Traditionally, workers in the UK could expect to have a “job for life”. They might start out as an apprentice at an organisation, climbing the ranks over the coming decades until they reach retirement age. Today, only a tiny proportion of employees have that sort of job security, with research from life insurance firm LV revealing that the average worker will move to a different employer every five years.

So, it’s no wonder that many of us worry about whether we’re on the right career path. In fact, a survey from the Learning and Work Institute discovered that 34% of UK adults are looking to switch careers in the next two years. A recent PageGroup survey, which we detail in our Employer Value Proposition eBook, has also found that nearly half of respondents aged 18-34 were looking for new roles. 

Fortunately, Michael Page is here to help. In this article, we’re going to discuss:

  • What a career path is
  • How to tell if you’re in the wrong career path
  • How to choose the right career path for you

What is a career path?

A career path is a succession of jobs, each of which should get you one step closer to hitting your overarching career goal.

It’s necessary to plan your career path because, for most of us, it’s not possible to walk straight into our dream job from school or university. More likely, we’ll need to gather a wide range of skills and experiences, some of which can only be learned “on the job”. These are often referred to as soft skills. 

Most people think of a career path as a straight line going upwards and forwards. We get a job; we develop and acquire more skills and responsibilities; we earn more money; then eventually we move onto a new challenge, and our progression continues.

While that’s fine in theory, in practice few career paths are that smooth. Instead, we might make a lateral move into a job with the same salary, or even apply for a role with lower pay and fewer responsibilities because it offers more growth potential down the line.

The important thing to remember is that there’s no right or wrong approach. As long as you know where you’re heading and have a plan to get there, you’re doing just fine.

Signs you’re on the wrong career path

Of course, not everyone is on the right career path. It’s not unusual to feel like you “fell into” a career - and that career might not be the perfect one for you. In our experience, these are some of the most common signs that you’re on the wrong career path:

  • You spend a lot of time watching the clock
  • You feel burned out
  • You don’t just dislike your current job, but you struggle to find any other jobs in your field that sound appealing
  • You find yourself ignoring some parts of your job
  • You know that you’re not doing your best work, but you can’t motivate yourself to do better
  • You find it difficult to relate to your colleagues
  • You have no interest in developing in your role and learning new skills
  • You dream of going back to the start of your career rather than moving forward
  • You don’t feel challenged or stimulated

How to choose a career path

You might find yourself thinking: “I feel like I’m definitely in the wrong career path. So what career path should I take?” Here are some considerations to point you in the right direction:

Define your strengths

What are you great at doing? And, conversely, what are you less good at? Writing down your biggest strengths can help you figure out what your dream job looks like. If you’re good with numbers, perhaps a role in tech or finance might suit you; if you love words, how about a creative or marketing job?

Not sure about your next career move? Want to find your perfect job? Upload your CV into our Job Match tool and let us do the work for you.

Find something you’re passionate about

If you love your job, that’s a surefire sign that you’re on the right career path. So take the time to consider what you’re passionate about in the working world. Do you want to collaborate with a big team? Have a varied role that can look very different from one day to the next? Be responsible for passing your skills and knowledge onto people further down the career ladder?

Understand your ‘deal-breakers’

We’ve all got various “lines in the sand” that simply can’t be crossed if we’re going to be happy at work. Maybe you hate the idea of being stuck at your desk day in, day out. Or conversely, perhaps the thought of travelling for work stresses you out because you’d rather spend more time at home.

Look at expected earnings

While money shouldn’t be the biggest factor in choosing a career path, it naturally plays a part. Do your research to understand how much people in your dream job can expect to earn. If that amount won’t allow you to fulfil your other ambitions, maybe it’s not the right path for you.

What’s next?

Thinking about a change of career path? Check out the help and insights in our career advice content hub, covering everything from asking for a promotion to hitting your career goals for 2022.

Ready to apply for your next role? Submit your CV today to stay up-to-date with all our live job roles. 

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