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When you start out in your career, it can be easy to be swept along without a plan, driven by the first job you happen into, recommendations from your friends and family or an idea of what you are “supposed” to do. But taking the time to consider what you want your professional and personal life to look like, what your skills are, how much time and effort you are willing to put into preparation and education and most importantly, what you enjoy, you’ll be able to choose a career path that is ideal for you. Follow this advice if you are interested in taking a more proactive approach to your career. 

Just What Is A Career Path?  

A career path is a plan for the trajectory you want your professional life to take. It may be helpful to envision it as a ladder, staircase, or route on a map to give you a clear image. Each job you hold throughout your career can be a step or mark as you progress. It’s up to you to choose your path. You can even take a detour to change your route laterally if you find you are not happy with your chosen path. You may find a SWOT analysis helpful in your decision-making process.  

What Is A SWOT Analysis? 

Often used for businesses, it’s just as appropriate for individuals who want to take an honest look at themselves and their career prospects.  

It’s an evaluation of four quadrants:  

  • Strengths 
  • Weaknesses 
  • Opportunities 
  • Threats 

In other words, what are your professional strengths and weaknesses and how can you harness or overcome them to build the career of your dreams? A person with an aversion to blood and poor attention to detail should probably not set their sights on becoming a surgeon, but an aspiring teacher could absolutely take steps to overcome a fear of public speaking. Consider what careers can amplify your strengths and possibly eliminate jobs that reveal too many of your weaknesses – unless you’re willing to put the work into addressing those that can be overcome. 

Career Tip: Choose What Interests You 

You can’t make a career out of every hobby – nor should you – so think carefully. There’s a big difference between baking cupcakes everyone oohs and ahs over for friends and family and opening your own cupcake business. To begin with, it could mean getting up at five in the morning to start baking as well as handling bookkeeping, marketing, inventory, payroll, insurance, and any number of other things involved in operating your own business.  

On the other hand, if you love technology and problem solving, engineering or developer jobs might be a good fit. If you like helping people, you might be a good fit for a non-profit or in a healthcare profession. If you enjoy research, you could be a scientist, librarian or academic. 

Career Tip: Identify Your Biggest Strengths 

As part of your self-assessment, consider any skills, certifications, education, and expertise you may possess. Take it a step further by learning how you are perceived by coworkers or friends. You may have blind spots to both strengths and weaknesses an outside observer can reveal.  

Consider how your personality fits into the picture. Do you work better alone or as part of a team? Are you patient and empathetic or logical and matter of fact? Are you a natural problem-solver and exceptional communicator? Soft skills like these can mean as much to your success in a career path as the traditional job requirements. 

Career Tip: Identify Your Skill or Knowledge Gaps (And Make A Plan) 

No one is born with all the skills they need to be a success in their career. Take steps to learn what skills you have and which ones you may need to gain or brush up on if you want to progress in your career. There are a variety of ways to add to your knowledge and skill gaps. You may initially think of just certificate and college programs, but there are a variety of free online training options that can at least get you started. You can hone your skills by volunteering. Also, with the talent market as tight as it is right now, your current employer or a new one may be willing to offer some on-the-job training if you have most of the required skills. 

Career Tip: Map Out Your Path  

Like planning a trip, just knowing the destination is not enough. You must establish the whole route and ensure that you remain on track. Consider where you want to be in two, five or ten years. Where were people working in your desired role at that point in their careers? Plan for the next step while always keeping your ultimate goal in mind. 

Don’t Limit Yourself 

You may be surprised by what is available to you once you begin your investigations. If you’re considering an IT career path, that doesn’t mean you must work in a technology company. Virtually every industry has a need for IT professionals in some capacity. You could work in manufacturing or legal for example or anything from fashion to professional sports. There are also virtually unlimited options within the field from help desk to app development to cybersecurity and web design. So, don’t just choose a field, choose an industry and a specialty to narrow your career path to what is most of interest to you. 

Career Tip: Study Salaries  

Before you get too far down your career path, it’s essential to know a realistic salary range. Will your needs be met by what the job pays? Salary research is a great way to ensure you are being paid what you are worth as well. If you have some flexibility regarding where you live, you may also want to find out if relocation could help to optimize your earning potential.  

Consider these sources of salary information 

Career Tip: Work With A Professional Staffing and Recruiting Firm  

There are several ways that a professional staffing and recruiting firm can help you along your career path. They have connections with hiring managers in your area or industry and can keep you informed on what employers are looking for, what industries are growing, and whether or not you are on the right path to reach your goals. Your recruiter can tell you if your salary expectations are realistic and what education you need or steps you can take to ensure you are on the right track. They can also give you career tips and options such as other industries or jobs that may be of interest to you that you may not even be aware of. 

They also offer a variety of ways to work, including: 

Temporary/Contract Positions. 

If you are at the beginning of your career or going through a transition, temporary positions are a great way to try out a variety of types of jobs with a minimal long-term commitment. There is no substitute for on-the-job experience to understand firsthand what a job is truly like.  

Temporary-to-Hire.

This job option gives you and the employer the opportunity to see if a job is the right fit before making a long-term commitment. It can give you a chance to get your foot in the door at a target employer and prove yourself on the job. The company gets a much better look at what you have to offer the business than what they can find reviewing your resume. 

Full-Time Recruitment. 

When you’re looking for your next career opportunity, a recruiter can be your best bet. Many positions never make it onto the job boards because hiring managers have relationships with recruiters who they count on to bring them qualified candidates. This prevents employers from having to deal with resumes from hundreds of unqualified applicants. Businesses also work closely with recruiters when a search must be kept confidential.  

Working with a recruiter can give you a leg up because the employer will know that you are a solid candidate. The recruiter can give you insider information about the position and what the employer is looking for. If you don’t get the offer, they can provide feedback on what you can do better next time. If you do get the offer, they can help you negotiate the compensation package, resign with grace and transition seamlessly to your new job. 

Ready To Work With A Recruiter To Find Your Career Path?  

Are you ready to take the next step in your career? The RPC Company can help keep you on track and make valuable professional connections. As a professional employment agency that works with Dallas, Fort Worth, TX and Springfield, MO area employers, we connect candidates with the positions along every step of their career path from entry to executive level. Search our available jobs to get started. 

  

Get more career advice and job search tips on the RPC blog. 

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