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How do you choose the right career for you?

How do you choose the right career for you?

 February 21, 2019

'Expectation'. It’s a word that clings onto our backs when it’s the time to choose a career path and weighs us down with worry.

'Expectation' has been a particularly heavy burden for women of the past, where their life journey was pretty much set from birth. But it can also be a problem for modern women when it comes to career choice. And expectation can hit women from all angles, from educational institutions, friends, family, partners, employers, social media and, most damagingly, gender roles.

All of this makes it particularly challenging to choose the right career path – should you pursue the career dreams that others want for you, or go off-piste in a totally new direction that you believe better suits you?

Maybe it’s time to swap expectation for intuition so, rather than be overwhelmed by the career options people think you should follow, now might be the time to trust the person who knows you best – yourself.

Constricting gender roles

Gender roles are probably the first hurdle when it comes to swapping expectation for intuition. Society is progressing when it comes to expecting women – and men – to fulfill certain career roles, but there’s still a long way to go. 

Although fewer women now are expected to swap starting a career for starting a family, there are still some career roles that are perceived as gender-specific and can make choosing the right career path difficult. 

For example, some people feel that women aren’t expected as much to pursue STEM careers; women aren’t expected to have as long or as developed careers, what with the possible interference of family life; or they won’t reach the head heights of executive positions in the same way men do. 

Don’t let the expectations of gender roles confuse your career choice. Be inspired by some fantastic women who have broken gender expectations by being successful scientists or engineers; by balancing family life and career interests; and by having careers that last a lifetime as leaders in their field of expertise. 

And, of course, trust your intuition when it comes to choosing a career. If you love science, technology, engineering or maths, then that passion is probably more correct than by-gone social norms.

Career advice from loved ones

You’ve thrown off the manacles of gender roles and you’re flying free of social expectation. But – wait. You’ve come across another obstacle in choosing your right career path, and this one is more difficult to navigate. Unlike gender roles, this one has a face and believes it has your interests at hearts – yes, this is expectation from family, friends and partners. 

If you’re a mother, it’s easy to understand how expectation for a child is a natural thing. You want the best for your child, and you want them to have the success they deserve. This expectation from family can endure throughout a woman’s life, to be added to by expectation from friends and partners. Advice about the ‘right’ career path can come from all directions and can follow you all the way into your home, to the point that it seems overwhelming and inescapable.

Don’t forget – your loved ones are, most of the time, dishing out this advice out of love, and it’s important to take note. They know you well and can help you make career decisions from an outsider’s point of view.

But it’s also vital to be intuitive and to not be forced into a career path by others, even if they’re close to you. What have you always dreamed of doing? Where do you want to be in life? What do you want from life? Asking yourself these philosophical questions and pairing them with practical advice from close friends and family can be the key to choosing the career path that’s right for you.

Pressures of social media

A looming, pressing expectation that a modern woman can face is from social media and the internet. This can be more subtle than the direct advice from family and friends, or the deeply-ingrained gender roles. 

But social media and the internet can affect our career decisions, just like it influences many other decisions in our lives. Most of it can be positive and useful, if used in the right way. Networking sites like LinkedIn, review sites like Glassdoor or a resource platform like our very own Where Women Work can provide guidance, ideas or inspiration for career decisions. 

But social media and the internet can give us unrealistic expectations, especially when it comes to visual platforms like Instagram where people are seemingly thriving in powerful, important – and well-paid – jobs. Often, this endless barrage of beautiful lives makes it difficult to keep up. 

Again, just be intuitive. Do you really want that job, or is it just because social media has constructed the idea that it will lead to champagne-fuelled parties in a penthouse apartment? Social media can be deceptive, but your own feelings can’t be. So if you don’t expect anything from social media, it won’t expect anything from you. 

Be true to yourself

Not expecting too much from yourself or not letting others expect too much from you is the key to sieving through all the overwhelming career options and finding the perfect job for you.

It's simple - just be true to yourself, and then you'll find your true career.

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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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