5 Ways to Tell if You're on the Right Career Path

By Tammie Jo , last updated January 23, 2012

At least one half of your waking hours are spent at work; it should be a place that makes you happy. People end up in certain careers for a number of reasons: because others think they are a good fit for something, because they didn’t know what else to study in college, because it’s a family business, or because they were truly interested in pursuing that career. Even if you began your career with complete enthusiasm for the work and its promise, it’s possible there will be times when you question your decision.

Is the job Outlook Good?

Making money may not be the most important aspect of a career choice, but making no money is an important reason to reconsider your career path. If you’re sensing your career path is offering fewer and fewer opportunities to newcomers and promotions are nothing more than lateral moves, it may be time to consider other possibilities.

Is There Room to Grow?

If your entry-level job already places you near the top of the work heap, take it as a warning. Not every company or field offers great opportunities for advancement. For example, a career based on technology that is becoming obsolete is not likely to grow with you. You may feel like that’s alright for now, but how will you feel when you’re still at the same desk ten years from now?

Are you Excited?

Do you jump out of bed in the morning looking forward to your day? If your career path makes you feel positive about your future, appreciated, and free to flex your work muscles, it’s probably the right choice. However, if each morning the buzz of the alarm clock brings a miserable ache in the pit of your stomach, you need to pay attention. According to a report by CNN, a job that makes you feel demoralized may actually be worse for your mental health than having no job at all.

Is There Room for Balance?

If being successful in your current career means giving up time with family, friends, and other interests, it may be a sign that your work life is headed in the wrong direction. Extra efforts at the beginning of a career are understandable; but take a look at the people who’ve already been at your company for a long time. If everyone around you is regularly working 50+ hours a week, take it as a sign of things to come. Burnout and stress-related illnesses, including depression, may be in your future if work always comes first.

Gut Check

When all else fails, go with your gut. If you made career decisions to please someone else or because you were afraid nothing better would ever come along then you’re probably already having doubts about your career path. On the other hand, you may feel your job is a great fit regardless of the amount of money you’re making or what other people may say. Let your intuition guide your career decisions and you can trust they’ll be the right ones.

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