About six to seven years into my career, I was invited to attend a PMI (Project Management Institute) meeting on how to manage effective meetings, which I loved! I then joined the PMI association and have been attending their meetings regularly since 2011. This has been a game changer for me, in terms of advancing my knowledge, getting experience in different areas and networking.
    • Recommendation: While you’re trying to figure out what major industries or concentrations you like, strive to take at minimum, a one hour course per week and in a different area. As you go, write down the topic and then your interest level. For example, I learned that I really enjoyed the area of Business and within that, learned I got the most excited during courses related to Management, Project Management, Marketing, Psychology and Conflict Resolution.
  2. Pet Projects. As you identify concepts you like, determine "How can I gain experience with this skill?" For example, when I discovered that I loved marketing, I started my own Twitter account and was active with that. I took a social media course that I found on Groupon, and also asked one of the nonprofits, I’m involved with, “How can I help you with marketing?”
  3. Mini Interviews with SMEs and/or Career Advisors. What kind of work do your friends do? The people you meet through associations, user groups, MeetUps, etc.? Start to identify people in your network and conduct mini interviews. Come up with a list of 10 people with different roles and then try to schedule a quick 15 minute coffee or tea hang out. Think through questions ahead of time, which can include:
    • What exactly do you do and what sort of tasks are you responsible for?
    • What do you like/dislike and what challenges do you face?
    • What do you find the most rewarding about what you do?
    • Where did you start your career and what did your path look like?
    • How did you get to where you are?
    • I’ve discovered that I really enjoy doing ____. Do you have any advice for me on how I could eventually set myself up for a career doing that?
  4. Shadowing. This is primarily something you can take advantage of once you’re working at a company. As you learn about new roles you’d be interested in or identify a SME with a skill or technology, don’t shy away from saying to them, “I would love to learn more about ____, which seems like a strength of yours! Would it be possible for me to spend some time shadowing you or picking your brain?”
  5. Career Interest Tests. There are many assessments out there that you can spend 10 to 20 or more minutes taking which can provide possible careers or jobs you would be interested in. We always recommend using at least two to three different tools, when it comes to something like this. You can learn about possible tests by asking a career advisor or those in your network, “Do you have a career-related test that you’ve used and like?” You can try these three that we’ve used and like: