How to Choose a Career: 10 Most Crucial Things to Consider

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Choosing a career path, at times, may seem like a giant leap to some future college students — one that can appear daunting and overwhelming. Students can figure out which direction to take by answering simple questions.

Let’s look at the 10 biggest things to keep in my mind when looking past college to enter the real world.

1. Your passion and skills

What do you love to do? What would you do for free and still be happy? Your career may not ultimately be a perfect match to what you come up with, but daydream for a bit and then write down the biggest reasons you get up in the morning. What inspires you? What drives you? After you write that initial list, do you see any links in common?

Furthermore, take a minute and write down your top skills (writing, mathematics, computer coding, etc.). Do you see any connections that jump out between the two lists? If you do, you might be well on your way down your career path.

2. Your personality

Equally important to knowing what you love and what you are good at is knowing what makes you you.

If you are a people person, it would probably not be a good idea for you to run a library. If you are more of an introvert, you may not want to get into the field of customer service or hospitality.

In addition to writing down a list of your main personality traits, take some time to use the Interest Finder on to gain even more insight into this dynamic. You can use your CFNC user ID and password to log in and save assessments on your personal CFNC Dashboard. Another great free online personality test is 16 Personalities.

3. Your goals

Career - Education - Knowledge & Skill - Experience/Training - Ability - Goals

What do you want out of your career the most? Is having a high salary the biggest motivator or is a solid work-life balance your North Star? Do you want to travel the world or work remotely with ease from your kitchen table? Do you want to live in the heart of a major city in an apartment or in a more rural setting on a big plot of land? Where do you see yourself five, 10, or 20 years down the road?

Before you begin searching for your possible careers, you need to start plotting out what your future could look like. Write up a list of what is most important to you. This is where creating a vision board could also come in handy to help you begin to hone in on the pillars of your potential career.

4. Your values

What do you value the most when it comes to finding a career? Just as you need to start thinking about your goals, you need to determine what values will help propel you to those goals. It may be handy to keep your list of personality traits nearby for this exercise because many of them may be connected to your values.

What type of work culture or leadership structure do you think you would thrive in? Are there any “deal breakers” that arise from your personal convictions? Many of these answers may take years to reveal themselves, but some may be easier to see than others.

For those who love to read, several books have been written on the subject, such as “In Search of Values: 31 Strategies for Finding Out What Really Matters Most to You” by Sidney B. Simon.

5. Your options

Now that you have a better idea of what your ideal job may look like, it is time to see what occupations are out there. A great place to start is the “Explore Occupations” tab on the site. Search for careers out of close to 800 job titles. You can also browse by the fastest growing jobs in North Carolina; or filter and sort results by a range of options. If you are not ready to type in an exact occupation, you can also click on the “Career Cluster” to look at jobs for an entire industry. Write down the job titles that interest you the most. You can save career clusters in your CFNC Account as well.

Furthermore, not everyone is cut out for the traditional 9 to 5 working arrangement in which you report to a traditional supervisor. After looking over occupations, you can check out if you’re best suited to start your own business by using the Small Business/Entrepreneur Readiness Survey found under the “Be Your Own Boss” tab under “Find My Interests” on

6. Your potential salary


Salary block letters with paper person walking up them as stairs

You have a list of possible occupations. Great! It is now time to get an idea of what the salary ranges of those possible careers could be — because rent and bills will not pay themselves. A good starting point is the “Salary Range” filter under the “Explore Occupations tab” on

For a more in-depth look at current and previous salaries for given occupations, try other online resources such as, Glassdoor, or PayScale. Write down the given salary ranges of each position — and search by the desired location of where you want to live — to get a better feel for how much certain professions pay in relation to the overall cost of living in that particular region of the country.

7. Your job prospects and outlooks

Along with passion, you must also factor in practicality — as in what jobs are dying off and which ones are projected to surge in terms of popularity and necessity to meet the needs of our changing world.

Although we cannot stare into a crystal ball for insight into occupations 10 years down the road, there are tools available to help glean a better idea of the fastest-growing and most in-demand careers. One of those resources is the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This site can also serve as a good guide for salary projections.

8. Your educational costs and training

Simply put, no two occupations are the same when it comes to the amount of education and training needed. Some require graduate school. Some require internships. Some professions, such as becoming a doctor, require logging in a certain number of hours as a resident.

As you continue to whittle down your list of possible occupations, know how much schooling and training will be necessary for you to obtain a certain profession. That will help you begin to create a rough timeline in your mind of when you can go from student to practitioner — and determine the possible costs of those educational paths as you start planning for college and managing your finances. The Occupational Outlook Handbook’s “Field of Degree” page is a great starting point.

9. Your resources at home and school

It also pays to seek out a traditional in-person third party, such as a school counselor. In addition to providing you with resources to help you select the next step in your higher education path, a counselor can also help you envision your career path. In addition, several high schools in North Carolina have NC Career Coaches, which serve as ambassadors to nearby community colleges, and College Advisors, which is part of the College Advising Corps.

Lastly, you can always sit down with a parent or family member — especially if he or she is in a profession that is of interest to you. Even if they are not, there is a good chance that they might know someone who is — and could possibly set up an informational interview (see below). 

10. Your learning opportunities

One of the best ways to get a feel for a particular occupation is to set up an informational interview with a person from that industry. Reach out to someone via email to set up 15 minutes to talk either by phone, Zoom, or, if local, in-person for a cup of coffee.

Prepare a brief list of questions to ask, with the last question being “How can I help you?” Ask who else you should contact. Follow up with a thank-you note, and, before long, you will be well on your way to learning about the art of networking as you continue to progress down your career path.

Now that you have an idea of what careers and majors may interest you, you can begin searching for colleges that have majors to match your needs. Use the CFNC College Search to create a list of schools. After assembling a list of schools, use the CFNC Application Hub to apply, send transcripts, and monitor the progress of your college applications.

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