Two answers: be deliberate, but also don’t sweat it.
First off: be deliberate.
You don’t have to know all of the answers. No one expects you to. The term “career path” implies that it’s something that evolves and changes over time, and that’s normal.
When you close your eyes and you imagine your life in five years, what do you see? Imagine in as much detail as possible — what type of work are you doing? Where are you working? What type of lifestyle are you living? What are you good at? What people are around you? What types of problems are you solving?
You don’t have to have a perfectly clear picture (and no one expects you to!). But be as specific as possible.
What are the first things you see? What things are most important to you?
When you know where you want to end up, it’s easy to work backwards. What steps can you take now that help you get to that projected (and desired) future?
Even if your future vision is vague, it’ll still give you a jumping off point. Maybe you have no idea what type of work you want to be doing in five years — but you do know you want it to be people-centered. That’s a great data point! It indicates that you should probably focus on gaining skills that help you improve your ability to interact with people.
The right path will become clearer as you go, but this gives you a starting point.
Secondly: don’t sweat it.
Really — you don’t have to have it all figured out. You might guess wrong, and that’s completely okay. You’ve gained experience you can use to leverage yourself onto a new path, and you’ve gained wisdom that will help you leverage in the right direction.
A lot of life is about experimentation, and a lot of life is about learning via trial and error, and that’s okay! As long as you’re getting smarter about what you like and what you don’t, and what you’re good at and what you aren’t, then you’re moving in the right direction.
My questions, in turn, for you:
- What are the options on the table?
- How does each one move you towards your five-year goal? What skills do they help you gain and why are those skills valuable to you?
- Which option is the most legitimately exciting to you?