You wake up, brew your coffee and, like clockwork, walk the few steps to your home desk to put out one workplace fire after another.
It feels like life’s one big shampoo commercial: lather, rinse and repeat.
Something else has to be out there for you. You know it. But when these thoughts bubble up, it doesn’t feel clear where to begin, or how to start taking action.
If this sounds familiar, you are likely ready for a career shift.
I recently wrote an article with my prediction of the top five growing career fields for 2022 … backed by research, of course… But if you’re just getting started or changing careers, how do you know what to do first?
As the author of a career book, it’s no secret that I think intentionally choosing your career path is critical for fulfillment. A career path follows a generally linear sequence of jobs to reach your short-term and long-term career goals. Often this path may also include continuing or advanced education. While many companies offer a career path framework, there are definite advantages to being intentional about creating your own plan. You are the boss of your own career.
Begin by taking an honest assessment of your skills, values, and interests. You can divide a paper in half and on one side, list all the skills, values, and interests you have now, and on the other side, list out the ones you aspire to hold or maintain. During this process, keep in mind the short-term and the long-term.
Based on your skills and interests, research careers related to both. Then search job postings within those careers. One key career tip I write about often in my book You Turn, is the importance of understanding your core skill set even more so than knowing what industry you work in. I joke that while I love the fashion industry, I wouldn’t make for a great designer. However, I could write articles and speak publicly (my greatest skills) about fashion all day long.
As part of your research, learn about the desired skills, education requirements, and experience preferences of the roles you might need. Identify the trajectory for the given career. Knowing this will help you create career goals and identify your career path.
Don’t skimp on this step. We spend 90,000 hours at work over our lifetime, that’s one-third of our lives. Don’t let this step paralyze you. Remember, you can always change your mind. The skills and experience you gain will almost always benefit you along the way. The important thing is to get started.
In order to help you dive into building out your 2022 career plan consider these 4 types of career paths: knowledge-based, skills-based, entrepreneur-based, and freelance. Within each of these, I’ll show you how to create your own career path.
1. Knowledge-based career paths.
Knowledge-based career paths hinge on acquired knowledge through experience. Some fields following a knowledge-based path include human resources, marketing, accounting, information technology, and engineers. Creating a career path based on this type will rely heavily on moving up the corporate ladder, using each position as a springboard to the next.
For example, a career path in healthcare might look like this: home health aide to nursing assistant to registered nurse. This career path includes positions that lead into each other as well as advanced education.
Developing a knowledge-based career path will almost always require education or upskilling. Upskilling is strategic learning to fill gaps in the industry. When you are the candidate with a specialty education or niche industry experience, you will stand out amongst any competition.
Begin a knowledge-based career path with a job before diving head first into years of study and course work expenses. Use this job to test the waters of your career choice. Not only will you gain experience, but you will also learn whether you want to stay the course or veer off in one direction or another.
Don’t forget, if you like an industry, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are stuck with one job option. For instance, a career in healthcare is not always patient care. If you deeply value working in healthcare but don’t want to be in a surgery room, explore knowledge based roles that work behind the scenes. Roles like Hospital administrators are expected to see a 17% growth in employment through 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not only that, careers in healthcare are excellent for mid-life career shifts.
2. Skills-based career paths.
Skills-based career paths are often physical, hands-on, or service oriented. Careers that fall into this type require a comprehensive understanding of how a specific job function operates. Skill-based careers include construction, performing and visual arts, and chefs.
The construction industry is experiencing tremendous growth. Yet, the BLS reports the industry is down 115,000 jobs. Considering this, a career in construction will be secure for a while. A skills-based career path in construction might begin by working as a carpenter, followed by superintendent, project manager, and culminating as a general contractor. One skill has the capacity to stack onto another and snowball into a successful career with many opportunities.
When creating your skills-based career path, spend time researching the experience required for the position you want to help you identify the roles you will need to get there. Within each of those roles, identify the skills necessary and create a plan to obtain those skills either through experience or continuing education. In skills-based careers, experience is your best friend.
3. Entrepreneur-based career paths.
Entrepreneur-based career paths focus on solving a problem or filling a need using a self-created product or service. Entrepreneurs work independently or start a company and hire employees. The premise behind entrepreneur-based careers is that they solve a problem for consumers. Examples include everything from inventing a product for sale to offering writing services to niche industries.
Just as there are countless opportunities for entrepreneurship, so are the career paths to get there. While some entrepreneurs are just born that way, many take a winding road that includes working in the corporate world, as did I. What I tell my career coaching clients is to focus on their skills and values. Your skills will help you determine what you can do, and your values will help determine how you will put your skills to use. If you find that you’re always solving a problem or enjoy solving problems at your job, the entrepreneurial path may be right for you.
My own career path included working for the Pentagon before realizing my value as a career coach. It was the skills I acquired trying to find a job in national security that equipped me with what I needed to succeed today. Be open minded and pay attention to your gut to discover whether this path is right for you.
4. Freelancers or independent contractors follow a varied career path.
Freelancers are hired by individuals or corporations to perform a specific job or project. A lot of freelancers provide a service such as graphic design, writing, consulting, home repair, and photography. In the wake of the pandemic, freelancing has grown largely due to choosing a work-life balance over company perks. The largest number of working freelancers is among the Gen Zers, accounting for 53% while millennials make up 40%.
Most freelancers start off working for a company. In fact, their first client is often their last employer. The top freelancing jobs include copywriting, software development, digital marketing consulting, SEO consulting, ad management, and sales and lead generation. Freelancing in these fields can fetch $200,000 annual salaries for experts.
If you’re interested in a career as a freelancer, do your research. A lot of freelance or contract positions require someone with agency experience. For example, if you wish to be a digital marketing consultant, you will need to have agency experience at a marketing firm. Your career path will also likely include upskilling to fill niche roles within a company on a project basis. Freelancers need to stay one step ahead in their respective industries. So, keeping abreast of industry trends is paramount.
Designing your career path around jobs that are projected to remain in-demand in the future will provide a level of job security. While most career paths take a relatively linear trajectory, that is not always the case. Lateral or even downward movement along the way can still lead to a successful career overall. Having career goals will allow you to evaluate each opportunity as to whether it makes sense for you in the long run.
Now is one of the most opportune times to explore your options in new career arenas. You’ve got this.