Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions in a person’s life. Although we spend a lot of time looking into the pros and cons of even minor decisions, we often let our ‘career decisions’ be taken on a default basis; or with very little careful thinking.

This lack of forethought can result in affecting our physical and mental health, job satisfaction and happiness overall. Here is a list of 16 things you shouldn’t do in choosing a career. It is equally valuable for young people and for their parents. Even if you are in mid-career and looking at options, these basic truths can help you make the correct decision.

The idea of the list is to help you avoid common pitfalls and to make you think.

1. DON’T just pick something you fancy or what someone recommends.
Think a lot about your decision. Research various careers. Verify different claims you hear. Know about yourself and choose wisely.

2. DON’T choose a career because it seems ‘easy’.
Easy is relative. Success doesn’t follow the lazy. It follows the hard working and the industrious. Every career requires effort and commitment. There is no getting over this fact, especially if you want to be successful.

3. DON’T pick something because your friends are doing.
Who knows whether it is right for you, your family and your  budget.  Find out first before making a decision. It is good to be with friends, but that should not blind you to the merits or demerits of a career and how suited it is for you and your needs.

4. DON’T just think of the money you can earn or fame or prestige.
Money alone won’t make you happy throughout your long-working life. You need to have dedication and commitment to do well in any career/job. Money may seem like it is enough. But there comes a time when money is clearly not enough. At this point, you will realize the need to find passion for what you do; that you need to find satisfaction in some aspect of the job. You will need to be able to put it in context, how your work is helping someone, serving someone. Not just earning you money or glory or fame. Very few people give thought to such things when choosing a career.

5. DON’T ignore instincts.
Sometimes gut feelings can guide you well and help avoid costly mistakes.

6. DON’T   ignore your preferred learning styles.
Some like to read, listen, write, teach, think, speak, do hands on or experiment.  Whatever your preferred style, find out whether a chosen career path will be compatible with your learning style.

7. DON’T ignore your values, aspirations, ambitions, likes and dislikes in choosing a career.
This can only lead to trouble, depression,  other mental illness and various social and health issues.

8. DON’T believe there is the ‘one right job’ for you. There isn’t.
Each of us can do reasonably well in a number of areas, if only we set our minds to it and make an effort. Same goes for love too. There is no “one right person”. Believing in ‘one right” anything is asking for unhappiness in love, work or life.

9. DON’T imagine you’ll be in the same career path from now till you retire. You won’t.
Today people change careers because they like it, and they can or because their careers are disappearing. Many of us will shift careers a number of times before we retire from the world of work.

10. DON’T think you are going to or even ‘have to enjoy all aspects of a career. You won’t.
This is true regardless of what career you choose. There will always be things you dislikeand things you love and enjoy doing. The secret is to pick a career that offers relatively more pluses than minuses.

11. DON’T think it is the end of the world if you cannot choose the career you really dream of.
You can succeed in other things too. I know I have. When I was at school, I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon. Because universities were closed for so long, I opted to become a Management Accountant. Later because opportunities came my way, I went into business journalism. Today I engage in training and writing. I am happy and satisfied with my life. It is more about keeping your mind open to possibilities than about forgetting cherished dreams. Or, if you really like something, you can always get back to it later or do it as a hobby.

12.  DON’T believe you need inborn talent to do well in any area. You don’t.
This wrong belief is called a Fixed Mindset. Science shows that IQs are not fixed at birth. They can be improved with effort.  Believing you can work on improving yourself is called a Growth Mindset. A growth mindset is essential to success in the 21st century.

13. DON’T imagine learning ends with getting your basic qualification. It won’t.
Mastering a certain body of knowledge and saying ‘That is it!’ is not an option for workers of the 21st century. You need to keep on learning new things. Knowledge can become obsolete. Career paths disappear. We live long. So you need a Growth Mindset to keep changing, learning, adapting.

14. DON’T believe you are stuck in a career path if you don’t like it. You can change.
A first degree is now becoming a basic qualification. Self learning is the way to success in the 21st century. Once you learn how to learn, you can shift careers easily.

15. DON’T limit yourself. Think outside the box.
The 21st century is a time of opportunities and we should keep an open mind.

16. DON’T throw away opportunities.
They don’t always knock twice. Take a risk if you must, and be different. Most successful people have.

Please let us know if you found this list of points useful. We welcome your comments.
(The author is a Chartered Management Accountant by profession with an MBA from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. She is a freelance trainer with nearly two decades of experience in providing attitudes, knowledge and skills to achieve personal, professional and business success. She is also a ghost-writer and is currently writing a book about success and related topics for a client in the US. Nilooka can be contacted at  | Twitter: @NVEDissanayake | Facebook,com/BusinessTrainerSriLanka)