Your career path is a journey that will usually take you through your entire adulthood. Starting with your entry-level position, you’ll move across different positions and sometimes even change industries along the way until you reach your desired destination.
Everyone will have a different view of what they want their career to look like. Some will aspire to reach managerial positions, while others prefer to rise through the ranks in roles considered to be behind the scenes.
Choosing the path that’s right for you can be a challenge, but with the right knowledge, you should be able to kickstart your decision. In this guide, we’ll explain the different path types you can choose, and our advice on how to figure out if one route might be better than another.
How to choose a career path
You should consider the following when deciding which career path to take:
- Your passions
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- Your personality type
Choose a career you’re passionate about
Make a list of activities you enjoy spending your time on. Think about the aspects of these activities you like the most and the careers these might translate best into.
Do you love making to-do lists and organising things for other people? You might want to choose a career path leading into project management. Or perhaps you’re someone who takes any opportunity to add creativity to everything they do? A career in graphic design or illustration might satisfy your passion.
Understand your strengths
Of course, we can all pick up and master new skills throughout life. But knowing where your strengths already lie can give you a great stepping stone to finding the right career path for you.
While your strengths might not align perfectly with your passions, they can help find a middle ground you’d be happy in. For example, if you’re good at maths but aren’t necessarily passionate about it, you could find a career path that allows you to use your strengths while incorporating the things you enjoy.
Choose a career that fits your personality type
People with specific personality traits are often naturally better suited to certain job roles. So, understanding yourself and how you react to different situations will help you choose a career path that fits your personality type.
Introverts are more likely to thrive in careers with less public contact and quieter environments, while extroverts often seek roles allowing them to be more outgoing with more public engagement.
Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the TetraMap test can help you determine what type of person you are and where you might find confidence and comfort.
Types of career path
There are so many career paths to pick from, which is probably why so many people struggle to choose the one that’s right for them.
From specialists to creatives, management to researchers, and entrepreneurs to generalists – the list of career path types can feel never-ending.
Below, we’ll take you through some of the main career path types to help you decide which feels like the right fit for you.
Those that choose to become specialists will spend their career working on specific and rare skills. Whether you specialise in something that’s in high demand or just something you find particularly interesting, you can become a highly valuable worker.
Specialists often start in more general roles relating to the field of work they’re interested in. A more general role can give a better idea of where there are gaps in the field for specific skill sets, alongside helping you gain the experience you need to focus on specific aspects.
From here, they’ll work their way up to becoming an expert by continuously gaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of their field.
Becoming a specialist can take several years or even over a decade for some professions. However, most specialists are heavily compensated with higher-than-average salaries.
Those on generalist career paths can fit into a wider range of roles and often find it easier to switch between jobs. People working in these types of roles will gain a solid understanding of the basic principles across multiple areas.
For example, a business analyst might dip into marketing, IT, and business operations in their day-to-day work.
One drawback is that generalists might find it difficult to earn a higher salary since their skillset won’t necessarily fit into a single box.
Management is probably one of the most recognised career paths, but this by no means makes it the most popular. In most professions, management is a clear career path.
These people are often responsible for multiple aspects, including planning, systems, controls, strategy and projects. Managers will not usually start their career in management but will gravitate toward it throughout the early stages until they gain enough knowledge and experience. The timeline for this can vary based on the industry.
Some will aspire to take on the additional responsibility that comes with reaching management, while others might possess natural leadership skills making them more suited to this type of work.
Relationship-based roles are largely based on the ability to influence others.
Those with diverse backgrounds often do well in relationship-based roles because their social skills are better adapted to a variety of scenarios.
Sales is a common relationship-based career path. But this can look different depending on the industry you decide to pursue your career in.
For example, someone working in car sales can work their way up to selling more expensive cars for a bigger commission. Meanwhile, somebody working in marketing might progress from a junior sales role to a senior position where they have more freedom to meet with clients and establish the relationship further.
Of course, these four types don’t cover the full scope of career paths that you can take within your lifetime. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that once you pick one, you must stick to it.
Switching career paths
Making a change in your career path can feel scary. However, you’ll often feel a stronger pull in one direction over the other if you find yourself at a fork in the road.
Lots of people will choose a career path and decide a few months or years in that it isn’t for them. Reasoning for this can include anything from losing your passion to getting stuck in a rut. But switching your career path doesn’t need to be something you fear doing – it can benefit you to get out of a situation you aren’t enjoying or no longer feel fulfilled by.
Instead, consider why you want to switch career paths. Are you bored with your specialism? Have you lost your passion for management?
Often, you might want to look in the opposite direction. For example, those following a specialist career path might want to move into a more general role to try new things. Or a manager might want to switch to a research career path to have more freedom in their day-to-day tasks.
Something to remember is that making a switch from one career path to another might not always be the answer. Consider whether an industry change or responsibility shift in your current role might fix your issues or concerns.
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