How To Figure Out The Career That's Best For You

by Sarah Fielding
Hannah Burton/Bustle

For the third year in a row, Bustle’s Upstart Awards are honoring young women who are doing incredible things in the realms of business, STEM, fashion and beauty, the arts, philanthropy, and beyond. Want to be an Upstarts honoree one day? Read on for career tips, insights, and inspiration to help get you there.

You were probably told when you were five years old that you could be anything you wanted to be when you grew up. Then, at 18, all of a sudden you had to know exactly what you wanted to do, and it had to be realistic. The truth is, when figuring out the career that's best for you, neither of those attitudes will be very helpful. Determining which jobs to take, and what will make you happy in the long run, is a process.

Whether you're a recent grad or years out of school, the beginning of a career isn't defined by age — or even your degree. "Depending on the career, possessing a college degree in a given field may not be quite as important as how you choose to spend your free time. Many employers require a college degree, because it shows a level of dedication and perseverance," Brad Stultz, human resources director at Totally Promotional, tells Bustle. "The activities, groups, and internships that a potential employee has on their resume paint a far clearer picture as to the type of employee they will be."

You might have even been working somewhere for a few years only to discover that the fit wasn't right. It's important to constantly reevaluate where you are in comparison to where you want to be. Then start to determine how to get from point A to point B.

Are you unsure what point B looks like for you? With the rapid expansion of technology, there are career paths available that never existed before. When looking at your options it's important to explore beyond the traditional. There are tons of jobs out there you may have never even heard of. The reason you might be having trouble deciding is because you're unaware of the perfect career for you.

So where do you start when figuring out the right career for you? Here are a few tips.

Want to see how you like working at a company without the commitment? Interning or shadowing can be a great way to do that. As an intern you'll be responsible for different tasks and be able to observe how each department works. It's like testing out a position to see if it fits.

Shadowing is often for a much shorter term, usually lasting only a day or two. In this case, you are watching what someone else does while not doing any work yourself. Shadowing is especially great when you have no experience in a field but want to learn more about it.

To apply for a job you either need the skills required or the ability to learn them really quickly. A great way to decide what kind of career you should pursue is to evaluate your skill level in different fields and see what makes for a good fit. If you don't have the skills you think you need, go get them. There are plenty of classes to learn new things, whether it be a computer program or a language, or you can teach yourself online. Better yet, find a friend who will help you learn for free.

You can either have a job you go to every day because you have to, or a place where you go to work toward your passions. Your interests are the most important determinant of what your career should look like. As Confucius said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Try searching "careers in (your interest)" to see what comes up. It sounds simple, but the results might surprise you.

Do you respond well to authority? Do you like being part of a team? Are you more productive working alone? These are all important questions to ask yourself when applying for a job. The environment you work in is extremely relevant to how much you like your job. Knowing from the beginning what setting you want can allow you to narrow down your choices.

Is it your job, family, travel, or health care? Figuring out what matters most to you is key when applying. Each job comes with different degrees of flexibility. Inside the office your priorities matter as well. Do you want to be someone's boss someday? Is travel an important aspect of a job? Each question you ask yourself brings you a little closer to understanding which career is the best fit for you.

If you answered no, then you can cross careers such as teacher, doctor, and any type of work in a salon off your list. While most of us can get along with someone when needed, many people also do their best work when they are by themselves. If constantly interacting with others all day doesn't sound like something you'd like, look for a job where you can work in a more solo setting.

This is important at each step of the job search process. Understand what you are capable of doing, and what you are currently qualified for. Being honest with yourself is the best way to end up where you'll be happiest and most comfortable.

Choosing your career can feel like an end-all-be-all, but the path you start heading down can easily be changed. Don't be afraid to try something new and interesting. You might wake up one day and realize you're headed toward your dream job.