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what are some ways that helped you discover what career you wanted to do?

I want to explore more careers career-choice career-counseling career

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Subject: Career question for you

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Lecia’s Answer

Hi Vanessa!

In my experience, learning what you DON'T want to do is part of the process to getting to know what you DO want to do:

1. Take advantage of being a student and try lots of elective classes in areas that interest you. You'll learn from these classes if your interests and hobbies can be turned into a profession, or if you'd rather pursue a different career path and keep them as hobbies. For example, I love TV/Movies, but after taking a few classes on this topic, I learned that I didn't want to be in this business, I just wanted to enjoy watching.

2. Partake in internships. I was also very passionate about politics, did Student Council and everything, so I thought maybe I'd work on the Hill. Once I got there, I learned the inner workings of what classes can't teach, and I realized it just wasn't for me.

3. Be open to new ideas and opportunities. In my previous role, my work in marketing began to naturally evolve to include sales, something that I never once considered. I found that I wanted to pursue the opportunities that this evolution was opening for me, so I continued to learn more, take on challenges and became more and more passionate about it. 10+ years ago, I never would have predicted this, but I was open to continuing to grow and expand my career horizons, and I recommend the same for you in your journey.

I hope this has been helpful!
Very thorough advice. I would pass this same to my network, Atif Nagi
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Olivia’s Answer

Hi Vanessa,

To help you find the correct career path for yourself, I recommend trying the routes to explore your interests. Since there's no way to know what you are best suited for until you do the jobs, here are some suggestions to get hands-on experience.

1) Participate in a professional organization. Ex: I attended Women in Tech SF meetings to learn about the different fields I'm interested in through keynote speakers. I also requested their contact info to network afterward so we can have follow-up conversations. These discussions don't always lead to job opportunities but the insights help me understand the commitments requested for each type of jobs
2) Internships: Regardless of your age, you can always reach out to companies and ask about internships and shadowing opportunities
3) Reaching out to people from your alma mater. This is akin to cold contacting. I found it useful to go on Linkedin and message the people that went to the same school as me to ask for a virtual chat or a referral. YMMV

Hope this helps!
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RAVI’s Answer

Wish I had a really good answer for your question. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my personal journey.

I was good with all math and science subjects and I really wanted to become a doctor. Probably because of the money one can make, I guess. However my personal situation was not good enough to continue into medicine and the costs involved really scared me. I also needed to start working soon and help my family which did not allow me to choose medicine.

I tried to do the second best: Engineering, although I did not really like it. But I was sure I will make decent money and help my family. I did not really know or care which engineering field I go into. I just took what most folks were choosing that time: Electronics and Communications!

Although I did really well, I could not really get a good paying job in that field. But got good paying jobs in software development. I took the job as software developer as money was good.

About 15 years into it, I realized I do not like software development and wanted to go back into Electronics/communications. But the technology had changed so much no one would hire me.

I did the next best thing: Went into the business side of my expertise and I have been working in this field ever since. I love the business side of it. I get to learn at a high level all the communications changes, and figure out how to develop a product/service out of it profitably.

Wish someone had guided me when I was young to learn a bit about business and finance as well in addition to engineering. It would have helped a lot.

I would say mine were all driven by necessities and accidental choices. It was not necessarily a well planned out career. But it is a good career, that helped us tremendously.

I always advised my two children to learn a little bit about business and finance, no matter what you major in. It opens up a different view and perspective to any career you plan to have.
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Sarah M.’s Answer

For me, trial and error! I've done a lot of different things, and that's pretty common these days - not many people will find a job and stick with it for their whole career, or even the same industry. Let that take the pressure off not knowing exactly what it is you want to do now. Sometimes you just get a job, and figure out you love it, or hate it, and that's all useful to you as as person.

Figuring out your values, and what is important to you is key - this will highlight to you the things you care about, and may have passion for. It doesn't have to be a job, but it can be an activity, a feeling, and then you can find ways in your life and work to help meet these values, and grow. It's great you've asked this question - knowing yourself is key to finding what will interest and drive you.

One thing I have found very useful as I've continued in my career is doing a Values exercise. There are a few versions of this values cards exercise online, where you are given a series of cards containing values descriptions, and you are ask to review them and select the values that most resonate with you, down from about 30 to the top 5. Once you have that top 5, of things that resonate and mean the most to you , these can be your guides.

Your five key values may be things that have resonated with you because you feel they are currently lacking in your life or career, or they are things you are passionate about, or things you want to keep doing. The important thing is that they are important to you in the your life right now. Now, when you have a decision to make, you can refer back to your key values, to see if a choice aligns with the things you've identified as being most important to you.

I say "right now" because your values and want you value most can change, as can your goals. Having a guide towards what your ideal life and career might look like gives you a lens you can use to support your choices, or identify why you might not be feeling comfortable, and looking for a change.

I have a physical set of cards, and I refer to them every six months of so, to remind myself, and to double check if anything has shifted. If I've made a change that means one of the valued "needs" now feels "in control", it might not resonate with me so much, and I may switch it out for the next one.

Once you have your values, look at the things you do right now, and a list of things you might want to do, and see how they stack up against your values. It might not be what you expected! It can also help you get through a role that's not 100% working for you - to highlight the parts of it that could be framed as moving you towards a goal, and focussing on those until you're in a place to move. Experience is all valuable, especially when you can frame it as a positive learning opportunity.

Some really great advice I've had from a mentor, too, is that not everything you have to do is about your passion, exciting or totally amazing. Passion and fulfilment can be a quiet joy and contentment, too. As long as you are finding ways to feel fulfilled, happy and challenged in the right ways, you will find the ideal balance. If your job isn't your "passion", find things in your personal life the fulfil your values, and look at ways to achieve or relate activities in your work as ways to achieve those things you highlighted as valuable to you.




Sarah M. recommends the following next steps:

Identify your most important values and needs
Run your goals through the filter of your values, to see if they fit
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Dana’s Answer

You can take personality tests, you can ask the people around you what they think you might like/be good at. Honestly, there are just so many jobs that exist that you may not even know yet what it would be. So read, research, talk with people. Try internships. Try things and, as importantly, stop doing them if you don't like them. That's not to say give up. But if its getting pretty clear that it's not your path, don't be afraid to try something else. Use this forum as a place to ask about skills, degrees, jobs and companies that may interest you. If you can narrow down the types of industries you like (ex, hospitality, google, healthcare, fashion) or the type of work you want to do (ex, strategy, consulting, management, teacher, legal), you'll be well on your way. You don't need to choose just one, but start to get an idea of where you'd like to work and/or what you'd like to do and you'll have a strong start.
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Rebecca’s Answer

Hi, this is more a question to yourself. What do you want to do in the future? I suggest you could start with approach below :
1. Think about what is your interested subjects or hobbies
2. Identity any careers related to these subjects. E.g. If you are interested in Maths, would you like to be mathematician, a maths teacher, an accountant, etc. If you are interested in Music, would you like to be a musician, a composer, singer, music teacher, etc.
3. You can then explore on these careers on and find out what you are interested. You can then shortlist a few careers you are would like to find out more.
4. You can find out any one who are working in the shortlisted careers or discuss with the career counselor in your school . After this, there should be 2-3 careers remain in your list.
5. You can the explore the relevant major and minor you should take in the college and find out the entry criteria. You can then further decide which one you would like to pursue.
Having said that, you could change your career in the future. This happens to many people. It may be due to your interest change, the world trend, etc.
Hope this helps! Good Luck!
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Natalie’s Answer

Hi Vanessa!

There are a lot of great answers here. What personally helped me was taking general studies at a community college. When I graduated high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to community college and took a wide variety of classes. It really helped me figure out what I liked and didn't like. By the time I was about to graduate I realized I wanted to be a graphic designer and now I'm at a new school for that. I think giving myself that time to take classes and explore my options was so helpful. Another thing that helped me was just doing lots of research on jobs. I had a few ideas in mind of what I wanted to be and I did a lot of internet research about what being in those professions is like and what kind of work I would be doing.
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Kavitha’s Answer

There are a lot of great answers here. I have only one additional point. Try as much as you can, and don't feel shackled by a particular industry / function you picked up to continue with it For instance, if you start your career in a heavy metals indsutry, but you realise in a couple of years that that doesn't interest you so much, switch gears and get into something that interests you more, like app development. It will be difficult to find jobs that give you a level that your 2 year experience will warrant since it isn't "relevant" but you can get in at a lower level and figure things out. It is a journey and you might pivot 2-3 times before you get to the one you like the most.
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jerry’s Answer

I like many of the answers you have received. I'd add be curious. Also read in the areas of interest and see which things hold your interest and which, after a page or two you put down and never pick up again.
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Christina’s Answer

Hi there Vanessa,

Love all of the answers others have provided here! I would definitely encourage networking on Linkedin with some folks who have a title you're interested in or work at a company you admire - from there, you can ask to have a quick intro chat (15-30 mins) and learn more about their field.

For me, what drove me to my current career was my passion for innovation and organizational skills - like others mentioned, sometimes happy accidents lead the way for your career and can be fulfilling and long-lasting professional experiences!
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Sridhar’s Answer

Some great answers here already. This is something that people grapple with even twenty years into their career.

Sharing an answer I heard on this recently.

Find something to do that is in the intersection (Venn Diagram - Mathematically speaking) of the following:

a) Passion - What do you love doing ?
b) Skills - What are you capable of doing ? Or what is it that you have the skills / training for ?
c) Value - Will someone ascribe value to it / commercial or otherwise. In other words, will your work be valuable to someone else, to society etc.

Its a hard one to get a fit on all three from day one, but broadly speaking you should keep this in mind and work towards it.
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Dana’s Answer

Look at the working adults you know. Your teachers, your parents, your parents' friends, your friends' parents. Often people choose to follow a career of someone they know. I followed the career path of the most successful (in terms of financial security) woman I knew when I was a kid.
Are there TV shows or books with characters or industries that interest you? That could be a start. How many people were intrigued or inspired by hospital soap operas, legal courtroom dramas, political intrigue, fashion industry, or cops shows? What about people in the news? Anyone inspire you?

Use that as a jumping off point to learn more. Learn more by finding out what kinds of education are required, what the day-to-day jobs might look like, find the companies that you might like, see about jobs.
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Trang’s Answer

Hi Vanessa,

I've been in the situation of changing my career. One thing I would appreciate my social network (Yahoo 360 and then Facebook) is that I've noticed many interesting activities from my friends. They have inspired me with their job in communications and event organizing.

I also took a few courses relating to Marketing and Public Relations, for getting the background and putting me in some practices to see how I can fit in with the tasks.

Trying to build the relationship with head hunters is also a good idea. From this, I've got feedbacks from their expertise and improved myself.

I think these above actions worked for me and hope you can refer to them at some points :)

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Lisa Bond’s Answer

Hi Vanessa,
I landed in my career choice by making a turn I didn't expect. As a result, 've learned two things: internships are helpful. They provide practical experience to give you a realistic view of the profession. And, talking to people who work in the field provides great insight. There are also tests that help you to access your skills and provide good career options for you. Many high schools and colleges provide them.

You're asking the right questions because you want to take an active role in a career that can last for over 30 years.
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Nathalie’s Answer

Hi Vanessa!
While I was in school, I participated in several student organizations and made the effort to attend as many events as I could. This allowed me to talk to professionals in different industries and learn from their perspectives. I don't think its enough to just join a student organization...you have to go to the events, participate, and that is how you get the most out of them. I know I took advantage of them and learned alot while I was in school, while my colleagues did not.

My unpaid internship was another helpful tool. This allowed me to make mistakes, learn, and grow in a short amount of time. It also helped me to figure out what I do and do not like in my field.


I hope this helps!
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Steve’s Answer

It is important to keep in mind as you search for a career that is the right fit for you to look for something that you find interesting as well as challenging. Don't be afraid to look into careers that are outside of your typical comfort zone, you may find there are opportunities for careers you wouldn't initially consider. If possible also look for internship or volunteer opportunities to get yourself exposure to your options.
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Carly’s Answer

This is a great question, with some awesome answers already!

As well as thinking about what you want to do, it can helpful to think about the kind of industry and the kind of company you do and don't want to work for. For example, the environment and sustainability are really important to me, so I know I wouldn't work in mining, or for a plastics company, regardless of my job or role.

For the kind of company - it helps to know what your values are, and to be able to identify companies where your values align. For example, trust, kindness, authenticity are some of my values. So, I want to work for a company where those values are strong, and obvious and respected.

In terms of what you want to 'do' - like other answers, think about what you enjoy doing, what gives you energy and then look for roles that provide that. I know thrive working in a team, so regardless of my specific role, I want to have a team around me and work collaboratively.
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Christa’s Answer

Lots of great suggestions. Offering a few more to add to the toolkit:
1. Talk to people from different roles - I scheduled 30min "interview" sessions for my friend's daughter who's a senior in high school. During the interview, she learned what the interviewee's job entails, how he/she got to the position, etc. Quite an eye-opening experience for her.
2. In your current position, go above and beyond, step outside your job responsibilities, raise your hand often especially for cross-training opportunities. That's how I landed on a promotion many years ago which took a turn in my career path.
3. Don't allow yourself to be boxed into a specific industry and/or career path. It's good to have a vision but avoid subconsciously creating a tunnel vision which may limit your horizon.
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Busola’s Answer

Hi Vanessa,


Great ways to discover what career you want to pursue is first by identifying what you dont like, what you like, what you are your core skills and then by being honest with yourself around what you need from a career in order to be happy. Once you identify these four things then you can start by creating a plan that will help you narrow down potential career paths. This plan should involve researching at least 5 roles that align with your skills, and the previously mentioned questions. Find someone on linkedin that currently works in said roles and see if they are willing to provide additional insight into their role. Find an internship/externship and ensure that your current coursework will count towards your future career. While doing your research be sure to keep in mind that it is possible to have a career that leaves you fufilled and happy, do not settle for less.
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