Design Your Career

choose your career track

How do you choose the right career track, one you’ll still love doing ten years from now? Since most colleges aren’t set up to help you choose your career direction, the can usually gets kicked down the road. Lots of us defer making a career choice to our future self; “I’ll figure it out later.”

As it goes, we’re expected to make some big, expensive life choices before we know what we’re good at. How do young people handle such a complex decision? Most of us rely on our friends and hormones to guide our way into the future, full of optimism we take a leap and trust that things will pan out. And to complicate matters, we tend to dismiss the subtle warning signals along the way that don’t confirm our “story” about the future that we think we want. Many default to parent’s advice and make a safe and practical bet or pursue familiar career paths. The consequences of our “choices” don’t become obvious until well after college.

Lots of thirty-somethings say their career turned out be the equivalent of unwanted tattoo of their high school sweetheart, “What the heck was I thinking?” I’ve worked with hundreds of lawyers, PhDs and other well-educated professionals who say their career choice “seemed like a good idea at the time”— until reality hit. Most say they more or less fell into something that they don’t have the right abilities or intrinsic motivation to develop a passion for, despite all their grit and hard work. If career advice from your friends, parents, professors or colleagues is uninspiring, don’t get discouraged. There is another way forward.


Career Quest

How do I go about making a smart career choice? Our exclusive Careerpath Quest program steps you through our career design methods, beginning with laying down a solid foundation of your natural talents and strengths. From there, you’ll continue architecting your career path blueprint using power tools and techniques codeveloped by Pathfinders. The process includes our professional career aptitude testing and continues with expert one-on-one guidance to help you put the pieces of your career puzzle together.


A widespread, unnamed problem

Have a gut sense that you fell into the wrong career? You’re not alone, the consequences of making shortsighted career decisions are widespread—87% of professionals worldwide say they’re not engaged or fulfilled in their careers. Most of us know what these symptoms feel like, and we think it’s our fault. Gallup’s statistics on career unhappiness have been holding steady for decades and suggest that we have systems problem, an unnamed “career mismatch” problem that nearly everyone is experiencing.  

Choosing a career path is one of the most complex decisions in our lifetime and we’re expected to wing it as teenagers with limited awareness of our natural talents, crappy tools for honing in on well-suited directions, no process for test-driving potential career paths, and little real world experience outside the classroom. Asking young people to make a long-term forecast on how much they’ll like a career is absurd; it’s the equivalent of going on a blind date, spending a $150K on a wedding ring (skip the honeymoon) and get married the next day. It’s nearly impossible to get this right! Many of us throw up our hands and just hope that somehow our “future self” will figure things out. 

When we face really complex decisions about our future we usually choose safe bets that are familiar (unhappy young lawyers know what I’m talking about). Without limited experiential wisdom and so much uncertainty, it’s human nature to “default” to success strategies we learn from prestigious people in our tribes.

Uh-oh . . .

 . . . This is not me!

The most common strategy, “Go to a good college, things will work out later” is such a well-trodden path that few us think to question it. And although this trusted advice works for some people, recent research proving the contrary is piling up, most college grads realize soon after college that their career path is not a good fit; “Once I saw it up close, I realized it’s just not me.” Half of my clients have already tried to fix their mismatch by going to grad school, and guess what, they made the same mistake twice. In a massive nationwide study by Gallup/Strada, about half of U.S. adults with advanced degrees say they have second thoughts or regrets about their career choices. I’ve had in-depth conversations with thousands of successful-but-not-so-happy Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers who have exhaustively tried to put their finger on what they’re naturally talented for, most ask, “Why aren’t colleges helping people figure this out?”

Our education-to-career transition system is an outdated “buy-it-before-you-try-it” stab in the dark and college students are unaware that it’s setting them on a course of haphazard trial and error for decades to come. Many of us go through our careers beating ourselves up and second guessing our choices, “Am I in the wrong company, or in the wrong field altogether?” Colleges have not owned up to their part in the career mismatch crisis and they don’t seem willing to admit that it’s happening. They measure student success largely in financial terms, career fit and long-term fulfillment are not on their radar. To make matters worse, colleges are now slapping on a bandaid to address the “value of college” heat coming from parents. College administrators are telling students, “You’ll figure out your direction later, your major doesn’t matter.” Students are being encouraged to squelch their doubts and kick the can down the road. Our work spaces are full of people still searching for a direction and purpose well into mid-career.


There’s nothing to find, unless all you want is a bullsh#t J.O.B.

Millennials are suffering the career mismatch problem more acutely, there’s much less wiggle room to randomly experiment and stumble on happiness. The game has completely changed, our new ultra-lean economy is unfriendly to wanderers without a clear destination. On top of that, young people are holding out for something authentic and hoping they’ll find it in a ready-made job. But many jobs are “bullsh#t jobs” and prospects don’t seem very exciting once you get a whiff of just how unhappy most of the “grown ups” are in the cubicles next to you. This leaves people feeling baffled by it all. “I did all the right things, how the heck did I end up in this mess?” 

To express our true nature, we have to mold the circumstances to fit us, not the other way around. If you don’t design your life, someone will happily give you their grunt work. Pathfinders sees lots of creative, uber-educated 30-somethings who are frustrated that they haven’t found their sweet spot, and it’s often because they are trying to “find” something that doesn’t exist other there on the shelf. 

Design It

Design your career

A clever solution is to rethink your concept of a career as an original creation. We’ve brought a systems engineering “career design” approach to designing your future. We take the mystery out of career choice by breaking it down into manageable career design elements, and then guide you to architect several customized, well-considered career scenarios or “prototypes” to explore and take for a test-drive before you make any big commitments to further education.  

If designing your career sounds like more fun than trying to force fit yourself into a ready-made box out there, you’ll love this process. Whether you’re a high school or college student, a young professional just heading out into the world, or a slightly more seasoned professional who just hasn’t figured it out yet, we can help you create a custom-designed life that engages your natural abilities (what you’re innately good at) and sense of purpose (mission you care about). 

When you’re ready to go on your career quest, Pathfinders can help you design and choose your career path wisely. Contact us to explore a fit with your career situation:


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