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From “a stitch in time saves nine” to “prevention is better than cure,” many proverbs point towards the role of time in amplifying regret. While most people pick their paths without much forethought, some are wise enough to consider key fulfillment and success metrics at the beginning.
The three things you should consider when choosing a career are your natural talents, the kind of tasks and activities you like, and their market demand. Opting for what lies at the intersection of these three will bring you the most joy and progress potential.
This article will help you understand how to choose a career by looking at the most important things to consider and how they factor into the overall career success equation. Among other things, you will learn how to…
- Figure out what your natural gifts are
- Understand the routines you enjoy
- Assess the market demand of your talents and interests
How to Decide on a Career?
Now that you broadly know the most important things to consider when choosing a career, let’s look at the order in which you should prioritize them so you can reach a conclusion that serves you in the long run.
To decide on a career, you must start with your strengths and interests because, in the absence of interest, you will end up in a career that seems promising in the short term. Over a longer period, people who have a genuine interest in it will outlast and outperform you.
You’ll do your best in a career track where your interests and strengths intersect, which is what makes interest one of the most important factors when choosing a career. Still, not every interest of yours is equally monetizable.
Michael Jackson might have been interested in making Origami, but would he make as much money doing it for a living? On average, you make the most money from an area of interest in which you have some degree of natural talent.
Identify Your Natural Strengths
It can seem weird to consider “natural strengths” before you’ve had a proper chance to test your talents in the market. However, you don’t need market validation of your strengths when you can rely on social feedback outside the job market.
Let’s take the example of a Public Relations career. Someone who has been in the PR industry for over a decade will have their colleagues, previous employers, and clients all vouch for their social skills and ability to multitask. But if the same person were to wait for this validation before deciding on a career in PR, they would never have made it in the industry.
The feedback they would have 10 years prior to embarking on their PR journey would be similar, albeit slightly vague, and would come from their friends and family. “You’re so fun to hang out with,” one of their friends would have said. “Honestly, I wish I could talk to people like you do. I just don’t have the energy for it,” another would have exclaimed.
This is quite different from “Beverly, you’re a star at client servicing. Keep wining and dining the major accounts.” Still, it features acknowledgment of the same strengths. What talents of yours get passing appreciation from friends?
Pro Tip: to avoid biased feedback from friends, pay attention to what strangers compliment you on. Usually, something that distant acquaintances or strangers appreciate about you is an undisputed strength.
Make a list of processes you’re interested in
Mark Manson, the author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*$%,” makes a strong point about the relevance of processes in one’s day-to-day happiness. He used to have dreams about being a Rockstar but realized early on that he enjoyed fantasizing about the end result but hated every bit of the process. You do not want to start on a career track that leads to a job title or perks you love if the day-to-day work in that field makes you miserable.
A career blossoms when you can have the content patience of someone who enjoys where she is yet is simultaneously open to growth. That comes from knowing the processes that interest you more than the milestones you fantasize about.
Look at the (present and future) Market Realities
Even though it comes last, market demand is one of the most important things to consider when deciding on a career. Once you have prioritized your strengths and acknowledged your interests, you can afford to look at the market realities without undermining your own long-term fulfillment.
If you start by looking at market realities, you may end up picking a field that has more opportunities but would feel trapped in the long run. Cal Newport’s idea of career capital is worth understanding. Newport suggests that what we spend our time doing ends up having too much value to be simply abandoned even when we’re switching careers.
Considering market realities is important once you have noted your strengths and process interests. As long as you go broad in identifying those, you’ll find plenty of career options to pursue. From those, you must look for career tracks that are the most future-proof. The following checklist can help you decide which current careers will be relevant in the long run.
- Have a tangible barrier to entry, like a specific qualification or affiliation.
- Require knowledge work or creative effort.
- Businesses in the industry have held their stock value for over 30 years.
- There is a balance of structure and disruption.
- The career has global growth opportunities.
Career decision FAQs
What is the main consideration in choosing a career?
The main consideration in choosing a career should be your natural talent or skills that come to you with relative ease. As long as you’re good at something (or on track to being excellent at it), you will enjoy it more. Your competence will also result in progress.
At what age should you have a career?
You should have a career by the time you are 25. From 18 to 21, you should experiment with different roles within an industry of interest and lean into your natural strengths until you have a well-defined career track. If you cross 25, you can still have a career. It’s just ideal to start earlier.
Is 2 years a long time at a job?
2 years is not a long time at a job. It is minimum time you should spend at a job unless there is a valid reason to leave sooner. You can expect recruiters to ask why you left your previous job if you leave within 5 years.
Good career selection is a result of acknowledging your strengths and interests and reconciling them with market realities. If you do not find your interests and talents to have a monetizable market, you can experiment with jobs that are interesting enough until you unlock new skills or your curiosity leads you to something you find genuinely fulfilling.