Unless you’re one of the few blessed individuals who grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to do, it can be really overwhelming to decide what career path to take.

So…where to start?

There are a number of factors to consider when figuring out what careers would be a good fit. As a Career Coach, I suggest to first embark on self-exploration –to know thyself– before diving into career exploration.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ―Aristotle 

The more awareness and self-knowledge you have, the more likely you’ll be able to pursue a career where you can flourish. To learn more about yourself and what’s important to you, here are 3 questions to ask yourself. 


1. What am I really interested in and passionate about…and why? 

A great place to start for self-exploration is to think about what makes you excited to wake up every day, what captures your attention. and what specifically you’re into.

  • Make a list of your favorite things: interests, hobbies, favorite school subjects, favorite T.V. shows, websites, blogs, books and/or movies.
  • What you spend your free time doing?
  • What activities do you find yourself losing all track of time?
  • What are you curious about? What do you frequently ask questions about or look up in the library, or on Google or Youtube?
  • What are you passionate about? if you could pick anything to give a presentation on what would you choose…and why?

For each interest, really try to pinpoint what about it gets you most excited. 

For example, If Grey’s Anatomy is your favorite T.V. show that you’ve watched 3 times over, what do you like most about it? It might be the interesting medical cases, how the team handles emergency situations or how the characters relate to another and have their own personal stories. Though two people might both love to watch Grey’s Anatomy, they may have very different reasons for enjoying it and thus enjoy different work settings.

In this Information Age that we live in, there is an overabundance of options to focus our attention on. What you choose to pay attention to says a lot about your interests and passions. Pinpointing what you like about the things you’re interested in can help clarify exactly what you’re passionate about and the type of work settings you might enjoy.

“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” —Steve Jobs

2. What are my strengthsWhat am I naturally good at?

Different industries and careers use different types of strengths. We all have things that we’re good at and things we’re not so good at. That makes us unique. Understanding what you’re naturally good at will help point toward what type of academic and work activities you’ll excel at and enjoy.

  • Think about some things that you have made, organized, or fixed. What skills did you use in the process?
  • What are some things that you know how to do and could show someone else how to do?
  • What would your friends, family, or teachers say that you do well?
  • What skills would you like to build upon?

The process of identifying your strengths will help illuminate career paths where you can use and build upon them.

3. What are my values? What is most important to me?

Your values are the things that you believe are most truly important to you in your life and career.  We learn values when we are young and bit by bit expand and apply them to our lives as we get older.

  • What is most important to you?
  • What are some things that you find meaningful?
  • What are your preferences in the workplace?

This can be a hard question to answer on your own. You can clarify your values using a values assessment worksheet like this one by Virginia’s Community Colleges or work with a Career Coach who can guide you through the process. Working or living in ways that contradict your values can lead to frustration and unhappiness.  Work that matches your values are will be the most meaningful and satisfying for you.

Once you’ve taken time to know thyself, a great next step would be career exploration and planning. Assessments based on psychological research can give you additional self-insights by measuring your interests, skills, and strengths matched to fitting career paths. At Realizing Aptitudes we use an assessment bundle along with one-on-one career coaching to help young people uncover their strengths and interests, build a vision for their professional future, and design their life’s pursuit.


Ashley Flynn, M.A.
Career Coach & Outreach Coordinator

Known for her optimism and zest, Ashley empowers young adults to discover and shine a light on the best parts of who they are, identify ways they can positively contribute to the world, and plan for thoughtful next steps along their journey. Ashley earned a Master's in Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida and a Bachelors from Florida State University. When she's not at work, you can find her enjoying live music, hiking, running, or skiing in the beautiful state of Colorado.