Few decisions in life feel as high-stakes as choosing a career. Many of us were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” more times than we could count as children. But what happens if you’re now “grown up” and still haven’t decided on a career?
It can feel incredibly confusing, frustrating, and isolating to not know what you want to do for a living. In this article, I answer common questions you might have if you’re uncertain about your career:
- Is it okay to not know what career I want?
- Why is it so hard to decide on a career?
- How do I decide what job is right for me?
- How do I choose a job if I like everything?
Is it okay to not know what career I want?
First of all, it’s totally normal to not know what you want to do for a living, even if you’re mid-career or later. Although a lot of pressure is placed on choosing the “perfect” career, few resources actually teach you how to do this.
Moreover, while you may look at other people’s careers and assume they always knew what they wanted to do for a living, this is rarely the case. Many of the leaders I speak with share that they “fell” into their careers by accident, often later in later life.
To put it simply, it’s not just okay, but it’s perfectly normal to not know what you want to do for a living.
Why is it so hard to decide on a career?
Now, why is it so hard to decide on a career? For starters, if you’re like many people, you might feel pressure to choose the “right” or “best” career. This fear of choosing incorrectly, and subsequently ending up in a job you don’t like, can lead to procrastination.
Similarly, you might feel a sense of overwhelm and fatigue with the number of choices available. This can lead to over-researching career options and getting stuck in analysis paralysis.
Then, AI is constantly introducing additional career paths, which can make it even more challenging to select one when new ones seem to be popping up daily.
How do I decide what job is right for me?
Conduct informational interviews.
Personally speaking, I spent five-plus years wanting to be the chief operating officer of a hospital and went so far as to register for a Master of Health Administration program. However, after conducting a half-dozen informational interviews with hospital executives, I quickly learned it wasn’t for me and withdrew myself from the master’s program.
Simply put, informational interviews can give you new insights and show you what paths might be possible, as well as save a lot of time and energy by crossing off paths that aren’t in alignment with your ideal schedule.
Envision your ideal day.
Speaking of which, reflecting on how you want to spend your days can also help you find the right job for you. For example, do you prefer to spend your time collaborating in meetings, alone doing deep work, or a combination of the two?
Once you have a clear sense of how you want to spend your days, you can work backward to seek out a job that is in alignment with your ideal schedule.
Explore interests outside of work.
Another option worth trying when you can’t decide on a career is to explore hobbies outside of work, as they can provide additional inspiration and insight.
While you’re at it, ask yourself whether it’s truly necessary to have a job you love. Although many of my coaching clients seek careers that bring their life purpose and meaning, others are fine with work that pays their bills, sustains their outside-of-work activities, and allows them to live a life they love.
Take a career assessment.
You can also complete assessments that can provide you with additional data points. While there are countless assessments to help you decide on potential career paths, the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are two of the most popular.
The Strong Interest Inventory is one of the best assessments to use when you can’t decide on a career, since you’re able to use your interests to uncover your top 10 most aligned careers. It will also provide you with similar jobs, as well as related occupations, which gives you more data for further exploration.
Fun Fact: I’m a career coach and the Strong returned “career counselor” (AKA career coach) as my #1 most aligned career, which is pretty cool!
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is another powerful assessment for uncovering career options, as its Career Report provides “job families” and occupations that align with your MBTI type. Additionally, you can uncover the most popular occupations — and least popular occupations — among people with the same MBTI type.
Note: Both the Strong and MBTI are restricted psychological instruments, which means the reports may only be purchased, administered, and interpreted by a practitioner who is Strong and MBTI® Certified, such as myself.
Talk with a career coach.
Because choosing a job is a major decision, you might also wish to speak with a career coach about the current labor market and how to find a career that aligns with your interests, passions, goals, and needs. You’ll want to be sure to choose a coach who specializes in career exploration, as many focus only on the job search strategy.
While you may be tempted to speak with a resume writer and begin applying to jobs, I caution against this, as you need a clear direction before sending out applications.
Give yourself time.
You’re likely to spend 40+ hours per week at work, so choosing a job isn’t a decision to take lightly. Give yourself time, and try to be patient if you’re struggling to uncover the right career path. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of time, patience, and manifestation to find the right calling.
How do I choose a job if I like everything?
Finally, how do you choose a job if you like everything? As a multipotenialite, I relate to the push and pull of being drawn to multiple interests, and it’s one of the reasons I became a career coach.
Combine various interests.
One strategy worth trying if you have multiple interest areas is to seek out careers that combine multiple interests and flex different skill sets. While it’s hard to find a career that leverages all your interests, you might land on one that leverages many of them. If you like product, sales, marketing, business, finance, customer service, and UX, for instance, you might consider looking into product management as a career, since it combines these various interests.
Uncover your “why.”
You can also try to rank your top interest areas and get clear on why you like them. You can do this with a simple 5X5 grid where you list your five interests along one axis, then start documenting five reasons why you like each one along the other axis. If all your interests involve helping people, for example, you can seek out career paths that allow you to help people.
Important: Not every interest has to manifest itself in your career. Sometimes a hobby can be just that – a hobby. You don’t have to professionalize or monetize every interest.
While choosing a career path can feel overwhelming, thankfully there are options to help make the process easier. If you’re still feeling stuck and would like additional support with the journey, please feel free to reach out or schedule a consultation. I’m here for you! You’ve got this!