How to Decide on a Career When You Have No Idea What You Want

Reading time: 5 minutes

When someone aims for a career change, the primary goal is to find personal fulfillment. A job that doesn’t align with your true self can drain a lot of energy. You might sense that changes are needed, even when you feel stuck in a dead-end. However, a career change doesn’t necessarily mean wasting time, education, or prior experiences.

Hiding behind the career goals of others or within a perceived limited framework of your abilities won’t lead you forward. Trust me, I’ve tried that. But if you carefully work out what you genuinely expect from your career, you’ll discover that you can switch to a new position or field faster than you might think. And if you find yourself stuck, coaching can provide valuable assistance.

Here are three common career theories that I find extremely helpful for gaining career clarity:

Super’s Career Development Theory

Super’s Career Development Theory, developed by American psychologist Donald E. Super, is a model for understanding lifelong career development.

Life Stages Super divided a person’s career development into various life stages, each with its own tasks and challenges.

  • Growth (Ages 4-14): During this phase, children begin to form self-concepts and become aware of gender roles and career stereotypes.
  • Exploration (Ages 15-24): This phase is marked by career exploration, where we try out different roles, make educational and career choices, and aim to develop a clearer self-concept.
  • Establishment (Ages 25-44): In this phase, we establish ourselves in a specific career, accumulate experience, and focus on advancing in our chosen field.
  • Maintenance (Ages 45-65): This stage involves ongoing career development, skill improvement, and adaptation to changing work and life situations.
  • Disengagement (Age 65+): As individuals approach retirement, they start to withdraw from active work life.

Life Roles

Super emphasizes the effects of assumed roles, such as student, employee, entrepreneur, spouse, and parent, on career development.

Life Space

This concept encompasses the various roles, environments, and experiences that people encounter in their lives, shaping their careers.

Career Rainbow

Super’s theory questions the linear understanding of careers and recognizes that individuals can pursue multiple roles and paths.


Super highlights the role of an individual’s self-concept, including skills, interests, values, and personality.

Career Crystallization

This process involves developing a clear and stable career self-concept based on experiences and self-assessment.

How you can use this theory for yourself:

  • Reflect on the formative moments or challenges you experienced between the ages of 4 and 14.
  • How did you explore career options between the ages of 15 and 24? What did you learn about your interests and yourself?
  • Describe your journey between the ages of 25 and 44. What career decisions did you make?

John Holland’s Theory of Career Choice

Developed by American psychologist John L. Holland, this theory suggests that individuals can be categorized into six primary personality types, and these personality types are closely associated with specific work environments and career choices. The six personality types are as follows:

  • Realistic (R): Realistic individuals are practical, hands-on, and prefer working with tools, machines, and physical tasks. They tend to be mechanically inclined. Careers aligned with this type include engineering, construction, and skilled trades.
  • Investigative (I): Investigative individuals are analytical, curious, and enjoy problem-solving through research and analysis. They are often drawn to scientific and intellectual pursuits. Careers related to this type include science, research, and technical fields.
  • Artistic (A): Artistic individuals are creative, imaginative, and value self-expression. They enjoy activities that involve artistic and creative endeavors, such as writing, music, design, and visual arts.
  • Social (S): Social individuals are people-oriented and enjoy working with others to help and support them. They have strong interpersonal skills and often pursue careers in counseling, teaching, healthcare, and social work.
  • Enterprising (E): Enterprising individuals are ambitious and persuasive. They enjoy leadership and entrepreneurial activities and are often drawn to business, sales, and management roles.
  • Conventional (C): Conventional individuals are organized, detail-oriented, and prefer structured and orderly work environments. They excel in roles that require precision and adherence to established procedures, such as accounting, administration, and data analysis.

Holland’s theory suggests that people are most satisfied and successful in careers that align with their dominant personality type. For example, Artistic people are more likely to be successful and satisfied if they choose a job that has an Artistic environment, like choosing to be a dance teacher in a dancing school – an environment “dominated” by Artistic type people where creative abilities and expression are highly valued.

How you can use this theory for yourself:

  • Consider which personality types you most identify with.

The Krumboltz Theory of Career Choice

In our society, there is often an emphasis on planning one’s career goals early in life. A question frequently asked of children is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Paradoxically, very few adults are doing exactly what they planned at age 18. Unplanned events play a major role in everyone’s career development.

The Krumboltz Theory, developed by psychologist John D. Krumboltz, highlights the influence of genetic factors, environmental conditions, and the impact of supportive individuals who accept and encourage career aspirations. Krumboltz also introduces the concept of “Planned Happenstance.” The term means that one can gain experiences by reacting to actions or consequences, observing others as they do so, or by associative experiences. These learning experiences shape an individual’s career decisions.

Think about the following:

  • Does your environment support you in pursuing your career goals? Krumboltz recommends seeking support from people who accept and support your career ambitions.
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