How to Choose a Career in 4 Steps [Tips + Tools]

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April 26, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • Knowing how to choose a career requires knowing yourself and the market.
  • Personality assessments, goal-setting, informational interviews, and more can help you uncover the best career matches for you.
  • When you find jobs that are the right fit, use Teal’s Job Tracker to keep an eye on your applications, interviews, and follow-ups.

You’ll spend roughly 90,000 hours—about a third of your life—at work. Think that fact is disheartening? It’s a lot less so if you choose the right career. 

But with so many options out there, knowing how to choose a career that’s a good match presents challenges. That’s true whether you’re an upcoming graduate planning your future career or an established professional looking to make a switch to an entirely new industry or career path

It's not about how to find a job fast—it’s about how to find a career that lasts.

Regardless of your current circumstances, this guide covers all of the steps you need to take to decide on your future career including how to:

  • Use self reflection to better understand yourself
  • Outline your professional and personal goals
  • Explore different industries and careers
  • Make an informed decision about your first or next job
  • Use Teal’s tools and resources to simplify your search

Struggling to land interviews in your desired field with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

How to choose a career in 4 steps

Choosing one career path can feel daunting.

Many people feel pressured to make their choices in school. This route helps you pursue relevant education. Yet, at that point in life, you don’t have a solid grasp of your own skills and interests. You also have limited exposure to the realities of the job market.

You might feel better equipped to land on a specific career once you have a few years of work under your belt. But with this route, it’s easy to feel stuck in a certain career path, especially when you’ve already invested time and energy into it and are, understandably, afraid to go backwards.

Regardless of your starting point, choosing a career doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Here are four steps to understand yourself and the different career paths out there, so you can set yourself up for a successful career. 

1. Understand yourself

You might love project management while another person detests managing tasks and timelines. Your friend might thrive in a fast-paced work environment while you want an atmosphere that’s more thoughtful and deliberate.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all ideal job, which is why learning about yourself—your unique personality traits, skills, preferences, desires, and more—is so crucial as you explore careers.

Building a better understanding of yourself and your interests can be deceptively challenging. Here are some tips to build more knowledge about yourself. 

Self reflect

Start by looking back on previous work experiences, from job duties and internships to projects and responsibilities. Answer questions like: 

  • What work did you enjoy or have a passion for?
  • What work drained you?
  • What work environment gave you energy?
  • What work environment made you feel stressed?

Take some time to ponder each question and document your answers as you work through your thought process. When you’re done, take a look back to see if you can uncover any common trends.

Complete a personality test

Building self-awareness is hard, but there are plenty of different assessments and personality tests  tp help you develop a better grasp of who you are and how you like to work. 

Teal’s Work Styles Assessment identifies the way you work. Going a step further, you can take it for yourself and also ask a colleague assess your work style to get a well-rounded view.

Teal Work Style Assessment results
Teal's Work Style Assessment lets employees evaluate how they work and compare with results from peers

Other helpful personality assessments include the Enneagram Personality Test and MBTI Test. These help you understand your motivations and worldview.

When it comes to finding a career you love, it’s hard to overstate the importance of identifying your strengths, interests, weaknesses, and personality traits. Learn more about self-assessment in this post about understanding your greatest strengths.

Work with a career coach

A career coach requires a little bit of an investment, but it can be well worth it to build a deeper understanding of what you need out of a future job. Career counselors act as a neutral third-party and help you identify your true passion and strengths.

Tips to find a career coach

  • Perusing the International Association of Career Coaches Directory
  • Doing a simple Google search for relevant terms (e.g. “career coach specializing in career change”)
  • Searching LinkedIn for similar terms (e.g. “career change coach”)
  • Looking at forums like Reddit and Quora for suggestions
  • Asking trusted friends, family members, and colleagues for recommendations

Working with a coach isn’t mandatory, but it can be a powerful way to get more insight into your interests and personality. 

Solicit feedback

Sometimes other people know you better than you know yourself. It’s worth connecting with people you know and trust to get their opinions on your strengths and potential careers that might suit you. 

The key to getting good feedback is asking specific questions. Push for detail-oriented feedback rather than asking, “Hey what jobs do you think I’d be good at?”

How to ask friends for career advice

  • What’s one skill I possess that stands out to you?
  • What’s one area where you think I struggle or get frustrated?
  • If you had to describe me in three words, what words would you use?

You don’t have to take the answers as irrefutable evidence—this isn’t about choosing a job based on your friends’, family members’, or parents’ opinions. However, seeking feedback from people who know you well can give you some valuable insight as you look into different careers.

2. Map out your goals and expectations

Perhaps the most important thing to consider as you choose a career path is your answer to this question: What do you want?

It’s a loaded question. The best place to start is by outlining your short-term and long-term professional goals:

  • Where do you see yourself next year?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
  • What does career success mean to you? What does it look like?
  • What are some values that are important to you?
  • What are some notable things you want to achieve?
  • What are your non-negotiables?

The SMART goal framework can help you set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

For example, you might set an objective like: 

Establish better time management and work-life balance by working only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays and taking at least three weeks of vacation every year.

With that goal in place, you know you need to look for a career and organization that prioritizes healthy balance. It’s a solid illustration of how outlining your goals will help you find a career that matches not just where you are right now, but where you want to go in the future. 

Knowing what you’re working toward is important. But as you think about what you want, you also can’t overlook the logistics of the different career options you’re considering. Grab a notepad and jot down the specific requirements your next job needs to meet.

Example career requirements

  • Salary
  • Perks and benefits
  • Work location
  • Schedule
  • Values
  • Organizational culture

While finding your passion matters, your chosen career also needs to check those boxes. After all, being a touring musician might sound like a dream job. But if reliable pay, a solid health plan, remote (or, more specifically, work from home) options, and a flexible schedule are important to you, that career path isn’t actually the best fit for you.

3. Explore industries and careers

You’ve built a more detailed understanding of your skills, preferences, and desires. Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how to choose a career and evaluate the career options available to you.

If you look at the whole breadth of careers out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed—you could be anything from a nurse to a sales representative to a software developer. The good news is that the previous steps likely already ruled out a lot of potential jobs.


If you know that you want to work remotely all (or even most) of the time, then you’ll avoid any frontline roles or industries like healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and more.

Still feel stuck? Here’s a handy tip: Use ChatGPT to brainstorm some potential career paths using a prompt.

ChatGPT prompt for career advice

Give me [number] potential career options. I’m [personality trait or skill], [personality trait or skill], and [personality trait or skill]. I want [perk or benefit] and [perk or benefit]. I want to work [on-site, remote, hybrid, etc.] and need to earn at least [number] per year.

Fill in the blanks, send it into ChatGPT, and see what options it gives back. Again, this isn’t about getting a final answer but instead about opening up avenues you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. 

When you have a list of job titles to explore, conduct research to understand more about the responsibilities and what it’s actually like to work in that role. You can do that by:

  • Using Teal’s Career Paths to discover career roadmaps and your ideal job
  • Searching for relevant positions on job boards and paying close attention to the job description, especially the required qualifications and job duties
    (Pro tip: if you see one you like, make sure to save it to your job tracker using Teal’s Chrome Extension so you can apply later)
  • Searching YouTube for “day in the life of [career name]” to watch vlogs and insights from real people in those careers
  • Using LinkedIn to find people in relevant roles and then contacting them for informational interviews to learn more about their jobs
  • Contacting relevant people or organizations to ask about job shadowing opportunities

Don’t panic—you don’t need to choose a career quite yet. Rather, this stage is about doing your due diligence to create a shortlist of career paths to consider as you move into the next and final step. Aim to end up with about three to five potential job titles on your list.

4. Make your decision

You’ve laid a lot of groundwork. Now it’s time to get into the specifics of the careers you uncovered. Take each career path one at a time and then do research to answer each the following three questions:

Question #1: What does the market demand look like for the job?

The last thing you want is to start a career only to realize that nobody is actually hiring for that position. Take some time to research demand for potential roles.

How to research the job market for a role

  • Check job boards to see how many open positions are posted (the more open roles, the greater the demand).
  • Scan relevant resources like LinkedIn’s breakdown of the most in-demand jobs or the Bureau of Labor Statistics's (BLS) list of occupations with the most job growth.
  • Scroll Reddit, Quora, and other forums to understand what people are seeing in those industries.
  • Conduct informational interviews with people in specific positions or industries to hear their experiences.

Question #2: What is the future outlook for the job?

When you’re putting work and time into choosing a career, you don’t just want one that’s solid now—you want one that will grow in demand well into the future.

However, from advancing technologies to broader economic changes, a ton of factors can impact the outlook of careers. And while it’s tough to predict what will happen with a high degree of certainty, there are ways you can get a feel for the future of a chosen role.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes employment projections. Type a career path or job title into the search bar and you’ll find data on where that industry or position is headed.

Question #3: How well-positioned are you to move into that role?

Finally, you need to consider how much work you need to do to successfully move into that desired career path. 

Do you need to up-skill in specific areas? Do you need to get more relevant job experience under your belt, whether it’s through internships, project-based work, or volunteer opportunities? Do you need to go back to college or pursue other training to meet the common education requirements?

It’s easy to think the work is over when you find the right career, but there might be plenty more steps ahead to make the transition. That’s important to keep in mind when choosing a career that’s a reasonable and realistic option for you.

Find, save, and apply to open jobs in your chosen career field

Now that you know how to find a job you love and landed on a career that feels tailor-made, you need to find open positions and submit your application.

Teal's Job Search tool functions like a super-powered job board to identified the best open opportunities. Once you find a role that meets your criteria, you can save it directly to your Teal Job Tracker.

Save a job to the Job Tracker from from Teal's Job Search
Teal's Job Search tool lets users find and filter by job type, remote work, salary then save open roles to its integrated Job Tracker

Unlike other job boards, you're not limited to saving only jobs you find on the Teal Job Search tool. Teal’s Chrome Extension also lets you bookmark open roles you find around the web, so you can save applications, contacts, and companies in one central spot.

Teal's chrome extension lets users save jobs from job boards
Teal's Chrome Extension allows users save jobs to its Job Tracker from across the web

When you find a job you’re interested in, click the extension and select “Save Job.” While doing so, you can also rate your excitement for the position (using a five-star rating), set a follow-up date, and instantly see the top five hard skills and keywords that position requires.

Once you’re ready to apply, head to Teal’s Job Tracker and you’ll see the position displayed there along with pertinent facts like the company, max salary, location, application status, and more. 

When you click into a saved position, Teal will analyze the job description for you and call attention to the hard skills, soft skills, and emphasis words you should include in your resume and application.

Teal Matching Mode surfaces important skills and keywords from a job description
Teal's Matching Mode surfaces important keywords from the job description to use in a resume

And if you’re already groaning at the idea of pulling together a tailored and impressive resume, Teal’s AI-Powered Resume Builder can help with that part, too. You can import an existing resume or your LinkedIn profile or start from scratch. 

That doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Teal will give expert advice on how to make your resume stronger. Attach the job description to your resume and you’ll get targeted recommendations for how to incorporate more of those key terms and skills into your document.

Teal makes your job search—and career pivots—less stressful and more effective. Try the free Job Tracker and Chrome Extension to save and compare open roles in your free time.

Find the career that’s right for you

Don't put off the tough decision of choosing a career or leaving it to chance.

Choosing the right career involves introspection and research, but it’s well worth it for the opportunity to wake up excited for work every morning.

Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a “right” career—but there is one that’s right for you.

Simplify your job search and uncover your ideal jobs. Sign up for Teal to get started.

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Kat Boogaard

Kat is a freelance writer focused on the world of work. When she's not at her computer, you'll find her with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.

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