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A Guide to Career Exploration

By Jordin Frey

A career is much more than a job, and finding the right career path can be a journey in itself. Each individual has a particular set of skills that can make the world a better place, things that they love to do, and things that they do well. Identifying the right career path for you requires putting the pieces together to find a path that allows you to make good use of your skills and talents and feel fulfilled.

Self-Reflection and What's Important to You

Self-reflection can be useful in many areas of your life, including your career. Reflecting on your past experiences, your skills, and what motivates you can help you to determine what's important in your life. It encourages you to discover the "real you," the one behind the facades and the walls you put up around others. Self-reflection requires you to ask yourself some hard questions. Are you happy with your job? Do you feel that you have more to give but just can't seem to move forward? Do you want to advance where you are, or are you ready for something new? What do you believe in? What are your goals? You should reflect on your qualities, behaviors, and characteristics, the things that make you who you are and what makes you special. It takes honesty, time, and trust in yourself.

Career Assessments

Career assessments are great tools that can help you to gain insight into your skills, interests, and values. Taking career assessments allows individuals to gain insight into the types of jobs that are available and which careers might be best suited for their skill set. These assessments can help you understand yourself better as well as your weaknesses, strengths, interests, and ambitions.

Researching Different Areas

Once you look at where your strengths lie, what your goals are, and what interests you, you should be able to start narrowing down your options a little. Now, you'll need to do some research. Find out more about different career opportunities and what they require. Whether you're considering becoming a dental assistant, a bookkeeper, or a massage therapist, take the time to learn about the skills and values you'll need, and think about how they fit you. Remember that if you don't have the right skills for a certain career, you can always seek out online training programs, but if you don't have values that fit with the mindset of a certain field, that's much harder to change (and it's not likely that you should try).

Internships and Volunteering

Internships and volunteering can both be valuable experiences that help you get started in a new career. For some, being an intern or a volunteer might be a chance to test the waters, trying out a different field or a new way to give back to society without making a big commitment. These experiences can also allow you to grow your confidence and learn to adapt to a variety of situations. For others, these opportunities are ways to make progress toward their new career and stand out in the job market. Having an internship or volunteer work on your CV or résumé can help you to demonstrate the skills that you possess, your strong work ethic, and your positive attitude.


Networking is the process of making connections and building relationships. Building your professional network can help you to learn more about a field, make more informed career decisions, and even get a referral or a tip about a new position opening up that can help you get ahead. Your network can consist of friends, colleagues, and professors.

Financial Assistance

Pursuing a new career path may require you to further your education, and for that, you might need financial assistance. Financial aid can come in a number of forms, from scholarships to grants to student loans. If you're going to need a college degree, start by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But keep in mind that many jobs don't require an expensive degree, especially if you have on-the-job experience in a related field.

When Things Don't Go as Planned

The road to career success will inevitably have bumps and curves, and you might even find that you've lost your way entirely. If so, remember that setbacks are normal. It's OK to take a step back, take a deep breath, reevaluate where you are, and figure out a new way forward. Keep your goals realistic, and remember that your missteps don't define you.

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