How to Choose a Career Path: Tips for Job Seekers

Choosing the right employment path can be challenging, whether starting a new job after graduation or considering a career change later in life. We don’t always know what we want to be when we grow up, and with so many possibilities, how can anyone choose the best career path?

Deciding what you want to do for a career can cause a lot of anxiety, but it doesn’t have to. Some assessments can give you more insight into what you might want to do. And once you have an idea, you can create a plan that can help launch your new career.

Here are some job search tips that can help you get started as you’re navigating through opportunities along your career path.

What is a Career Path?

The first step to developing your career path is understanding the difference between a career and a job. Jobs come and go, and while they help pay your bills, not all of them are a part of your career path. For example, during college, you may have worked in the hospitality industry or food service, but unless you want to develop a career within the restaurant or food production industry, that job probably wasn’t a part of your career path.

A career path is the route from entry to mid-level to senior roles within an industry or skill specialization. Imagine you want a career in supply chain management. You might get your start with an entry-level position in a warehouse, learning the ins and outs of a business’ shipping & receiving strategies. After you gain experience, you may move up to a mid-level purchasing or buying position where you’re making product inventory decisions. From there, you may take over a more strategic leadership role as a Supply Chain Manager. That is one example of a career path.

There is not a one-size-fits-all path that works for everyone. Every step along your job search will give you new opportunities to take your career in other directions. Along the way, you might seek help from a recruiter who can act as a guide to provide insight and access to the next job on your path.

To Grow Your Career, Find Your Strengths

The perfect career exists at the crossroads of your interests and your abilities. What you want to do should have as much weight as what you’re qualified to do. There are several ways to determine the position that matches what you enjoy the most and what you’re good at doing.

Career Aptitude Tests

The career aptitude tests you might have taken in high school to help you figure out what’s next are a great way to learn new information about yourself. The key to these tests is that they shouldn’t be one-and-done. Each time you’re faced with a new job search, you can retake a test to determine if you’re still on the right career path.

When you work with a staffing recruiting partner, they can help assess your skills in certain areas and give you some insight into your level of expertise.

Research Industries and Jobs

When determining next steps, you’ll need to know if you have all the right tools in your toolbelt to give you the best chance at success. Researching the industries and jobs will let you know if you need to complete a degree program, obtain a certification, or learn any special skills. You can do much of this research online, but don’t be afraid to connect with people in the local community. Attend job fairs, industry events, or open houses for places that might interest you.

Not all career paths are straight. Sometimes a job transition will mean shifting to an entirely new position in a different industry or skill specialization that might pay less than your current role but will bring you more fulfillment and growth opportunities in the long term. You will want to do enough research beforehand so there are less unexpected hurdles during this change.

Try New Things with Temporary Work

If you’re still unsure about your career path, there are options available to try new opportunities without committing to a long-term employer relationship. Applying with staffing/recruiting agencies will give you access to temporary/contract work to test new work environments and industries. Your recruiter will help you assess your skills to see what jobs are a fit and which skills are transferable to new positions.

Temporary/contract employment can also open doors to full-time positions that you may not have had access to on your own. Many companies hire short-term employees from staffing/recruiting agencies who prove themselves valuable in their role.

Career Tips for Finding the Right Path

Choosing a career can be one of the most stressful life processes. Understand that the right path isn’t prescribed; it’s whatever works for your long-term goals. You can take some assessments to help determine the tasks that will lead to your goals and how to measure your progress along the way.

State Your Career Goals

Did you know you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down? Visualize and capitalize on the momentum by setting specific goals. The key is to getting started is using the SMART goal-setting process. SMART stands for:

  • S | Specific
  • M | Measurable
  • A | Attainable
  • R | Relevant
  • T | Timely

You can use this method to determine your career goal and work out the tasks that will help you achieve it.

Create One, Five, and Ten-year Plans

Part of developing your career path is being willing to look forward to the future. Now is also an excellent time to establish your one, five, and ten-year plans. Using the SMART method, you can figure out the steps you’ll need to take to choose a career path. For example, if you’re starting at entry-level, focus on your one-year plan to include obtaining any credentials or certifications necessary and reaching out to recruiters to help you find your first position within the industry.

Identify Gaps in Your Skills and Plan How to Close Them

There will be places in your career path where you recognize the additional steps you need to take to reach your long-term goals. Throughout the process, consistently reassess to identify gaps in your experience and find ways to close them.

Start by staying up to date with the industry so you’re always familiar with the latest technology and processes. Then throughout your job search, you can fill in the gaps by talking with a staffing/recruiting agency to assist you in finding opportunities that can help you gain the experience you need to move forward along your career path.

Work with a Recruiter

One of the best job search tips anyone can use to advance their career path is to work with a recruiter. Recruiters are trained in employment processes and work with client companies in various industries. They can help you sell yourself as a prospective candidate for multiple jobs, from entry-level roles to career transitions to new sectors.

Doherty can be your career path partner. We help people at all levels find the next step in their careers, from office to industrial, engineering to skilled trades and management roles. Contact Doherty’s Employment Experts today or visit our career site at