The Wildcat’s Guide to Finding Your Career Path

Career Wisdom
People standing in a line

The road to a dream career is rarely straight and narrow. These tips will help guide your journey toward the right career path.

Searching for your dream career? Don’t fret — if you’re struggling to find the best career path for you, following some mindful, proactive strategies might just yield what you’re looking for.

“It’s not about luck,” says Jared Schultz, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Arizona Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies. “There are opportunities happening all around us all the time, and it’s important to use our skills and knowledge to take proactive advantage of these things.”

With a background in vocational counseling (with a specialty in helping those with disabilities), Schultz has over 25 years of experience helping others navigate their career paths. He offers three smart tips that may help you find your own dream career.

1. Explore the Why 

When considering different career fields of interest, first explore why those particular areas pique your interest. “I always ask, ‘Why would you want to do that?’,” Schultz says. “I know it’s a negative question, but when you are investing in something so potentially life-changing, you want to understand what it is you’re trying to get to and accomplish.”

Also advisable? Taking a step back, thinking about it and asking questions to find out what is it that you really want to do. “Some people may say, ‘I’m going to drop everything and go back to school and do this,’” Schultz says. “And, in some cases, it really makes a lot of sense. But in other cases, many people go to get degrees that aren’t useful to apply to what they really want to do.”

One way to explore the “why” of a new chosen career path is to get out and connect with people through networking events and organizations in the field. “Figure out what you want to be doing and why — and explore what need does that meet for you,” Schultz suggests.

“Figure out what you want to be doing and why — and explore what need does that meet for you.”

2. Discover Different Fields

If you’re looking into new career options, Schultz suggests tapping into some solid resources.

First, explore networking opportunities in your area. “Networking is a fantastic way of developing your career,” Schultz says. “You never know when the next person you meet will have your next opportunity. Usually it’s not the first person you talk to, but often the next person they refer you to.”

Another excellent resource for career option information is O*Net Online. “It features a Find an Occupation search, and helps people explore different types of jobs and related positions,” he says.

“In my field working with adolescents, what they want to be is not always really feasible — the two most popular occupations are rapper and pro basketball player,” Schultz says. “Rather than quash that dream, I suggest exploring that career online, even on O*Net Online — ask what’s the need and what’s the want, and then start trying to find other related or similar options that could fill the need.”

3. Enjoy the Journey

A career path can be both winding and rewarding. Schultz says the best way to look at it is to view it as a journey — always thinking about what can be done to get to that next opportunity.

“It’s a lifelong journey and exploration,” Schultz says.

To help guide your journey is the Bear Down Network, a platform that connects University of Arizona alumni to networking opportunities and resources that support professional growth and success.