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How to Find Your Career Path Again

Once upon a time, you knew what you wanted to be when you grew up. Then you grew up, and things got complicated. Maybe the job market in your industry took a turn for the worse, or maybe your role evolved in ways that made it a bad fit for you. Maybe you made a bad career choice out of the gate, and now you’re trying to figure out how to correct the problem.
career path
Jan Erik Waider/Unsplash

Whatever your situation, don’t despair. Whether you’re new to the workforce or looking at a mid-career change, there are a few things you can do today to start heading in the right direction again.

1. Chill! Not Everything Has to Be a Dream Job

Some people are passionate about their jobs, and some people’s jobs fuel their passions. Either is OK.

“Many experts tell us that to be happy with our careers we must find our passion,” said Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a career development specialist, in a recent interview with PayScale. “While it’s wonderful if an individual can make a living doing something about which he or she is passionate, it’s not always practical.”

The other piece of good news is that you don’t have to have everything figured out today. If you’re trying to just find a category to put down for a college major or a job application, just start with what you plain old “like.” What do you like to do? What do you NOT like to do? Maybe you’re great at teaching, but not at selling things. Maybe you’re really into math, but not that into reading a lot or writing a lot of reports. Make some lists. Cut out pictures and paste them to cardboard. Keep a dream journal. Just try to be present and active in your search and ideas will come to you. But it doesn’t have to be THE thing. Not even close. It just has to be the “next” thing for you. Ease off the gas, and take some of that pressure off.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

2. Look for Easy Detours

Lots of times we get stuck in an industry and can’t see our way out of it, even if it makes us terribly unhappy. Exploring all the aspects of jobs built for your skillset can be a real eye-opening experience.

PayScale’s Career Path Explorer can help you see the job titles that typically come after the job you hold today, while CollegeBoard’s Big Future list of majors and related careers can show you careers that use your current skillset. An English major with a car-loving streak might find great success in technical writing for a magazine or even a textbook publisher. A biology major with a flair for math might be a great asset to a hospital accounting team. It just depends on how you look at it.

3. Talk to Someone About It

Network, network, network. Want to find out how someone got where they are at work? Ask them! Talk about what their path was like, see what they wish they’d done differently, ask if they have tips for you or ideas based on your strengths and experience. You can even talk to staffing agencies and headhunters about where they’ve placed people with your similar skillset.

If you’re pondering going back to school, talk to department heads or alumni about how they felt the money was worth it (or not) and how it might be a good idea (or not) for you. Use PayScale’s College ROI Report to find out whether alumni typically see a good return for their tuition dollars.

4. Do Your Research

Have a job title in mind, maybe a little higher up the ladder from where you are now? PayScale’s Salary Survey can tell you which skills are in demand in your dream job. Then, you can make a plan to get from here to there.

Tell Us What You Think

Did you make a course-correction in your career? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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