How to Choose a Career
Choosing a career—and knowing for sure that it’s the right one for you—might seem like a huge, scary task. This is your life’s work we’re talking about, right? How do you even begin to choose something that you’ll be committing so much time and effort to?
For a large portion of the workforce, that choice is enough to put them in a state of analysis paralysis, and I’ve certainly been there—but that’s the last place we want to be. Somebody out there needs the talents and gifts that you have to offer, and when you feel stuck and scared, you can’t contribute in the way you were created to. The good news is, when you follow a few simple steps, choosing a career is a lot easier than it might seem.
So, whether you’re fresh out of school and just starting to think seriously about your career path or you’re a seasoned professional looking to make a big career shift, here are some tips that will get you started.
Build a list of careers you want to learn more about
If you’ve assessed your strengths, skills and interests, you should biq have a list of careers to think about. It’s useful to have a long list, with at least ten career choices because there is no such thing as just one dream career. Lots of careers could be a great match for you.
Have you got some ‘dream careers’ high on your list already? Use those top choices to expand your careers list. Head over to our careers hub and see which of the fifteen business areas, or ‘sectors’ you think your dream career would fall into – like creative careers or science careers, for example. You can find out more about that sector and jobs you could do in it. Each sector features a range of jobs you could be great at. You’ll learn learn how much they pay, what qualifications you might need, how to get started when you leave school or education, and who can help.
EXAMPLE: Say you like the idea of being a teaching assistant. You visit childcare and education jobs on our careers hub to find out more. You discover the job description for an IT trainer and decide that sounds pretty good. That gets you thinking – maybe you’d find a whole load of exciting career choices in digital careers as well?
By now, you should have built up a good-sized list of career choices you like the sound of. Aim to have at least ten careers on your list. There will probably be some career ideas you’ve already thought about, but also some possible careers you don’t know that much about, or haven’t really thought about before.
Create a list of 2-5 top career choices
Now it’s time to narrow down your list of careers – but not too much! You want to keep an open mind, because there is more than one dream career out there waiting for you. Pick careers you are interested in. Aim to choose careers that match your qualifications so far (or pick them if you genuinely want to build up any needed qualifications over time. Remember, Rome wasn’t build in a day – you can always do extra courses or learn part-time if you need to).
See if your top career choices feature similar qualifications and skills that could be useful in your future career journey. Perhaps all your top career choices say it’s good to have strong passing grades in the sciences, or in English, or geography. Make a note of that, because it can help you decide what your future study options might be – whether it’s choosing GCSES and A-levels, or thinking about courses and study once you’ve left school.
IT career paths
Not sure where to start? Many IT professionals begin in generalist roles that cover a range of issues, like help desk technician or IT associate. You may get an entry-level IT certification to help you land one of these roles, though it’s often not required. Once you’ve gained some experience and have a better grasp of what you like doing, you might think about focusing your career on a more specific area. You can explore entry-level IT jobs to see what other routes you can take if you’re just starting out.
1. Computer support
Many in the beginning phases of their IT career work in computer support roles that support many different aspects of computer operations. From there, it’s possible to specialize in a narrower field like cybersecurity or networks, or continue in computer support to become a senior or manager.
Working in cybersecurity means protecting computer systems, devices, and sensitive information from malware, unauthorized access, damage, and data breaches. Cybersecurity is one of two fields in IT expected to see the most demand, according to Global Knowledge, an IT professional development company (the other being cloud computing).
Getting started: Getting a grasp of basic cybersecurity principles can help launch a career in this space. Consider building experience by earning an entry-level certification, like the CompTIA Security+ or Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certifications.
3. Networks and systems
Network IT professionals work with network-related tasks or hardware, and systems professionals work among servers and computer systems. They may have overlapping roles, particularly at smaller companies where you’re more likely to have to wear many hats. You might start as an analyst or administrator, and then work your way up to being a network or systems engineer or architect.
Getting started: Several certification options exist for networks and systems, like the CompTIA Server+ or the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Otherwise, you can start as a generalist on the IT help desk and work your way into one of these specialities.
4. Software development
Software developers, or software engineers, create computer programs that are used to accomplish any number of tasks—your internet browser, music streaming service, and online video conference app are all examples of software. Software development can open paths into a variety of different industries, including finance, video game development, and tech.
5. Web development
Working in web development means you’ll be responsible for creating and maintaining web sites and phone applications. Web developers can be front-end or back-end developers—that is, the front-facing interfaces or behind-the-scenes mechanics of a website, respectively—or both.
With the ubiquity of internet-connected devices, companies have access to unprecedented amounts of data on their customers, services, and other business factors. And though data isn’t a traditional IT specialization, the increase in demand for data skills makes it a solid career option for those looking for IT-related work. Working with data can entail keeping up hardware and security as a data technician, or sifting through data to find patterns and insights as a data analyst or scientist.
Getting started: If you’re interested in becoming a data technician, some background knowledge of IT support might help. If the idea of working directly with data is more enticing to you, consider getting a certification in data analytics—like the IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate or the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate.
7. Cloud computing
Along with cybersecurity, cloud computing was found to be the top technical area in IT seeing the most demand by Global Knowledge . A career in cloud technology generally includes some programming on cloud software platforms like Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud.
Debugging, Encryption Algorithms and Techniques, Customer Service, Network Protocols, Cloud Computing, Binary Code, Customer Support, Linux, Troubleshooting, Domain Name System (DNS), Ipv4, Network Model, Powershell, Linux File Systems, Command-Line Interface, Directory Service, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Backup, Cybersecurity, Wireless Security, Cryptography, Network Security
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