1. What goals do you have in mind for your financial future?
This is the question many suggest you ask yourself first. It is the most practical way to look at things, and is perhaps a good way to get a conversation started. Do you wish to have a massive house, or do you see yourself in your own little humble abode? Do you wish to have a dozen kids with your future spouse, or are you perfectly content with single living? Do you wish to travel, or do you consider yourself more of a home body? And, most importantly, what will you do when or if any of your goals happen to change?
Of course, there is a lot of gray area in between the examples that I gave you. With trillions of people in this world, the possibilities vary greatly. But what matters is what YOU want. That being said, I would start your career quest by looking at options that enable you to attain your goals in all of these categories, or what it most important to you. Compile a list of 10 to 20 of them. It’s alright if you don’t know how to narrow it down yet; nobody truly starts out knowing what they’re going to do. Once you’re done with your list, start thinking of the pros and cons of each one, and then use the next two points to help you filter through them.
2. What do you do in your day to day life?
In some cases, choosing a career path can be the most difficult decision in your life. In other cases, the answer is right in front of you and has been since you were a kid. Nikki Sixx knew that he was meant for rock long before Motley Crue came into existence. Jeffrey Dahmer knew exactly where he was going to go in life when he kept dropping animal bones in a bucket and burying them in his backyard. Granted, that’s a very morbid example, but it’s a real observation: We have a tendency to gravitate to what we are already in the habit of doing.
For instance, right now you are reading this article. Maybe you like to read recreationally. So, what kind of material do you like to read? Are you a devoted reader of Forbes Magazine? Give your shoes a shine and go get a business degree. Or, get down to the gritty American dream of forging your own way through the flames and become an entrepreneur. Do you insist on listening to FM radio on the way to work or school every day even though music subscription services and satellite radio have rendered it almost obsolete? Consider becoming a radio personality for your favorite station or related genre.
The thing is folks, we often overcomplicate things. It’s in our nature to do so. We spend so much time weighing our hardest decisions on what is the societal norm at the time. As I said earlier, focusing on your financial goals is the practical way to look at this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “go to medical school and be a doctor” or “go to law school, lawyers always make good money”. That’s absolutely grand for those who are passionate about pursuing those careers. Practicality isn’t always the answer, though. If you rely solely on filling your pockets, I can almost promise that you’re going to want to shoot yourself in the foot every day you step through the door at your job.
3. What hobbies do you have, or what interests you the most?
This is by far the most important point of this article. Remember that list I told you to make? Well, pull it out of the trash and grab a pencil because you’re about to scratch a big slash through a handful of those careers. I can not stress this enough. You will never achieve true self-fulfillment in your career if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing. So, take the 10 to 20 careers and sort them into categories based off of your interests. If more than one share a like interest, put them in that interest category, etc. If there are any career prospects on that page that don’t fall into any of your interest categories, forget about them. I mean it.
It seems a little extreme on the surface, but believe me when I say you are doing yourself a favor. If you have more careers in one interest category than another, it is a pretty safe assumption that particular interest holds more weight above the others. That being said, if you aren’t satisfied with the options you have in front of you in that specific interest, it’s okay to venture outside of what you originally had written down. Eventually, you will hit the nail on the head and have your moment of realization. At least now you have your scope sighted to be just a bit more accurate than before.
Forgive me if you read the title of this article and expected a straight-forward, well outlined guide to deciding what career to pursue. Unfortunately, there is nobody out there that has a concrete guide for you to make that decision. If they claim to, they are more than likely trying to sell you something. It may take days, months, or years for you to reach your own conclusion. Remember this; you’re never too old to do what you love in life, and if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in it.