Picking the right career path

You’ve finally hit that stage of life where it’s time to start earning a real salary or wage, and begin climbing what you imagine will be your future career ladder. But what do those rungs actually look like? While you may have decided on an industry to work in, you may not have looked beyond the first job. Or your job might be great but the industry its in makes you yawn.

We look at what picking the right career path could mean for you.

You don't have to have it all figured out

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part of any project or challenge, and starting your career is no different.

If you’re unsure about where you want your career to lead, then that’s okay. It’s likely that you don’t even know about some of the possibilities that exist, or what will pique your interest down the track as you gain experience and knowledge.

Focus on finding that all-important first job, and then carry on from there.

... But, when you can, begin to think long term

If you’ve been in your current job or industry for a couple of years, there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to think about your future and tentatively map out what you want it to look like.

While you don’t have to make solid decisions about anything now, doing so has the great benefit of motivating you to take the next step, inspire you to delve into professional development or put steps in place to eventually ask for that promotion. After all, being bored or stagnant in your job at this early stage is not going to bode well for the coming years.

Create momentum for future change

You can’t plan a next step if you don’t know what the future will look like, so go out (or online) and get a clear picture of where you could see yourself heading.

Take a peek outside your current role to find out what opportunities are out there, either within the company or elsewhere in the big wide world. Besides gaining vital information about potential career pathways, you’ll give yourself some momentum to plan, or take that next leap upwards.

  • If you find a future job that appeals, make a timeline of when you may want to see yourself at that point. This is a great motivating tool and focus to refer back to.

  • Assess how far you’ve come to date. Seek feedback from colleagues, your supervisor or boss to pin down your professional development so far, and what you could work on.

  • Read news, articles and papers to discover new developments or opportunities in your industry that you may have never heard of.

  • Don’t forget to work hard at your current job. There’s no point planning ahead if you’re not performing, and impressing, at the stage you are now.

DYI career path

If you’ve glimpsed a path that you could see yourself on in your career, but your current job doesn’t lend itself well to get you there, it’s time to get active and start building up to a bit of career DYI. How?

  • Ensure your skills are relevant for the job you ultimately want, and up to date. Are you lacking in an area? Find a way to upskill yourself through professional development, an online course or even through something not related to your employment, like a volunteer role.

  • Start meeting the right people which, in modern times, can be done online as well as in person. Attend the right industry events, join an online forum or seminar, ensure your online professional profile is active in all the right ways and have your CV there for all to see when the time is right (read Be the hunter not the hunted).

  • Actively seek opportunities for your ultimate job – it could be a different job but in the right industry or with your dream employer, a volunteer job with the potential to become paid, or the same role but an entirely different industry that you can eventually transfer over to your desired area of work.

Still unsure? Step into someone else’s shoes

If are keen for a change, but aren’t sure about what that should look like, then ask if you can shadow a colleague or superior. This is the career version of try before you buy, and it will give you a more accurate glimpse about what a new job could look like for you.