How to Choose a Career Path in 10 Easy Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 9, 2022 | Published May 17, 2021

Updated June 9, 2022

Published May 17, 2021

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With thousands of different careers available, there's a lot to consider when narrowing down the right path for yourself. The best way to start is to reflect on your skills, interests and career goals so you can find a position you enjoy and excel in. Doing this designs a career path which you can use to make big life choices, such as which schools you attend, whether to pursue a diploma, certificate degree and which entry-level job is right for your future goals.

In this article, we look at what a career path is, provide examples of common career paths and how you can choose one that matches your skills and interest.

Related: How to Create a Career Plan in 9 Steps

What is a career path?

A career path is a series of roles you take to progress in your chosen field. You can develop a career path at any point in your life, but many start with entry-level jobs or a university degree. Career paths can be vertical, meaning you start with an entry-level position and advance to higher-level ones as you gain the necessary knowledge and skills. But they can also be lateral, which is when you take a position equal to yours within or across different industries. You may even decide to move backward later in your career path by taking on a role with fewer responsibilities and less stress.

How to choose a career path

Before choosing a career path, there are several factors you must consider, such as your goals, skill set and personality. Following these steps as you prepare your career path will guide you:

1. Assess your personality type

The first thing you should consider when creating your career path is your personality type. A personality type is a set of traits that fall into a specific group. There are plenty of great self-assessments to help you determine your personality type. Many of these assessments suggest career choices for each type, as unique personalities suit different careers better. You don't need to limit yourself to this list of suggested careers, but if the same careers come up multiple times, it's wise to research them.

Here are some popular tools you can use to identify your personality type:

  • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): the MBTI is one of the most popular self-reporting questionnaires for identifying your personality type. It identifies your psychological preferences by asking introspective questions. Once completed, you receive a four-letter code that describes your personality type and a career report with a list of occupations that are popular among people with your personality type.

  • The Jungian Type Index (JTI): similar to the MBTI, the JTI helps people identify their psychological type by measuring their preference for different psychological functions. You can complete the questionnaire within 15 minutes and then receive an overview of your personality type and recommended careers.

  • The Keirsey Temperament Sorter: this self-assessment questionnaire focuses on behaviour and temperament questions to help you find a role that matches your temperament type. There are four temperament types: artisan, guardian, idealist and rational.

    Related: Guide: 16 Personality Types

2. Review your previous experience

If you have previous work experience, reflecting on it can be helpful when creating your new career path. If you liked a previous job, your career path can include roles in the same industry. If it wasn't for you, you'll want to focus your attention elsewhere. The same goes for any volunteer or community experience. If you really liked the work you were doing, research ways you can make a career out of it. Reflecting on your previous experience helps you identify your skill set.

3. Assess your current skill set

After reflecting on your previous experience, you may have a better idea of your current skill set. Writing this down will help you find a career that matches your experience. Make a list of your current skills, certifications and areas of expertise. This list will also identify the skills you need to master or develop for a chosen career path.

4. List your interests

You may think that your hobbies or interests should stay separate from your work. However, you should love your work and finding a career that incorporates your interests is a great way to do that. Create a list of activities you enjoy, even if you think there's no way you could monetize them. These activities narrow down your career path by taking your favourite aspect and applying it to your work. For example, if you love to travel, working as a flight attendant, pilot or travel consultant are great ways to explore that interest. If you enjoy reading, a career in publishing could be a great option.

5. Identify your core values

Finding a job that you find fulfilling is important and identifying your core values beforehand can help you do that. Make a list of your values and qualities you think a company should have. It can be things as simple as, “A company that values its employees” or more in-depth, such as, “A company that provides comprehensive health and dental benefits.” Mark values that are deal-breakers to you, so if a company does not share them, you can continue your search. Identifying your core values narrows down your search to fields you know you find fulfilling.

6. Outline your career goals

After reflecting on your personality, experience, skills, interests and values, apply that information to create your career goals. This requires more self-reflection as you need to consider what you want from your career. Do you want a managerial position? Do you want to be earning a certain amount of money each year? Do you want to be an expert on a certain topic? Whatever your career goals are, it's important that you find a path to reach them.

Related: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

7. Make a list of occupations to explore

You may already have an idea of what type of job you want, so make a list of all the occupations you want to explore. You can pull jobs from the personality assessments you did or just think of jobs that match your interests, experience, skills and values. Include as many jobs as you want and researching them to narrow down your list.

8. Research the occupations on your list

Once you have a list of occupations, you can start researching. Review job descriptions to see if the position details interest you. Look at educational requirements to see if you meet them and if not, consider whether you can take the time to get the necessary degree, diploma or certificate. Research career paths within the industry to see if they match your long-term goals. Will the job pay enough to meet your salary needs? All this research narrows down your list and creates a unique career path.

9. Make your career choice

You should now be able to narrow down your list to one career that meets your needs and interests. Pick the career that you think will bring you the most overall satisfaction. Volunteering, taking relevant courses or talking to people in the industry are all great ways to see if you're making the right decision before fully committing. It's also important to remember that this choice is not permanent. If you start an entry-level job in the industry and realize you don't like it, you can always create an alternative career path.

10. Create a five-year and ten-year plan

After making a career choice, you can finally establish a career path. You can do so by creating a five-year and ten-year plan. Research what positions you can work towards in your field over the years to reach your end goal. Look at what training or prerequisites you'll need and write them into your plan. You don't need to follow these plans exactly, but having them handy guides your progression.

Examples of career paths

To help create your own career path, review some examples in different fields. Here are several examples of common career paths in a variety of industries:

  • administration: administrative assistant—executive assistant—office manager

  • customer service: customer service representative—inside salesperson—major account salesperson—regional sales manager

  • editorial: editorial assistant—assistant editor—associate editor—editor—senior editor—editorial director

  • education: teaching assistant—substitute teacher—teacher—vice principal—principal

  • food and beverage: busser—line cook—chef—sous chef—executive chef

  • retail: retail sales clerk—assistant manager—department manager—store manager—regional manager