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How to Choose the Right Career Path to be Successful

Everyone can relate to wanting to be a doctor (or an engineer or a teacher) on career day. However, as we grow older, our preferences change, and our career choices change also. At the age of 9, the vision may have been to be a scientist so you can develop a vaccine that serves as a master key to save the world from any pandemic. However, nearly 20 years later, you’ve probably realized that you alone cannot save the world, and you should focus on making savings instead. At this point in your life, you may be tempted to test different waters in your quest to find the right career path for you. While that could work, it could be time-consuming and might take a toll on your mental health. There a few steps you can take to make the decision process faster.

Follow these steps to know the right career path for you.

1. Identify your Career Goals.

Setting goals before embarking on any task brings clarity and motivation. It is the same thing when choosing a career path. A career that is best for you is the one that checks all the boxes in your requirement list and has the potential to help you achieve your goals. You should ask yourself, “What are my core values? What am I looking for in a career?” For a lot of people, their career goal is to attain financial stability, some other people want to be famous. While some persons want a career that brings travel opportunities, some just want one that gives a lot of free time and peace of mind. Whatever it is that is your career goal, will greatly influence your career choices throughout your lifetime.

When asked why she choose to be a flight attendant, Sarah said, “I wanted a career where I could touch lives and still get to travel the world”. Career goals also help to guide your choices as you apply to job opportunities and acquire skill sets.

2. Draft a Life Plan for the next 5 to 10 years.

Right after setting career goals, you should establish milestones for your career. What achievements should you have made in your career in the next 10 years? What job positions would you start your career journey from? How much closer should you be to attaining your career goals in the next 5 years? Set milestones for every year of your career, and work towards achieving them.

For example, a person with the career goal to be the world’s biggest fashion influencer may start as an affiliate marketer. He can then set goals to be a full-fledged thriving digital marketer by the next 2 years, a brand ambassador with a prominent fashion brand by the next five years, and so on.

For someone whose career goal is to attain financial stability, he might set milestones to make $100K in his first 2 years, and double that in 5 years. This means that he will be applying to high-income job positions, and getting into career paths with fast-paced growth.

You can set these milestones by reflecting on the career journeys of experts in your dream industry, and making their achievements your goals. When you set these goals, ensure to include the steps you plan to take to achieve them, as well.

The benefit of setting these milestones is that it gives you something to track your progress with, and ensures you stay motivated to keep thriving as you grow.  

PS: Always choose a career where your goals are attainable within the duration you have set them in the life plan.

3. Carry out a SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When choosing a career path, you should go for the one where you can leverage your strengths, are not limited by your weaknesses, have ample opportunities to grow, and have fewer threats to your success.

Your strengths are those traits (or skills) that you have, which attract people to you and help you achieve your goals quicker. These could be soft skills or hard skills, or even character traits. If you are a perfectionist, that is a strength that could come in handy in the healthcare profession. If you are a natural creative, you may want to seek career opportunities in creative arts and design.

Your weaknesses are traits you have, that could hinder your progress. This could be anything, ranging from having a health condition to not being able to work under pressure, or a dislike for noise. When you identify your weaknesses, you should opt for career opportunities where you can be efficient without being limited by your weaknesses. It also helps to figure out ways to manage your weakness while working your dream job.

The next step in the SWOT analysis is to consider opportunities where you can excel using your strengths. When choosing careers, you should pick one that presents you with growth opportunities where your strengths come in handy.

Your threats are things that trigger your weaknesses and make them become limitations. When choosing a career path, you should go for the one with fewer threats. For example, if you have a dislike for loud places and large crowds, a career in hospitality and management may not be suitable for you.

4. Identify your Areas of Interest.

Everyone is 10X more productive when they love their job. When choosing a career path to get into, consider what your interests are. What courses are you passionate about? What jobs interest you? People who become software developers most likely discovered that they were fascinated by programming languages, coding, and apps.

If you love working with children, you could consider teaching, becoming a pediatrician, or getting into other career paths that let you work with children. In the same vein, a love for fashion could lead you to the fashion industry, and a passion for designing could fuel your dream to be a graphic designer or product designer.

5. Review your Current Skill Set

When starting a career, you have to build authority in your preferred field – you cannot function efficiently in a job role you know nothing about. While there are career paths that allow you to learn on the job (like customer service), you still need to have background knowledge of the industry before you venture into it. When choosing a career path, pick the one you are most qualified for based on your current skill set. If your career goals and interest have changed now, from what they were when you acquired the skills you now have, ensure that you develop a new skill set before you transition to a different career path.

6. Consider the Cost of your Standard of Living

At the end of the day, you want a career that can sponsor your lifestyle. If you like to live luxuriously, a career path that guarantees an ideal work-life balance but comes with moderate pay, will not be suitable for you. Career paths differ in their incomes as well as their requirements. When choosing a career path, consider how much you’ll need to earn to maintain your standard of living, and go for the one that can offer you that. However, this should not be the deal breaker for choosing the right career path for you – it’s okay to start with moderate pay and work your way up to a fat paycheck.

Hot Tip: Considering how much you need to earn to maintain your lifestyle in advance will help you answer the question of expected pay during interviews.

7. Choose a Career Path that Suits your Personality

There are evaluation surveys that help assess personality types if you cannot decipher them yourself. Choosing a career path that suits your personality relieves you of unnecessary physical and mental stress. If you are an introvert, job positions that require a lot of physical human interactions (like marketing positions) may not be suitable for you. On the other hand, if you are an extrovert, you may thrive in career opportunities in marketing and advertising. If you are compassionate and empathic, you will do great in career opportunities in healthcare and hospitality, and management. If you are a critical thinker, you might be a great fit for a career in tech. To enjoy your career, you should choose a career path that aligns with your interests and suits your personality.

8. Consider your Core Values.

Identifying your core values will help you filter career paths, so you can choose the one that will be most rewarding. It also helps you know what you can compromise on and features of a job offer that are deal breakers. You can identify your core values by making a list of things that you hold in high esteem. An example of a core value that is a top priority, is mental health. You shouldn’t only consider your core values when choosing a career path, but also when applying to hiring companies, and accepting job offers – always make sure that the company’s core values resonate with yours.

Other Important Factors to Consider when Choosing a Career Path

While these factors are not major things to be worried about when actually choosing a career path, they can influence your choice of job roles to aim for in a preferred career path. These factors include:

i. Benefits.

When starting your career, you should identify work benefits that are important to you, and the ones that can be glossed over. This will help you streamline the career opportunities you apply to in a career path. For example, if health insurance is a tie-breaker for you, you would only apply to job roles that offer that.

ii. Growth opportunities

The presence of growth opportunities in a career path is non-negotiable. You should always opt for career paths that afford you opportunities to grow your skill set.

iii. Flexibility

Some people prefer day jobs over night jobs, some others believe that they are more productive at night. In the same vein, some people prefer career opportunities where they have more free time and only have to work part-time. It is a deal breaker for most people as well – the career path must have job opportunities that let you work fully remotely. Flexibility means different things to different people, but ultimately you should opt for a career path that can help you attain a good work-life balance.

iv. Pay range

This is not a determining factor when choosing a career path, but it may be when accepting a job offer. You should only go for a career opportunity that has a pay range that can attend to your salary needs.

v. Working hours

Some job roles are more demanding than others and will require long working hours. Before you venture into a career path, outline how many hours you would be able to give as working hours. This will help you strike out career opportunities that may require more working hours.

vi. Possibility of switching work locations

When choosing a career path, you should also consider the possibility of switching locations for work. Some career opportunities may require you to change locations as you grow higher. If you do not feel comfortable moving too often for work, you may want to stay away from industries (like finance and banking, and law enforcement) that have this feature.


A career path refers to similar job positions that you hold as you gain experience in your chosen field and grow older. Often times a person may transition into a new career path from another because of a change in interest or for other reasons. When choosing a career path, you should ensure that you pick one that aligns with your interests and will be rewarding for you. A hot tip to ensure you have a smooth transition is to switch related career paths – the shift will be uncomfortable and maybe draining if your present and future career paths are too far apart. I hope this article helps you have a smooth transition!

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Oputa Okwanuzor is a freelance writer skilled in the art of weaving words into stories for brand boost through copywriting, or make a soothing read using creative writing. In her free time, she loves to share personal development talks, fashion inspos and writing tricks on her blog.

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