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What is a career path and how to choose one

Career Path

Finding the right career is essential to happiness and quality of life. The right career varies from person to person, and the path to it is not necessarily straight and uninterrupted.

If you’re still figuring out the kind of work that matches your ambitions and aspirations, start looking into career paths. As you plan your next move, here are pointers in making the appropriate choices for your prospects.

What Is a Career Path?

A career path refers to jobs that share common skills and align with your career plans. Your first-ever position and the succeeding ones make up this path.

A path or pathway is part of a broader group of careers called a career cluster. Agriculture, Food & natural resources, human services, and health science are among the 16 career clusters in the U.S.

Traditionally, a career path follows a vertical line to denote a rise from the ranks. It can also move laterally. Lateral moves occur when you take the equivalent role or pay in the same organization or another company or industry. If you take a job with lesser pay or fewer responsibilities, it means a step down the ladder.

Career Ladder vs Career Lattice

The career ladder anchors on the idea that the only way to go is up. In contrast, the career lattice also considers downward, diagonal, and side-to-side movements as you specialize or expand your skill sets.

Changes in organizational structures and personal preferences make the career lattice an updated representation. Consulting, coaching, and freelancing are not bound by conventional employer-employee relationships and call for more flexible movements.

Career Path Examples

  • The Finance career cluster offers the pathways of banking and related services, insurance services, business financial management, and financial and investment planning. Sample jobs include bank teller, budget analyst, and loan officer.
  • Individual career paths have a sequence of specific job titles. An administrative assistant can move up to an executive assistant and office manager, in that order.

How to Choose a Career Path

In figuring out the path, you want to take for your career, consider these significant factors.

Career Plan

Whether you recently graduated or are thinking about a change in career paths, plan. Identify, prioritize, and achieve goals that are specific, achievable and time-bound. Make adjustments to your objectives as priorities change.

Education and Training

You can get an entry-level job with a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree. Some positions, such as post-secondary teachers, can require a master’s degree or a doctorate for entry. For now or later, getting an advanced degree is a must in a competitive job market. 

In addition to this, take a look at your experience – this includes internships, part-time or full-time jobs. By getting an understanding of your qualifications and skillset, you will be able to further develop your career path. 

Personality, Personal Interests

Finding a job that fits your personality leads to more satisfying results. One way to gain more insights about yourself and possible paths is through personality tests. Take some of these tests online to help you in your career search:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator applies Carl Jung’s theory on personality types. MBTI has 16 personality types that indicate extraversion or introversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving.
  • Ten-Item Personality Inventory, or TIPI, asks you to rate a pair of characteristics on a scale of one to seven or from disagree strongly to agree strongly.

Relatedly, your interests or passions can be the basis of your career. If you like what you are doing, you’ll be happier and perform better. It’s also likely for you to remain in that line of work.


Likely, you want to work for companies whose values align with yours. Your core values govern your personal and professional life. An organization’s core values will similarly control its environment and culture.

A company’s mission and vision statement is an excellent place to check. You can also ask about values during the interview. Examples of core values are excellence, integrity, respect, quality, community, and compassion.

Lifestyle (Money and Meaning)

Salary is a practical consideration in choosing a career path. You want to live decently and foresee the ability to support yourself or your family in the future. While pay is based on experience, education, and skills, some jobs pay less than others.

Aside from money, meaning motivates you to work. The lack of a higher purpose in what you’re doing can throw you in an endless search for meaningful work. You have to be clear on your priorities, which can balance finances and personal fulfilment.

Your choices today can determine your career and life experiences, so plan carefully. Use this information as a starting point in setting goals and determining your next steps. A fulfilling and worthwhile professional journey is well within your sights.

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Aubrey i​s a writer and a regular contributor. She writes on topics on job searching and career development in hopes to provide better tips on job hunting and career development.

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