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How To Choose a Career: Selection Steps and Criteria

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

How to choose a careerCriteria for choosing the right career

Guide Overview

Choosing a career

Choosing the right career is one of the more important life decisions you will make. You can make the decision easier by considering several factors. Here we will find out how to choose a career by assessing different possibilities.

How to choose a career

Follow these steps to choose a career that is right for you:

1. Carry out a self-evaluation

Understanding your personality, skills, and strengths will make it easier to zero in on a career that will suit you in the long term. It will help to make a list of things you like to do, the subjects that interest you, and the activities you excel in. You can input your specific traits into various online self-evaluation tools and generate a list of career possibilities.

2. Research different occupations

Create a list of multiple occupations that could be a good fit for you and explore each of these. While doing so, make a separate list of the ones that you find most appealing. Research these in further detail to know about the necessary educational qualifications, training requirements, job outlook, earning potential, and advancement opportunities.

3. Create an operational plan

After shortlisting suitable careers, you can draw up a detailed plan to attain one. You can list the short-term and long-term goals you will need to achieve and the actionable steps you can take for these. Write everything down in the order of priority. It will also help to consider the factors that could affect or hinder your career action plan and decide how you propose to deal with these.

Criteria for choosing the right career

The following list of criteria may help you decide how to choose a profession:

1. Select something that you are good at or find interesting, enjoyable, and challenging.

Ask yourself if you would be willing to do it long-term. Keep in mind that it might be hard to change your career midway after investing a lot of time, money, and energy in getting started in it. Furthermore, continuing with an occupation you dislike could lead to dissatisfaction and stress that could impact other areas of your life. So, for your own sake, try to set on the right course from the start. You will be more content and happy if you like your work, and you will be more likely to succeed at it too.

2. Consider if you prefer working for yourself or are alright with working for someone else.

The former will allow you to make your own decisions and arrange your schedule. However, it will also entail finding financing for your endeavors, handling all aspects of your career, dealing with business uncertainties, and taking responsibility if things go wrong. With the latter, you will generally be responsible for only the duties that come with your position. You will have a measure of job security, but you will have to abide by the company’s rules and regulations.

3. Consider if the career will suit your values.

You may want to work in a profession that allows you to help other people or make a social difference. Or, you may want one that doesn’t require you to wear a uniform or hide your tattoos. Everything isn’t about making a lot of money or moving up the career ladder. Being at ease with yourself and getting mental satisfaction from your work is crucial too.

4. Consider the educational credentials and skills needed to qualify for the career.

Find out which college or educational institute offers the courses and if they are near you or you will have to move away from home to attend them. Inquire if they offer any online learning options. You also have to consider the time you will need to complete the education and training. Some professions may require you to complete a formal diploma or degree course of two or more years. It might also be necessary to get additional training or certification before you can work professionally. Ask yourself if you are willing to make the time investment and put in the required effort.

5. Consider the financial cost of attending school or college for the necessary training.

The expense will vary, depending on which career you have chosen. There will also be other incidentals to consider like study materials, travel, food, clothes, and rent. Ask yourself if you can afford to pay out of pocket for all of these or if you can qualify for a student loan. If you decide to take a loan, you need to plan how you will pay it off.

6. Consider the average income of the profession.

If passion for your work is more important to you than financial security, it may suffice to earn enough to make ends meet every month. Otherwise, compare the income with what you require to sustain your current lifestyle and what you will need if you decide to upgrade it. If it is not enough, find out if there are advancement opportunities with higher pay. Or, you may want to consider switching to another better-paying career, as long as it is also one that you can enjoy. If becoming financially stable is your principal goal, it is essential to find a job that will make it possible.

7. Consider the everyday duties and responsibilities of the profession.

Speak with people already working in it and find out the unvarnished truth. Ask yourself if you will be able to or willing to handle the daily workload. There might be long and strenuous workdays that require you to get up early and stay up late. You may have to sit at a desk and work on a computer the entire day. You may have to work long hours on your own and interact only infrequently with other people. Or you might spend most of your time handling group projects. You may also have to travel and attend meetings.

8. Consider if the career will suit the lifestyle you want.

Aside from the monetary aspect, you need to check if the profession will allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance. That might not be possible if you have to commute to a location far from your home, travel often, or work very long hours. It would leave you with little time for other things that matter in your life. You might not be able to get enough rest, find time for your hobbies and favorite pastimes, or get to spend quality time with your partner, children, other relatives, friends, or pets. In the long run, it might end up affecting your health and straining your personal relationships.

9. Consider if the career will require you to relocate frequently.

You may have to move around the country or even move abroad to undertake the responsibilities that come with the position. If you enjoy new experiences and meeting new people, it will be just the right profession for you. On the other hand, if you prefer to remain in one location and don’t want to move every few years, you will need to consider a different career.

10. Consider if the career will offer remote working opportunities.

As long as you have a reliable internet connection and a decent computer set-up, it will enable you to work from the location of your choice. It might allow you to have a flexible schedule and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. You could even indulge in your passion for travel while continuing to work. However, telecommuting might not suit you if you don’t like working long hours on your own and prefer to have more in-person interactions.

11. Consider the industry trends and the growth potential of the career.

Technological changes are happening across different industries, and these might alter things beyond everyone’s expectations soon. The occupations that are in demand at present may no longer be tenable a few years from now. Other careers, requiring other skills, might replace them. To ensure you remain employable, you will need to pay attention to industry developments and learn to adapt to the changing circumstances. You will also need to build a good industry network and keep updating your skills.

12. Consider if the career will enable you to take early retirement.

Even if you like your job, you may not want to or be able to continue working at it endlessly. That’s why it is crucial to prepare in advance for the day when you can no longer work. It will help to have considerable savings in the bank and also to get retirement benefits. That will allow you to live comfortably and turn your attention to other pursuits.


Consider these steps to help you choose a career. Then, when you’re looking for a new job? Start here.

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