by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
People of all ages ask me this question, and it is one many of us struggle with. The sly answer is that I think there is more than one ideal career for all of us, as most of us have multiple interests and passions. The harder part is identifying possible career paths that are best for us -- now or in the future-- that allow us to use our career passions.
Let me suggest a long weekend or two to go through these three steps and then do some final processing and reflecting.
First, start with some career assessments. There are plenty of assessment tests online and many offer free results (sometimes with an option for more comprehensive results for a fee) – certainly enough to help you with this first step. Most people find the results of these tests as confirming many internally held beliefs, but sometimes some dramatic new insights come to the surface, especially when consistent patterns emerge from test to test. (Find our list of best career assessments here.)
Second, conduct some self-assessment. Take the time to make some lists where I want you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, things you love to do at your job, and things you never want to do again. Once you have completed all the lists, put them in front of you and see if you can see any patterns emerging.
Third, answer these questions -- as honestly as possible -- recording your responses so you can refer back to them.
What do you love to do in your free time?
What are the skills that come naturally to you without much thought or effort?
If you could do any job in your life, what would you choose?
What types of things energize you?
What activities, subjects, or causes have you been deeply involved with?
What are some areas in which your family and friends consider you an expert?
When you are online, or at a bookstore or library, what subjects most appeal to you?
What kind of work environment fits you best?
What do you most value in life? From work?
What types of volunteering have you done -- or wish you have done?
What types of career paths have your closest fiends followed?
Do you possess deeply held beliefs that you have a calling in life?
What are the types of things that people ask you for help with?
What are some of the big goals you want to achieve in out life?
Fourth, put it all together. Perhaps start with a list of the things you are best at, that you enjoy, that people come to you now, and then research careers that use those skills, interests, and abilities. You can easily research careers online, as well as at your college's career center, and your local library.
Learn more in our free Finding Your Career Passion Tutorial: Uncover Your Ideal Career Path