Deciding On A Career Path

In order to tailor your resume to a certain industry or job, you have to figure out what exactly you’re interested in. There are tons of tests online that you can take that claim to spit out the perfect job for you, but in my humble opinion most of them are pretty terrible. There are definitely better ways to figure this out, and so here are a few.

Talk to people in that industry.

This is first and foremost the absolute best way to learn about certain industries and specific jobs. If you have connections within an industry, reach out to them - they’ll be able to tell you from firsthand experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of the jobs they hold. Be sure to ask multiple people though, because each individual will have their own unique take on what’s good and bad based on the factors that are most important to them. On that note, what kinds of questions should you ask? It’s very important to have questions prepared before you speak to your contacts so that you’re not going in blind. Also, do your research on the internet beforehand - don’t waste people’s time by asking them “What are the hours like?” or “What do you do?” because for the most part, you can find that kind of information online. I like questions like “What’s the most reward aspect of the job?” or “What part of your job do you find most difficult?” Those two questions alone will tell you a lot about what the job entails, as well as some important aspects of the job you need to be prepared to face.

Do your own due diligence.

You should absolutely talk to people in the industries you want to go into, but before you do so it’s very important to at least browse online to find out some basic facts about certain jobs or career paths. You shouldn’t go into phone calls or meetings with people totally out of the loop or uninformed - at the very least have an idea of what the job entails, what they do, and some basic facts about the job like the average salary, hours, responsibilities, necessary skills and qualifications, and so on. A great website that I used was Vault, the industry outlines on that site were fantastic and really provided a clear picture on what each job was like. If you’re a student, you might be able to sign in through your university and get free access. Otherwise, a lot of people in most industries common for college graduates blog about their experiences - for anything finance but mostly banking, Wall Street Oasis and Mergers & Inquisitions are both great sites. Otherwise, just look up “What does a _______ do?” and I’m sure you’ll stumble upon tons of articles.

Get an internship or shadow someone.

This is the best way to directly get to know what is involved in certain jobs, but it also tends to be the most difficult or lease efficient/plausible. This is something you need to do BEFORE the summer after your junior year of college if your goal is to figure out what you want to do. It’s becoming more and more common nowadays for students to get internships as early as the summer before their freshman year of college, so you absolutely need to be in tune with your interests and at least have a few career options in mind as you graduate from high school. It’s relatively uncommon for that to be the case at the moment unless you have a direct industry connection or really know what you want to do, but I can practically guarantee that it will become common practice as the standard for applicants is continually raised and the job market gets more competitive. Ask your parents, ask your family, ask your friends, ask anyone you know - just try to get some industry experience even if all you’re doing is shadowing someone and going to grab coffee or scheduling appointments - and don’t forget to bring a notebook.

The unfortunate truth is that now more than ever, you have to get prepared at an early age and you need to know - at least broadly - what you want to do for the rest of your life. That’s not an easy task to ask of a 20 year old, but it’s just the way it is. Don’t panic if you’re older than that or long out of college, it’s not a big deal. Everything will be just fine - being a career changer is actually something that makes you all the more interesting, although you will have to convince recruiters and interviewers why it is you want to change career paths and why your background makes you a great fit for your new job. Don’t stress too much, but depending on the industry it’ll be a harder route to change careers down the line. At the end of the day if you’re doing this research and reading this article now, you’re ahead of the game, so don’t fret!