How to Explore Your Career Options (With Guide and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 2 November 2022 | Published 22 November 2021

Updated 2 November 2022

Published 22 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A career can allow you to understand your strengths, values and interests better. Exploring your career options helps you to assess whether you're in the right job or if it's time to make a change. Learning how to explore your career options with a step-by-step guide can help determine a career path that's right for you. In this article, we define what career exploration is, provide a guide on exploring your career options and recommend tips for doing it well.

How to explore your career options

Understanding how to explore your career options focuses on being honest with yourself through self-reflection and thoroughly researching your career options. Regardless of what stage you're at in your career, it's never too late to reconsider your career options.

Consider these steps to begin your career exploration, so you can find the best career fit for you:

1. Consider your needs

Career exploration starts with reviewing your personality, values and needs. Think about your interests, what you enjoy doing and what motivates you. Consider what is important to you both in your personal life and at work. There may be roles or industries that draw your interest because they match your values.

Additionally, your values may lead you to explore roles that you hadn't previously considered. For example, if you're passionate about being involved in your local community, you may want to explore working for a local charity or community group. Other important considerations include your earning expectations, your job growth potential and how much flexibility you might need to fit with your lifestyle.

2. Spend time on self-reflection

Reflect on what you specifically enjoyed doing in previous roles. If you recently graduated, consider which responsibilities you felt enthusiastic about at university or in a part-time job or internship. Evaluate where you excelled, as this can reveal strengths.

Once you understand your strengths, you can discover what types of jobs align with your capabilities. You can ask yourself the following questions to create a list of what's important to you:

  • What are your motivations?

  • What are your strengths?

  • Do you work well with others or do you prefer autonomy?

  • What skills do you want to improve?

  • What makes you feel inspired?

  • What makes you feel stressed?

  • What is your personality type?

Related: Guide: 16 Personalities Types

3. Investigate viable careers

Once you understand yourself better, it's time to start exploring career options. Researching potential career options gives you the chance to identify all the various industries and job types available to you, including the education and other requirements you need to get there. When you begin researching, look at your self-assessment notes to remember what's important to you. Start with a broad search of industries that meet your criteria.

After listing your top industries, research specific roles aligned with your requirements. Check job descriptions to uncover the necessary skills, minimum experience expected and any qualifications you need. Investigate the average salaries for where you live to gauge whether local income rates align with your living expenses. You can also investigate future job outlooks to determine career prospects in the long term and try to find information on the daily tasks or activities tied to the role.

Related: Guide: How to Choose a Career

4. Remove career options that don't appeal to you

During your initial research, it's essential to keep an open mind. During your search, you may realise that your experience, strengths and values are suited to an industry you'd not previously considered. There are some careers that you can discount immediately.

For example, some industries may pay less than you need or require more education than you currently have or are willing to get. Other careers may not operate during your preferred working hours or offer minimal progression. You may also consider how secure each job is. For instance, some roles may be seasonal or project-based.

5. Chat to experts working in the field

Speaking to people working in the industry or job role you are researching can provide specific insights into that role. Reach out to your existing network to see if there's anyone you can talk to or a connection who can introduce you to someone who can share their experience. Setting up an informal chat is an excellent way to ask questions, expand your network and access information that you may not otherwise find.

6. Get hands-on experience

When you speak to people working in your areas of interest, ask if there are any opportunities where you could get involved. Discuss job shadowing them for a day to understand their daily tasks and schedule. Alternatively, find out if work experience is available that could help you discover what the job entails. Getting this type of access can help you determine if the daily routine of the role meets your expectations and whether it's worth exploring further.

7. Create a career plan

Once you have a final choice, consider developing a career plan as a next step. A career strategy is a valuable way to evaluate which qualifications you may need to gain and which skills to develop. If you have minimal experience, you can explore a range of entry-level positions or internships that can help you enter your desired career. During this stage, you can also specify your long-term career aspirations.

Read more: How To Find the Best Jobs for You

Tips for career exploration

Your career can have a significant impact on your overall happiness levels, so evaluating your career path is important. Here are some tips that can help you:

Do it regularly

Regular evaluation can help ensure you've chosen a career that is fulfilling and aligns with your values. You may find that you're completely satisfied in your current role or decide that it's time to try something completely new.

Consider reviewing your career plan to establish whether you are meeting your long-term goals or what you could do to reach them. Looking for ways to enhance your existing skills could make you more marketable and help you progress towards a new career.

Keep your resume updated

Update your resume with your current soft and hard skill set, professional experience and any qualifications or certifications you have obtained. If you are currently working in a position, you can include your achievements as they occur. Additionally, customise your resume to each job with words used in the job description to show the employer you're a good match for the role.

When you speak to professionals from the industry you're exploring, an opportunity could arise that you wish to apply for. Having an updated resume gives you the ability to apply quickly for a role and demonstrates your enthusiasm. It also allows you to share your resume with any new connections.

Related: Resume Format Guide (With Examples)

Make a list of your transferable skills

Transferable skills are skills you have that you can use across various positions and disciplines. For example, good communication is a highly transferable skill you can use across a range of roles. It may be valuable to a marketing manager looking to communicate outcomes to senior managers or as a teacher delivering verbal lessons and written feedback to help students develop.

Think about the skills you use in your professional and personal life to discover your full spectrum of abilities. Consider how these capabilities can aid you in your intended role.

Related: Transferable Skills: Definitions and Examples

Think about your work achievements

In many industries, you may meet with your manager to discuss your career goals relevant to your position, personal development and what the business expects of you. Take a look at your goals over the last year. If you've exceeded the goals set or made an impact in your workplace, write down those details. You can include these achievements on your resume or highlight them during interviews or when discussing your career prospects with key contacts.

Related: How to Choose the Right Career Path

Discuss your career exploration with your manager

If you want to explore other opportunities, speak to your manager about options that may already exist where you currently work. Often, this may happen as part of an annual performance review, but you can bring up your intention at any time throughout the year.

Depending on your employer, there may be internal opportunities to transfer to another department, progress to a higher-level role, take on additional responsibilities or negotiate a pay rise. A new position in the same company can allow you to learn more about what other areas your organisation covers, build your internal network and discover any available opportunities. Your employer may also offer specific training or workshops to help you improve your skills or be better qualified for a new role.

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