10 Exercises to Find Your Career Path

Career_paths_venture_marketing_consultingChoosing a career path is one of the most important decisions that you will make in your lifetime. If you’re like most people and you work from the time you graduate college until you reach retirement age, you’ll be working for more than 80,000 hours – that’s twice the number of hours it would take to watch EVERYTHING on Netflix! Given that, it makes a lot of sense to choose a career that is a good match to your interests and strengths.

NextStep has developed a proprietary process that has helped thousands of students to figure out what they want to do – and how to get there. Here are just ten of the activities that I did when I went through NextStep’s Career Visioning program. I hope they help you as much as they helped me!

woman_reading_book_stock_photo1. Flow Moments. My NextStep career coach had me reflect on times when I was involved in something so deeply that I lost track of time. Then, my coach looked for patterns, helping me to see the activities or environments that brought out the best in me.

2. Leisure Reading. My coach had me think about what blogs, magazines, and newspaper sections I read voluntarily, and looked for common themes that could help me decide what topics I was most interested in.

3. Social media. My coach also had me consider who I liked to follow on social media and why, to see if there were particular subjects or personalities that I was drawn to.

4. Free time. I was asked to make a list of how I like to spend my free time, thinking about what careers could let me get paid for what I already like to do.

5. Hiring Demand. NextStep gave me information about what industries were growing fastest and where there would be the most job openings. I looked through a list of growth industries and identified areas where I might like to work, knowing that they were also areas where I would have an easier time finding work.

6. Group Projects. My coach had me reflect on the roles I most liked taking on in group projects – whether it was organizing people and divvying up tasks, or making the powerpoint presentations. This helped me to understand the different job functions out there and which ones would be a good match for me.

7. Surveyed Friends. Another really helpful activity was NextStep’s survey that I sent out to my friends. It asked about my strengths, weaknesses, and any careers they might suggest. Surprisingly, there was consensus – my friends all said that I would be good at the same three careers!

HiredPrepPhotos-10848. 100 Jobs. NextStep provided me with a carefully curated list of 100 jobs. I combed through that list and ranked my top choices exclusively based on what interested me (ignoring qualifications). Then my coach helped me to see the common themes and activities in the jobs I picked.

9. Career Crush. My coach asked me who I knew that had a really cool job. Then I asked myself what I had in common with that person and what internships/post-grad jobs they had taken to get where they had gotten. That helped me to see what steps I might take to end up in a job like theirs.

10. Informational Interviews. Finally, my NextStep coach helped me to set up a bunch of informational interviews to learn about the career paths that interested me from people who were actually in those jobs. It was incredibly helpful to hear what people liked and disliked about their careers, and it made it easier to narrow down which ones might be a good fit for me.

Deciding on your career path is a big deal, which is why I’m so grateful that I had help in the process. I recommend doing these ten activities, but even more than that, I recommend getting a career coach to help you interpret your results. Having that outside perspective can make this big decision feel a lot easier.


Madeline Vuong is a guest writer for NextStep. She is currently attending Chicago Booth for her MBA.

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