Many powerful internal and external forces factor into career choices. If you love farming and your family has owned a dairy farm for generations, you may have already decided to be a dairy farmer. On the other hand, you may be baffled and overwhelmed by all the career options available to you. In a postindustrial, high-tech society, jobs are continually being created that never existed for your parents.
A career path is a roadmap of jobs spanning from where you are today to where you hope to be in the future. If you want to be a restaurant manager, your career path might include being a dishwasher, server, cook, assistant manager and general manager. Understanding the factors that influence the choice of career pathways can help you make good choices about schooling, training and employment. Career paths can always be tweaked or changed altogether, so you don’t need to worry about being locked in by your decision.
Benefits of a Career Path
Choosing a career is typically an exciting, but daunting, process. If you’re naturally gifted in multiple areas, you may feel pulled in different directions. The process of developing a career path can give you tremendous insight into your personality, interests, aptitudes, values, lifestyle preferences and income needs. The best careers align with your unique talents, passions and skill sets. You may also be swayed by family members, teachers, coaches, bosses and mentors.
Following a career path can help you avoid ending up in a boring, dead-end job that doesn’t pay well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), provides detailed occupational information on jobs across all industrial sectors. You can use the BLS to explore careers in art, business, computers, construction, education, healthcare, sales, manufacturing, military services, transportation and much more. BLS data indicate how this can influence the future of your career. Specifically, the BLS will tell you if a job pays above or below average, what a typical day is like, education requirements, and whether jobs will increase or decline over the decade. All these factors heavily influence a career path.
Personality and Interests
Your personality is a major consideration when thinking about careers that may be a good fit for you. Certain personalities gravitate to occupations that require and reward those qualities. For example, politicians and salespeople are often charismatic, persuasive, confident and bold. If you have a strong personality, pay close attention to what you do and do not like in a work situation. If you’re gregarious and need to be around people, you may get depressed working remotely, but if you’re introverted, you may prefer working alone without annoying distractions.
In the 1970s, psychologist Joseph L. Holland developed the Holland interest areas that indicate the types of jobs that are best suited to different personality types. Holland reasoned that workers are more satisfied in jobs similar to their interests. Holland’s codes are grouped into six categories: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. Most people are strong in two or three areas. For instance, if you’re enterprising and conventional, you may enjoy working in finance, according to Holland's theory, notes the Minnesota State Career Wise website. The site also offers a free online personality assessment.
Skills and Abilities
Your perceptions of your skills and capabilities influences what jobs you think you could handle. Self-efficacy is believing in your abilities and potential for success. According to Social Cognitive Career Theory, or SCCT, an individual’s career pathway is primarily influenced by self-efficacy, expectations of outcomes and personal goals. The theory suggests that people select careers based on their perceived strengths and beliefs in a positive outcome if they set goals to enter a chosen field. Conversely, people stay away from careers that might prove too difficult for them. For instance, you’re unlikely to pursue a career in engineering if you struggle in math and find it tedious.
Self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience are important to self-efficacy. You don’t want to sell yourself short and settle on a career that doesn’t excite you because of anxiety. When considering a career path, remind yourself that you are capable of overcoming skill deficits. Simply taking a developmental math or English composition class, for example, could provide you the needed foundation for more advanced courses. Success at one level provides a feedback loop that encourages subsequent growth.
Personal and Work-Related Values
Important factors that influence the choice of a career pathway include core values. Knowing what’s most important to you in life and your career can help narrow your options. Examples of personal values include family, spirituality, cultural heritage, self-expression, happiness and making a difference in the lives of others. Work-related values include such things as power, recognition, variety, intellectual stimulation, job stability, high salary and career mobility. Jobs that meet your needs and align with your priorities are more apt to provide personal fulfillment. Harvard Business Review (HBR), points out that identifying core values ahead of time makes it easier to decide whether to accept a higher-paying corporate job or a lower-paid position leading a nonprofit organization that advocates for social change, for example.
You’re likely to find many types of careers that align with your personal values, giving you the flexibility to make adjustments along the way and seize unforeseen opportunities. Changing course in a career path is fairly common, in fact. A longitudinal study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that members of the baby-boom generation held nearly six jobs before they even turned 25. Between the ages of 18 and 52, they averaged around 12 jobs.
Early Support and Encouragement
Factors influencing the choice of a career pathway include a nurturing and supportive environment. At a very young age, children start to form beliefs about themselves and their abilities. Supportive environments that foster learning allow children to discover their talents and master new skills. Positive reinforcement, encouragement and praise for genuine effort can go a long way in building a child’s self-esteem and shaping career aspirations.
According to Frontiers in Education, youth who are intrinsically motivated choose careers based on their interests, curiosity and enjoyment. Externally motivated youth look for jobs that offer prestige, status, salary and job availability. The ideal career path offers job satisfaction, personal reward, job stability and a livable wage.
Many people choose a career based on familiarity with an occupational field, which is why part-time jobs can be helpful in learning about the world of work. Even an unglamorous job like cleaning dog crates at a veterinary office could spark interest in becoming a veterinarian or a veterinary technician. The Career Development Office at Fredonia State University of New York suggests that there is no better way to explore occupations than by experiencing the work environment first hand. Summer jobs, volunteer work, internships, helping out a family business all can help you learn what people do at their jobs. Your experience may confirm your interest in a particular career path or change your mind completely.
Limitations and Barriers
While dreaming big is fun, certain external influences cannot be ignored. For example, personal interests may be less important than what geographic location indicates. How this can influence the future of your career is evident by looking at the job market. For example, if you want to be an art teacher, but you cannot move or commute and local schools are closing due to declining enrollments, you may not get a job anytime soon. Other barriers, such as the high cost of education, can be mitigated by working and saving money for school, applying for financial aid, seeking scholarships, landing a paid internship or entering an apprenticeship training program.
- Perception of careers.
- Skills abilities and talents.
- Socio-economic factors.
- Other career related factors.
When answering “Why did you choose this career?” you can point out factors like growth prospects, job security, scope, etc to help make a valid explanation. A possible answer to this HR interview question can be, “I have always found a certain satisfaction in writing and knew I wanted to make a career in content.
- Childhood Fantasies. What do you want to be when you grow-up? ...
- Culture. ...
- Gender. ...
- Interests. ...
- Life Roles. ...
- Personality Type. ...
- Previous Experiences. ...
- Skills, Abilities, & Talents.
Significant factors include past experiences, a variety of cognitive biases, an escalation of commitment and sunk outcomes, individual differences, including age and socioeconomic status, and a belief in personal relevance. These things all impact the decision-making process and the decisions made.
Career aspiration example 2
I would like to manage international projects and globally dispersed teams. I have strong leadership skills and communication skills that I would like to continue developing. My long-term career goal is to become a program manager and manage several projects at the same time.”
The most influential people in my life have always been the people closest to me. My family is small but supportive. My parents taught me and my brother a strong work ethic – to aim high, work hard and value your relationships. My parents have nurtured me, guided me and comforted me.
It's important to understand that career choice is not made based on any one factor. Our choices are subject to many influences – individual, cultural, social, and environmental. The combination and interaction of various influences on your decision-making are unique to you and your situation.
According to the SCCT, career development behaviors are affected by three social cognitive processes - self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations and career goals and intentions which interplay with ethnicity, culture, gender, socio-economic status, social support, and any perceived barriers to shape a person's ...
Significant factors include past experiences, a variety of cognitive biases, an escalation of commitment and sunk outcomes, individual differences, including age and socioeconomic status, and a belief in personal relevance. These things all impact the decision making process and the decisions made.
- Programmed versus non-programmed decisions:
- Information inputs:
- Cognitive constraints:
- Attitudes about risk and uncertainty:
- Personal habits:
- Social and cultural influences:
Family history, memories, group trust, and cultural expectations tend to heavily influence the decisions we make. The way our brains remember (and what we forget), and our friends' choices all sway our decisions, especially those around childbearing.
- Character – Who They Are. “True leadership always begins with the inner person.” ...
- Relationships – Who They Know. ...
- Knowledge – What They Know. ...
- Intuition – What They Feel. ...
- Experience – Where They've Been. ...
- Past Success – What They've Done. ...
- Ability – What They Can Do.
- Employment Opportunities.
- Skill Set.
- Pay Scale.
- Interests. The topics that you are interested in and the activities you enjoy doing can be an excellent starting point for choosing a career. ...
- Talents and skills. ...
- Ideal lifestyle. ...
- Personality. ...
- Financial goals. ...
- Education and training. ...
- Make a list of non-negotiables.
- Show Confidence To Win Trust. ...
- Sound Upbeat. ...
- Make It Clear There's A Decision To Make.
It paves the way to economic security. An occupation's earning potential is a major consideration for most when deciding on a suitable career. Choosing the right profession means that you will be able to have economic security — a factor that plays a key role in our overall well-being.