our everyday life

How do I Narrow Down Career Ideas?

by Ellie Williams, studioD

Whether you’re just starting out as a professional or looking to make a career change, it can be difficult to weed through all the potential job choices. Even if you have a mental list of dozens of roles you’d like to pursue, a little strategic planning and investigation can help you narrow your search to the one job that best matches your skills, qualifications and long-term career goals.

Aptitude and Personality Testing

If you’re interested in a variety of careers and don’t know how to whittle down the list, learn more about your natural talents and interests through aptitude or personality testing. These self-assessments can reveal everything from your leadership potential to your level of introversion or extroversion. For example, you might discover that you thrive in situations that offer a great deal of autonomy and you feel stifled in work environments marked by rigid structure and rules.

Job Shadowing

Gain a glimpse into a typical day in the life for someone in the career you’re interested in through job shadowing. You might follow your mentor for a few hours, an entire day or longer, during which you’ll see what kinds of tasks he devotes most of his day to, with whom he interacts and what challenges he encounters. You can also ask questions of your host, giving you an up-close look at the profession that you can’t get in the classroom. If you’re a student, your school’s career services or alumni office can often match you with a mentor, or you can ask friends, family members or associates to recommend someone.

Informational Interviews

Similar to job shadowing, informational interviewing offers you an in-depth look at a specific career. Instead of lasting an entire day, however, these meetings usually mimic the length and structure of a formal job interview or might be held over lunch or breakfast. An informational interview is your opportunity to ask anything you ever wanted to know about a certain job, including the rewards, challenges, typical responsibilities and what kind of personal characteristics are required for success.


For the most extensive look at careers you’re interested in, consider an internship. Many companies hire both current students and recent graduates for their internship programs, which allow you to work side-by-side with professionals already established in the career you’re interested in. An internship is especially beneficial if you’ve already settled on a general area, such as broadcasting, but aren’t sure if you want to work in front of the cameras or behind the scenes. Interns often handle both aspects and more, helping you focus your job search on a specific area.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

Photo Credits

  • Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images