How to Choose a Career Path

Looking for a way to find fulfillment in your work? Learn how to choose a career path that's right for you.

“What should I do with my life?” is a profound question that each of us contemplates at some point in our life and career. So much time is spent in a work environment, that part of the answer to this great question is how to choose a career path that you will enjoy and find rewarding. 


If you want to live a fulfilled life, it’s worth investing the time to answer this important question. And it makes sense to do so before you are too far into your career. You have to decide if you are looking for a job, a career or a calling. If you are simply looking for a job, then anything will do, but if you are interested in pursuing a career or calling, then you have to do some upfront work. Bill Barnett, professor at Rice University, makes the distinction between the three in his book, The Strategic Career: Let Business Principles Guide You.


Understanding the Differences Between a Job, Career, and Calling


Job Career Calling
  • People who are only interested in a job, go to work and put in their eight hours.

  • Close to the end of the work day, they check the clock and plan what they are going to do in the evening.

  • They are not fully committed to work, and it is more about the money and keeping the job.

  • People who are interested in a career are very ambitious, try very hard to advance in the organization or even move to a better one.

  • They hope for rewards, money and prestige.

  • They are driven, work hard and accomplish a lot.

  • People who are interested in a career calling are very different from the other two, although they are just as motivated as those who are looking for a career.

  • The content of the work they do is very important to them.

  • They want to provide a service to a market or the public.

  • They want to achieve excellence at their craft, whatever that is – they want to build an institution.

  • When making a career decision, they de-emphasize money, power and prestige. Because they often focus on the work itself, they usually get the promotion that leads to the money power and prestige. But that’s not where their head is.

  • Once people have a career calling, they accomplish more, are happier, more satisfied, and lead a more enjoyable and fulfilled career life.


There is nothing wrong with choosing a job or a career, or a career calling, but as a professional, it’s important to understand the differences between them. Everyone is capable of identifying his or her career calling. To orient yourself to your calling, professionals have to think about their values related to service, excellence at their craft, and institution building.  Next, they have to think about fields and roles within their areas of excellence.


If you are still unsure about your career, or your calling, there are a few exercises that you can do. Grab a pen and a notebook, then answer the following questions. 


These are very tough and thoughtful questions, and if you answer them honestly, you will discover your career calling, then you will be able to craft a plan that allows you to reach the goals you envisioned for yourself. Charting your career path doesn’t have to be a difficult process, you just have to understand how to go about it. 


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