Confused on a career path? Here is my advice.

We live in the age where there are seemingly endless opportunities to have any career you want, but for some that can be overwhelming. While certain industries are on the decline — others are emerging. It can be difficult to know exactly where your talents stack up or what position is best for you.

Do you go with the job that pays well? One that makes you feel altruistic? One that you are passionate about? What about job security? These are all questions we have likely asked ourselves before.

For someone who may not know what occupation or industry is best for them, here are some tips I like to practice to help get myself closer to that self-realization.

Take short courses:

Luckily the access to information through digital learning (online degrees, e-learning, tutorials) has made it easier to acquire new skills, which help better your chances of landing a job. By taking a certificate course or tutorial, you are essentially dipping your toes in the pond to see if you want to dive in. The benefits are: lower cost, specialized focus, and something concrete to put on your resume. That, without having to commit to a full degree in case you dislike the program.

Last year I decided to take a UX Design course at General Assembly where I learned about the key elements of user experience, and how to come up with simple solutions to improve products. It changed my entire way of thinking when it comes to concept, design, and navigation of a product. Now, at my current position with Weave, I am able to directly apply that knowledge.

Here are some resources if you want to learn more:

Continue to learn outside of the office:

I remember hearing when I was in school that most of my learning would be outside of the classroom, and I apply that philosophy to this day. Our brains are a muscle just like any other, which need to be exercised. The more we do it, the stronger it gets. Read books, teach yourself a new instrument, research things you are interested in. You might discover a talent and career path you never knew was possible.

Find an influencer:

Similar to an artist finding their muse, it is helpful to anyone in search of guidance to find a person/s to draw inspiration from. However, it is not enough to Instagram their picture with the hashtag #goals as the caption. Take it a step further to learn more about them. How did they get to where they are now? What daily rituals do they practice? What are their favorite publications to read? If the influencer is someone you’ve never met, don’t be afraid to email or tweet them. You’d be surprised how helpful people are if you approach them in a sincere manner.

Also, the influencer may be someone you know: your boss, coworker, friend, or acquaintance. Ask them out for coffee or tea. Utilize them as a resource in helping you gain insight.

Don’t listen to the naysayers:

The best thing I ever did for myself and my career was move to Seattle and jump into an entirely new industry. I can’t tell you how many times prior to that when I would tell people my plans and someone would ask, “Why Seattle?”, or “It’s really rainy there you know”, or “Well you can always move back”. It was as if they underestimated my capabilities simply because they couldn’t picture myself doing it.

Do not let them plant the seed of doubt in your head.

Stick to your intuition, pursue the things you dream of, and don’t let anyone lowball you into thinking you can’t accomplish something just because it doesn’t appear to them to be your “thing”. The people who respect you and have your best interests will be the ones helping you along the way to reach your goals.

In essence, your learning should be an ongoing, iterative process. Keep studying new topics, acquire more skills, and keep asking questions. Learn to leverage yourself ahead of the competition. You’d be surprised how many of your current skills can translate into a potential new career path if you just take the time to discover.