“What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” It’s a scary question, isn’t it? Fortunately, you’ll never have to answer it! Choosing a career path is just one step towards the opportunities and life that you’ll eventually experience. You can always switch gears when you need to – but it’s still important to take that first step.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to make the first decision toward choosing a career path, read on to learn some steps you can take to remove some of the guesswork from the equation.

Assess Yourself

The only way to get started in choosing a career path is to perform a self-assessment. Be brutally honest. What are you good at, and what could you never see yourself doing? Everyone has a variety of things they can do naturally. These gifts are something you’ve likely worked on over the years. Identify your personal skills and consider what careers they may function best in.

Don’t limit yourself to your current skills, though! A career isn’t just doing what you’re good at – it’s also about finding things that make you excited and satisfied.

Perhaps you really like working with your hands but haven’t had enough opportunity to hone your skills. Or maybe you’re artistic and want to work in a career field that lets you express this creativity!

A great career lets you take what you already know and sprinkles in opportunities to learn about abilities you didn’t realize you had. The more excited you get about a task or an opportunity to do what you enjoy doing, the more likely you are to succeed in a given career path.

Identify Your Goals

There are very few careers out there that truly limit what you can achieve. But certain paths will take more time, require more education or involve more strenuous work than others. Consider your goals and which paths will let you achieve them.

Hint: This can be a fun exercise. Take out a large piece of paper, about poster board size. Put four pieces of regular paper together if you have to. Next get out a pack of crayons or borrow them from the youngest person you know. Next, find a quiet place by yourself where you can think, I mean really, really think.

Here is the fun part – get out the crayons and start drawing your life.  Not as you see it currently, but as you would want it to be.  Get really specific here.  What kind of home do you want, how about the yard … is there a dog or a cat a white picket fence?  How about the car in the driveway … is it a pickup truck or a sedan?  Getting married … 2 kids or 3?… get really specific here.

Why do this?  It will get your mind set to picture the life you want, and therefore get you going in the right direction when it comes to picking potential careers.

Being able to set appropriate goals can be a challenge. For something as significant as a career path, you may want to consider several goals that span from short-term to long-term. Do you to travel a lot, or stay in a beloved city? Do you want to work to become your own boss? Do you want to find a job that helps support your hobbies?

These types of long-term or large scope goals can help narrow down the field of career options out there. But you’ll want to consider the goals that lead up to these to help get you to the long-term ones. These goals will be unique to you and your desires – but they should be specific and achievable. Don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal that isn’t possible to complete!

Identify Careers That Make Sense

Spend some time to investigate potential careers and jobs. While there are the popular fields out there like lawyers or doctors, remember that these are just a few options in a massive ocean of opportunity! Look at your skills, your goals and the things that make you excited to wake up in the morning and find professions that fit in this scope.

Using your goals as a guideline, look for career paths that lead you towards completing them. If your goals and a career don’t intersect, cross it off your list and keep looking!

Speak with People in Your Desired Career

Connecting with others is a core part of any career. It’s also a fantastic way to get insights about potential paths before you take that first step. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to reach out to those that might be able to help you understand what a job or career has to offer.

Whether you use your existing connections with friends or family, or whether you blindly send off an e-mail to someone working in the field you’re considering, you might be surprised how willing many people are to share knowledge about their own career choices!

Experience is invaluable and these people who are 5 years or 25 years into their careers can provide you with clues to help you narrow your search even further. Maybe you’ll learn that there’s more to a job than you thought!

Don’t Feel Trapped by the Expectation of College

One of the most common concerns for anyone planning to choose their path is whether or not to go to college. Modern society puts a lot of pressure on teens to focus on continuing education. While there are plenty of amazing careers that require a college education, many don’t.

But you might be saying “Don’t I need a college degree to get a high paying job?” Not at all! There is a never-ending list of careers that pay the same or more than common jobs for college graduates. More importantly, unlike many over-filled college careers, these professions need people now!

Consider again your goals. Do they intersect with delaying your professional career another four years? Do they intersect with the cost of college, and the likelihood of spending years paying off those debts? If they do, great – college may be a good choice for you!

But if you want to get started on checking off your goals today, don’t think of college as a necessity. It’s simply one more option!

You’re Not Limited to Existing Career Paths

The most important thing to remember is that you are not choosing what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life. Choosing a career path doesn’t mean choosing where the path will end – just where you’ll be going now.

It’s your path. If it stops making sense in five or ten years, you can take what you’ve learned and apply it somewhere else. Maybe you take your skills and open your own business. Maybe you start fresh in a completely new industry!

All that matters is that you don’t let “analysis paralysis” stop you from taking that first step.

Find More Help in Choosing Your Career Path

Ken Rusk is a blue-collar entrepreneur who has started several successful endeavors and mentored hundreds of young people in their pursuit of a satisfying career and fulfilling life.

Discover how Ken’s approach to life and work can help you set and achieve your goals – all while avoiding the nearly inescapable trap of college debt. Pre-order his new book, Blue Collar Cool: How to Earn Without the College Burn today!