Stop the Guessing Game: How to Tell If That Career is Right for You

Street sign with two arrows pointing opposite directions that say choice on them.

A simple conversation gave me years of my life back.

No, I didn’t get an anti-aging potion from a witch doctor. I just had a one-on-one conversation that steered me away from a career that wouldn’t have been a good fit for me.

That one conversation saved me years of time and effort–wasting away in a career that I would’ve eventually left.

It is true that connecting with people in your network can open up new career opportunities.

But the reverse is also very important: connecting with those in your network can also help you avoid making the career mistakes that would’ve cost you a lot of time and money to correct.

My Story: Avoiding a Bad Career Fit

If you read my story about breaking into a new field with no experience, you’ll know that I was looking for a job as a data analyst. But, that wasn’t the only career I was considering. I thought that a large consulting company, say, Deloitte or Ernst and Young, would be a good fit for me.

I read that consultants traveled a lot. I live abroad and like to travel, so that was appealing to me. I am a problem solver, and through teaching English, I knew a little about how to deliver value to clients.

Through my own online research, I thought that consulting would be a good fit for me.

So, I tapped into my network and reached out to former classmates who were consultants. I had conversations and Skype calls where I learned about life in the consulting industry.

I asked questions about their day-to-day routine, and what they liked and disliked about the field.

The reality of a career fit doesn’t always match what you read online

What I learned is that my assumptions about working at large consulting firms were wrong. I came to the conclusion that being a consultant wouldn’t be a good career for me.

Traveling a lot sounded fun, but the travel in that field is strictly business. I wouldn’t see anything but the airport, hotel, and client office. Furthermore, the hours can be brutal. I know how I function when I don’t get enough sleep and exercise. Choosing a career where I didn’t have the flexibility I needed wasn’t a trade-off that I wanted to make.

Working for a consulting firm that served the government sector might have a better work-life balance than a firm that served the private sector. But I learned those consulting projects could be constrained by bureaucracy and politics. That option wouldn’t have allowed me the opportunity to work on new and innovative projects.

These conversations ultimately steered me away from consulting firms altogether, and toward the data analyst role I have (and love) today.

Takeaways: How to avoid a bad career fit

We millennials are exploring careers. We’re people figuring out what we want in a career, and we are willing to move between fields or companies to do so. But with so many career options and so little time to explore them, we get stuck in career paralysis.

If you’re still wondering about other career paths you could be taking, talking to other people is invaluable. When you connect with people in your network, you don’t just learn what to pursue, you learn what not to pursue.

Put simply: you don’t know what you don’t know. Having someone explain the realities of a job is easier than learning what you’d hate the hard way.

But where do you start?

How to reach out to avoid a bad career fit

Talking to people in your network who’ve been there can give you knowledge that you can’t find online. But with so many people and so little time, you want to make sure you’re talking to the right people.

What advice you get from someone depends on where they are in their career. For instance, people with a few years of experience have a lot more details about the actual jobs you might be looking at. They also have HR contacts to get your foot in the door for those positions. More experienced people have a broader view of the industry, and can give you the big picture. Both types of connections will have valuable insights and can enhance your job search.

Learn more about the people who can give you the advice that you need to switch careers confidently.

Life’s too short to stay in a career that’s not for you. If you’re ready to create connections to find the right career fit, MANGO can help make it easier.

Check out their free Conversation Request Email Builder, which makes reaching out a piece of cake. It coaches you through writing an outreach email step-by-step, showing you what to say and how to say it. With MANGO’s Email Builders, you can avoid using generic templates that fall flat. 

Ready to create meaningful connections to avoid a career that’s a bad fit? Start writing your outreach email now to start the journey towards your new career.

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Andrew Bryant is a MANGO contributor, a data analyst, and writer based in Santiago, Chile. Through his work, he enjoys helping others lead more fulfilling lives.