Why career exploration is the powerful key to more career options

Crew Team
October 24, 2022

Right now, a whopping 44% of U.S. workers are planning to make a career switch — that’s more than 1 in 3 people!

Maybe you’re here because you’re one of those people. If so, perhaps you hope that after your switch, you’ll finally feel fulfilled, satisfied, and happy.

Well, there is a lot of job jumping these days. In fact, most people will jump 12 times during their lives.

The good news is that you can find that fulfilling and satisfying career! It all starts with a thorough career exploration.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: “I don’t have time to explore careers. Can’t I just do my job search so I can get out of here already?”

That’s what we will dive into today. In this article, we will discuss why career exploration will help you in the long run, what career exploration actually means, and how you can get to it to find that fulfilling career.

Why it’s important to start exploring careers now

When you’re thinking about a career change, it’s usually because there’s some trigger — you don’t enjoy what you’re doing anymore, you don’t feel as satisfied as you used to, the job wasn’t what you thought it would be.

These causes lead to urgency. While that may give you the kick you need to make a change, it doesn’t inspire you to take a step back and get clear on what really matters in your life and career. Instead, the motivation is to run away from the present, leading to a quick fix.

So you make a change. And yet, you still experience those same draining tasks, long work hours, toxic workplace culture, or whatever you were trying to escape. The change ends up being a different flavor of what you had before, not the fulfilling work you dream of.

On the flip side, if you take the time for career exploration, you’ll build your own strong foundation to make a meaningful switch.

The sooner you start exploring, the sooner you’ll make the leap towards more fulfilling work.

What is career exploration anyways?

So we’ve discussed why career exploration is important. But what does it mean to do a career exploration?

Career exploration is the process of gaining an understanding of different careers. Career exploration has two parts.

The first is all about getting to know yourself and what is important to you in your career. When you have a solid understanding of who you are, then you can make better career choices.

The second is exploring the marketplace to understand different careers that exist.

Both of these together will lead to better career decisions and ultimately a satisfying career.

Why is a thorough career exploration difficult to do?

While it sounds amazing to spend time exploring, it’s usually put on the back burner for a couple of reasons:

1. Career exploration lacks structure

The number of career options can seem endless. For example, you can join a big corporation, a tiny start-up, or something in between. Also, there are many industries to choose from — tech, retail, financial services, hospitality, the list goes on. But we were not taught how to explore careers in school.

Plus, careers are changing so rapidly that opportunities are more elusive. Nowadays, many jobs are in the 'hidden market' rather than directly advertised. This means that the ways people used to make a career move are now obsolete.

2. It is not built into your schedule

As a busy professional, you have plenty of other things to do with your time. You have your job during the day. And while you’re at work, you’re not given the space to explore career options because you’re expected to do your job.

Outside of work, you have your life commitments, which could include family, hobbies, your social life, dating, and other activities that you care about. The last thing you want to think about during your free time is work.

3. There is no clear deadline

Career exploration relies solely on your own energy and willingness to make change. But, there’s no timeline, deadlines, or built-in accountability. That leaves room for procrastination and lack of motivation to do the work.

How to go about your career exploration

At Crew, we believe there is a serendipity that comes from being open to different options. We recommend having three options open at a time because it’s narrow enough to feel comfortable working with but broad enough to give you a number of options. Here are some examples:

Example 1: Say you are a great wordsmith, love building relationships, and are a great presenter. You might aim for work in communications, PR, and business development.

Example 2: You have strong analytical skills, business savvy, and financial acumen. You may look for roles in financial planning, accounting, or investment advising.  

With options, you’ll feel more clear about what you’d like to try. As you test each option, you’ll gain the tools to get more clarity into what fulfillment looks and feels like for you.

Avoid these career exploration mistakes

Don’t hold on to one goal too tightly

You can certainly have goals. But being focused on one goal may lead you astray in finding that fulfilling career.

For example, you may be set on becoming a lawyer. But down the road, you find that the field is too competitive or that you don’t enjoy the work as much as you imagined. Without additional options, you would start to feel lost and confused.

Don’t chase after too many options

There are so many possibilities in today’s world with new companies, industries, and job titles popping up all the time! But having too many options can lead to overwhelm or lack of direction.

Once you dive into one option, you can discover new things about yourself, what you like, and what you don’t like. Then, you can refine you options with this new information.

Don’t assume you “have everything figured out”

A proper career exploration is all about testing assumptions you have about yourself, what you think is important, and what matters to you. Holding onto assumptions can result in keeping a job that you should love instead of pursuing a career that you’ll find fulfilling.

Don’t believe that opportunities will simply land on your doorstep

While keeping your options open is a good thing, you can’t just expect opportunities to pop up out of nowhere. Instead, if you look for them, you are more likely to find them. So put yourself out there and see which options you get to try.

Three steps to get you started

At Crew, our crew’ers explore careers using these steps:

  • Do research on yourself

A big part of finding a meaningful career is understanding who you are. You can do this by reflecting on your drivers, motivations, strengths, values, and what brings you happiness. By understanding yourself, you can make career decisions based on who you are rather than external factors.

  • Do research on the careers marketplace

There are a lot of career options out there! So take some time to learn about those, including different types of roles, organizations, and workplace cultures. By doing your research, you’ll understand which career options you can start to explore.

  • Test your assumptions about different career ideas

Once you have done all your research, it’s time to choose some potential career options and explore! Test what you think you know about yourself and what kinds of careers you think you’ll enjoy.

How you can make time for your career exploration

All these career exploration tactics may be helpful. But if you don’t have the time, you’ll just keep procrastinating your exploration. Here are some strategies to make time for your career exploration:

Find an accountability partner

When you are going at it alone, it can be easy to push off your career exploration. Having an accountability partner can keep you on task. You can use your accountability partner by:

  • Sending them your daily update
  • Hopping on the phone once a week
  • Having them ask you for updates

Block off time in your calendar

Between everything you’ve got going on, your schedule can look full. Blocking time for career exploration will ensure you have the space to get it done. You can block out a weekly chunk of time, daily check-ins, or tackle it day by day. As long as you set that time — and stick with it — you’ll make progress!

Give yourself a reward

Like any goal, you can be motivated to perform if you know there’s a reward at the end. Set meaningful targets for yourself to measure and celebrate your progress.

At the end of the day, careers are becoming more difficult to navigate, given how quickly people change careers and how rapidly the world is changing.

At Crew, we can support you on your career exploration journey by helping you build new perspectives on your strengths, values, and motivations. Our crew’ers also have dedicated time every week to focus on career exploration and stay accountable to their fellow crew’ers.

If you could use some extra structure, community, and accountability in your career exploration, check out our programs.