11/17/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Actions You Should Take Before Choosing A Career

My mind is wired for success. I was brainwashed from a very young age that I would go to more school after college. I would have to figure out what type of professional school I wanted to go to, but I was going. College wasn't even discussed as an option; it was thought of as an extension of high school. Professional school was expected, but there was more of a discussion there (versus college, which was just literally thought of as more high school - something you had to do). My grandpa once said to me, "In college I learned about life; in dental school I learned how to make a living." I think this perfectly reflects the roles that college and professional school had for me.

With this upbringing, I have an internal meter that points toward career success. It has never been about money (as evidenced by my student loan debt). It has always been about growing and stretching myself in my career and as a person. With that, comes an enormous amount of drive and focus. But what does not come with that is some common sense knowledge about actually choosing which career path to go down. So, here are 5 pieces of advice for choosing a career I wish I knew before getting started in my career.

5 Pieces Of Advice For Choosing A Career

1. Shadow someone

I cannot stress the importance of following someone around in the career that you want for at least a few days up to a week. By shadowing, you will see the day-to-day work you would be doing in that career. It may feel silly to do this as an adult, but it will be so worth it in the long run. There is no better way to learn about a career than from seeing someone actually working in that career. Talking with people and conducting informational interviews may be helpful too, but there is no replacement for shadowing.

2. Consider the opportunity for growth

Do not be short-sited when choosing a career. A job now in a particular career may seem really appealing, but that is not enough of a reason to choose that job. It is important to have a vision of your career as a whole. Where do you see yourself in your career in 15 years? Does that job offer an opportunity for growth? In his book, 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell said that he took lesser paying jobs to advance his career because of the opportunity for growth. The opportunity for upward movement in a given profession is an important factor in making your career choice.

3. Think about what you love AND think about the money


Of course you want to do something you love for work. Who doesn't? But not everything makes money. And you actually do need money to live. Everyone enjoys doing more than one thing, so a good way to figure out your career path is to start by creating a list of all the things you enjoy doing and narrowing them down by opportunity for jobs and career growth. For example, I truly love organizing, but I did not choose to become a closet organizer even though I would love to organize closets all day. I did not believe that closet organizing would provide me with the type of career growth and continued opportunities in the market place, so I did not go down that road.

You may love something, but if there is not a place for you to do it in the marketplace, keep it as a hobby and do something else that you like and that makes money for your career.

4. Surround yourself with people you want to be like

You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. This is pretty common knowledge. Although it is commonly said, that should not take away its importance. Consider your inner circle and consider where you want to go in your career. The best way to bridge that gap is by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Try to form relationships with people who do what you want to do. If you do not know people who meet those standards, there are online networks or groups (, for example) that you can join to accomplish this.

5. Go for it (especially if you are scared)

Stretching yourself and growing is what life is all about. If you are concerned that what you want is outside your comfort zone, consider that to be a compelling reason as to why you should go for it. I used to hesitate (or not act at all) when I was scared or nervous about something. It was not until I read self-improvement books (see my favorites here) that I realized what a bad mindset this was. Take fear as a sign that the opportunity will help you grow and develop as a person.

Life is about growing and the only way you can grow is by taking on new experiences, which means going outside of my comfort zone.

This content originally appeared here.