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So you’re making a career choice…NBD. You will probably change your mind a bunch of times before landing on your career choice, which is totally normal. Before you make the big decision, it’s important to get hands-on experience within a few different careers. You can do this through shadowing, volunteering, internships, or even part-time employment. To make the most of these experiences, here are some questions to ask people you interact with (and yourself) to make the most informed decision possible.

What are the positives of a career in your field? What are the negatives?

You want to be sure the career you choose aligns with your values and will be fulfilling. The positives should be things that are “wins” in your book and will leave you fulfilled. On the flip side, it’s also important to learn about the negatives. Every career is going to have some negatives and if someone can’t come up with one about their career, they probably aren’t being entirely truthful. You’ll want to evaluate the positives against the negatives and be sure the positives (from your perspective) outweigh the negatives.

Work/life balance

It’s true that you will spend a good majority of your time working, but remember, it’s not your whole life. Everyone has a different need when it comes to work/life balance. At 5PM on a Friday, do you like to disconnect and not think about work again until Monday at 9AM or do you not mind the occasional thing you need to tend to here or there over the weekend? Also, consider the idea of potentially being “on call” even when you are physically away from the workplace.

Location, location, location

Perhaps you are as free as a bird and will move wherever the wind takes you for a career. Maybe you love where you live now and don’t want to venture too far away. You definitely want to consider your geographic preferences when it comes to a career. Certain careers are going to be more readily available in big cities vs. small towns or even different regions of the country, while other careers (i.e. a teacher or a doctor) will be able to find employment in every community.

Hours

Many careers require hours outside of the typical “9-5 workday” which makes sense because life happens outside of those hours. We need doctors serving our hospitals, cops keeping our communities safe, and firefighters responding to emergencies far beyond those 9-5 hours. When making a career choice, take into account if you have a specific preference about which hours make up your work day (or night).

Educational/training requirements.

When making a career choice, you’ll want to be sure to research the education and training requirements needed to enter each career field. View your time and money as an investment. Will this investment allow you to achieve your financial goals and make you happy at the same time? If there is a huge upfront cost to your education, be sure to research the time it will take to pay off any debt you have to take on to earn the necessary credentials.

Can I envision myself in this career 30 years from now?

It can be super tough to imagine life 30 years from now (especially since that may be longer than you’ve been alive), but remove yourself from the here and now. Chances are after 30 years, you won’t be in the exact same position as you start with. Do the opportunities for advancement within your career of interest excite you?

It’s important to get multiple views of a single career. Perspectives can vary from person to person and everyone’s experience can look different based on the organization they work for. Many people change careers throughout their lifetimes, so even if you do tons of research and feel very confident with your choice, always keep an open mind. You don’t miss something that could arise and be calling you to make it your life’s work. Learn more about finding your passion here.