Many people spend a large part of their lives nurturing their careers only to end up seeking a change later on.

Do you find yourself in this category?

Maybe you’re looking for greener pastures (higher pay or you can’t stand your boss). Perhaps you’re just stuck or work doesn’t feel as fulfilling as it used to.

Whether you’re a college student, mid-level professional, or an older worker aiming for a career change at 40+, a time comes when you need to ask yourself one big question…

What should I do next? 

Here’s the short answer: 

You need to embark on a career discovery journey.

Most people don’t know how to go about this, and it’s completely fine if you don’t either.

However, one thing is certain.

At the end of this post, you will know how to equip yourself to take the next big step in your career journey.

What Is Career Discovery?

Career discovery is the process of assessing your personal and professional traits and using the results of the assessment to identify your career interests, preferences, needs, and skills. 

It is an activity that helps you identify your personality, motivations, ideal work conditions, and career goals.

Career discovery is best achieved through self-reflection and exploration, as well as with career discovery coaching and workshops. 

But keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers during the process of career discovery.

Ultimately, the goal is to help you identify the right career path and plot a course of action for long-term professional success.

So, if you figure out some other method that works for you, use it!

What Career Discovery Is NOT

Before we move into the career discovery tips and processes for different career levels, it would help to clarify a few misconceptions about career discovery.

Career discovery is not: 

  • Finding a quick fix for all your career problems. It’s an ongoing process of self-discovery and exploration, which, naturally, takes some time. 
  • Staying in your comfort zone; it’s about exploring new horizons. 
  • Taking an online personality test or psychometric assessment and finding all the “secrets” of your professional life therein.
  • Having a career coach doing everything for you. A career discovery coach can help you explore options, paths, and resources for career discovery, but it’s up to you to take action.

Now, as we have removed all these myths about career discovery from our path, we can safely start with actionable tips for career discovery. 

Career Exploration for Students

Life as a student can be hard.

There’s so much to deal with, from the feeling of being uncertain about your future to financial concerns. 

Then there’s the constant need to keep up with grueling syllabi that leave you burned out at the end of every day!

In reality, higher education is often like a full-time job.

School is the first job in the long line of employment you’ll secure during your career journey. It is the starting point of your career.

And it’s a vital part of your success in the long run.

Discovering who you are and what you want to be long before you graduate will help you make the right career choices in the future.

Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

1. Use your college career centers

From helping you identify your goals to assisting you in honing your skills, your college career center facilitates the process of career discovery.

You can use the resources there to brainstorm (and even find) a suitable career. 

Being active at your college career center will also help you improve your networking skills.

Additionally, your college career counselor might suggest some career assessment tests suitable for you.  

2. Plan your career discovery before finalizing a major

There’s an order to everything.

Choosing a major comes before choosing a profession, as your studies will strongly impact your professional life.

You should think carefully about what you want to do in the future before you choose a major.

Identifying your personality, skills, and career interests will help you choose a major that aligns with your desired career journey and is more fulfilling for you personally.

3. Talk to the professionals in your preferred field

What better way to learn how to shape your career than from the professionals who have experience in your chosen field?

Talk to your college professors, particularly the ones in the industry you are studying toward. Chances are, they’d be happy to offer insights and advice.

You can also connect with experts on social media and strike up a discussion. LinkedIn would be the best option for professional networking of this nature. 

4. Gain new experiences and see what works for you

Join clubs, attend classes, volunteer for diverse projects, seek internship opportunities, and the likes.

In the act of gaining experience, you’re also broadening your horizons, and strengthening your resume.

Take notes of the activities you enjoy and the ones you don’t like as much. 

Few things will help you on your path of career discovery more than knowing “where it ain’t,” as they say. 

5. Improve your network

Information is power, and connections give you access to that power. 

With an effective and active network, you get to access knowledge that offers better and wider perspectives into the world of work. You will be at the helm of the latest trends and opportunities in your preferred career fields.

You can improve your network by reaching out to your professors, contacting graduates, attending networking events, and engaging in online networking. 

6. Grow your skillset

Most, if not all, employers want to hire candidates with a strong mix of relevant hard and soft skills.

An important part of career discovery is knowing which skills you need to master for the kind of job you want.

Of course, it’s great to have the technical know-how for a job, but employers are more likely to hire people who have valuable skills.

So, grow your skillset now to give yourself a better chance than other job seekers in the future.

Career Discovery for Mid-Level Career Changers

Changing your career is one of the scariest things you could ever do.

You know that you must, but you also know what’s at stake.

You’re not the only one who feels this way. As the global Coronavirus pandemic raged, approximately 52% of American workers considered a career change.

Of course, a mid-level career change is hard, but it’s not impossible.

From the career transition stories of a doctor to a peerless fashion designer (Giorgio Armani), a high school janitor to a world-class author (Stephen King), and many more, we find enough evidence that you can change your career, regardless of how far you may have gone in your current industry.

You just need to do it the right way: the career discovery way.

Career discovery is just as important for mid-level career changers as it is for students. It helps you to discover what you really want and how you can transform yourself to better suit the career you’re aiming toward.

Here are some career discovery tips for mid-level professionals.

1. Find out why you need a change

Is it securing higher pay or seeking a better work-life balance?

Or are you feeling the need for a more fulfilling career?

Mid-level professionals often change their careers for reasons best known to them.

So, if you’re looking to change your career, you must first understand why.

2. Create a skills inventory

As a mid-level professional looking to change your career, it’s important to conduct a self-assessment to identify your skills.

This will help you to determine your strong points as well as identify the areas you need to develop to become successful in the career you want to pursue.

3. Identify your interests and strengths

Understanding your interests and strengths will help you step across that fine line between thriving and surviving.

Doing what you love and what you are good at will help you be happy to go to work in the morning and keep you hopeful for each workday to come.

Most people feel more fulfilled with this kind of mindset.

In fact, 62% of full-time American workers won’t mind getting paid less if they get to do what they love.

4. Consider upskilling

In today’s aggressive corporate world, one way you can stay relevant is to upskill.

Possessing a wider and more diverse skill set will offer you access to more career change opportunities.

Moreover, with the proliferation of online learning institutes available today, acquiring your desired skills is easier than ever. 

5. Be financially stable

This is important during the process of career discovery because it is often a period of transition. 

As such, you may not secure a new job opportunity until you have everything figured out.

To be safe, experts suggest that you have enough money to keep you going for at least six months.

Six months will give you enough time to conduct a mid-level career discovery and then make the needed changes to get you on the path of your new career.

6. Improve your network

Did you know that at least 70% of new job opportunities are not listed, but instead get filled through networking?

If you want to stay ahead and quickly transition into a new career, you must build a solid and active network.

Career Change at 40+ Years Old

Changing your career at mid-level is scary, but changing your career once you’re in your 40s can be downright terrifying.

In your 40s, you’ve likely spent nearly 20 years of your life nurturing your career. Deciding to change things up now is by no means an easy choice.

So, if you’re going to make this life-changing decision, you must get it right from the start.

To do so, career discovery is vital. 

With the following tips, you will find the transition into a new career easier.

1. Take your time

While you may get away with rushing other things, doing the same with your career change will cost you in the long run.

If you want to do it right, it can and will take some time. 

A career change at 40 or 50 is a delicate situation, so you must take as much time as necessary to rediscover yourself.

This often means identifying your motivations, skills, and future goals.

2. Find out why you want to transition

The reason for a career transition varies from person to person.

While some may feel that they just haven’t found fulfillment in what they’re doing, others believe they can no longer advance in their career.

Knowing your reason (whatever it is) for a career change will help you determine what to do next.

3. Find out if you need to change the job or the industry

A career change doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change your preferred industry.

The challenge you’re facing at present may simply stem from your current employment, in which case, you may resolve the problem by getting a different job in the same industry.

Maybe you can leverage the years of experience you have by starting a consultancy business. 

4. Be financially solid

If you’re looking to change your career in your 40s, the last thing you need is to get choked up and distracted by financial issues.

So, you should be financially stable enough to cover your living expenses and emergencies for at least six months.

5. Follow your passion

You’ve been working day in and day out for almost 20 years doing things you’re not really passionate about in an industry you don’t exactly love.

If you’re changing your career, you don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

What you need to do is identify your passion, the industry it exists in, and then align your career plans with it.

6. Learn new skills

It’s never too late to learn new skills!

Even if you’re still in the preliminary stages of changing your career, you must broaden your skillset.

Find out the in-demand hard and soft skills for the jobs you want to pursue. Then, prepare a plan to acquire them.

With a wider skill set, you’ll be able to access more diverse career opportunities.

So, go pick up something new!

Key Takeaways

No matter what level you are at in your career, there may come a time where you need to ask yourself, “What next?”

When such a time comes, don’t fret.

Even if you don’t have the answers yet, you can create them for yourself through self-assessment and career discovery.

Just put in the work and follow the tips for career exploration listed in this article.

But we’re not done yet!

Also, remember that taking on the mammoth task of career discovery all alone can prove to be too intense for even seasoned professionals. 

Sometimes, having an experienced mentor or a career discovery coach by your side can make an ocean of difference. 

If you’re looking for help with your career discovery, reach out to a career coach who can help.