Go Your Own Way

How can you find the career path that’s right for you?
By Terina Allen
A student focused on a tablet, holding a pen
Take time to explore the many career options available to you. This will help you pave your own path to success.

You get to choose your own career path—oh yes, you do! No matter where you start in life, you can develop a career you love. It starts with defining happiness and career success for yourself and then exploring different traditional and nontraditional career options.

I started thinking about the kind of life and career I wanted when I was about your age. First, I got overwhelmed with all the choices, and then I got worried. I worried about a whole bunch of things. Would I be able to get the help I needed to succeed? How would I know what the best career path was for me?

All I knew when I was an early teen was that I wanted a really cool job one day. I knew I didn’t want to be ordinary; I knew I didn’t want to be bored; and I knew I didn’t want to be boring. It was scary, sometimes, thinking about doing things that no one around me was doing or had done. But I just knew, deep down, that my journey and experience should—and could—be different.

Sometimes, I was courageous. Sometimes, I was just plain scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t get a real chance to shine because I didn’t have money or connections to help me stand out. And while I knew many people who had jobs that paid the bills, I didn’t know many who had a career they actually loved. I started to wonder if it was even possible to have both.

You might have days where you feel scared too. You might feel scared that you’ll fail. You might worry about being rejected. You might even worry about what will happen if you are successful. There are so many things that can go through your mind as you evaluate your career options.

The hard part is that you won’t be able to control many things that happen in life. You won’t be able to control other people, either. But you can control yourself and manage your own career path. You can make choices today that will help you live a life that makes you happy and proud.

In My Life

Terina Allen is a former high school teacher who now writes about career development.

I learned about my skills and career interests very young, and I used this information to develop a meaningful life and a successful career.

I started with fast-food jobs at Taco Bell and McDonald’s when I was a teenager. Then I became an office assistant and a social worker. After that, I decided to become a high school teacher and a college instructor, prior to becoming a management consultant. Many years later, I started my own company. I hired consultants to help me work with clients all over the world. And now, I also write about career and leadership development.

Look at how different some of my career experiences have been. I got to choose my own path. You get to choose your own path too.

There are many, many career options, so it’s important that you explore as many as you want, and don’t let other people pressure you to choose a path you don’t like. If you end up following a career path that someone else chooses for you, you could end up unhappy. (Yes, even if you earn lots of money.)

If you remember only one thing, remember this: You get to decide the best career path for your life. You get to choose. There is no right or wrong choice. There are many different options, and you get to decide your own best path.

Where to Start

Have you used the Skills Explorer on this website yet? I suggest you start there. Look at your results. After considering your skills and interests, dive into learning about different career options. And even if you think you’ve made a decision, remember: At any time, you can change your mind and choose something different.

Here are a few tips for choosing your own career path:

  • Pay attention. Look at your skills, interests, and passions. The best career decisions balance the money that you can earn with the joy that the work will bring you.

  • Define success. What does success mean to you? Define it for yourself, and then make life and career decisions that will help you experience that success.

  • Consider all aspects. Your career choices will affect key aspects of your life, including your income, your social life, and even how you feel, mentally and emotionally.

  • Look inward. Avoid pressure from family and friends to choose a career path that really doesn’t interest you.

  • Be flexible. It’s okay to pick a job and keep it for your entire career. It’s also okay to build a career from several different jobs. Remember, you have the right to start one career path and then change it as you go.