I Don’t Know What Career I Want: A Guide for Teenagers

When I was a teen, like many young people I had unrealistic visions of either becoming a professional football player or a rockstar. I was too small at 5’10” to play football, and I still can’t carry a tune! Yet inside, I longed to be that person with hidden special powers, finally revealed to the world in its time of need. Yes, it was a bit of a superman fantasy, for sure. 

In high school, my dreams became more practical. I went from dreaming about being a biologist and working for the Department of Natural Resources (where no one was getting jobs), to getting on an 18-month wait list for a laser technology program, to changing my major to electrical engineering, all because the opportunity for a large scholarship presented itself. 

I Don’t Know What Career I Want: A Guide for Teenagers

How to Find a Career Path

Looking back at my lack of clear direction, I wish that I had spent more time learning about who I was, what I loved doing, what I do well, and why I did the things that I do. 

In other words, I wish I had known that my Core Motivations are

  • to build things
  • to envision big ideas 
  • to spearhead teams and collaborate with others

These inner drives are huge clues that tell the story of what makes me come alive and gives me satisfaction. And they are the secret to finding a career path!

Take a What Motivates You Quiz

Motivations are our super powers. They point us in the direction of meaningful work and a fulfilling career journey.

In fact, these inner motivations are more important to job fit than any other single thing. 

We can actually know what motivates us as early as our middle school years by taking a motivation test. And through career exploration, we can begin considering the kinds of jobs which require those motivations. 

I Don’t Know What Career I Want

I didn’t become a biologist or work with lasers. Instead, I’ve worked for over 25 years assisting people with career coaching. Along the way, the vast majority of people I’ve helped either feel they are stuck, uninspired, or ill suited to their job. Even though they had careers, their discontent spurred them to complain, “I don’t know what career I want. I don’t like the one I have now!”

The solution for many of them was a significant change in their lives: going back to school, switching to a different career, or taking on a fresh role in a new company. 

How did these adults have the confidence to make these massive adjustments that impacted not only themselves but their families? Answer: Knowing their Core Motivations. 

The key to loving your work and being productive begins with discovering your Core Motivations.

When I helped adults discover their inner drives with the System for Identifying Motivated Abilities (SIMA), they understood exactly why their current jobs felt so burdensome. Equipped with this newfound insight, they were able to find new career paths that suited their motivations and renewed their zest for work. 

What Job Will Make Me Happy Quiz

It’s been such a rewarding role to guide professionals out of mismatched careers into ones where their super powers can shine! I wanted to bring this clarity to younger people so they can avoid making educational and career missteps. I wanted teens to have direction for the question, “What job will make me happy?” 

So I created the TruSpark motivations quiz + curriculum to help teenagers identify and capitalize on their Core Motivations.

TruSpark Step 1. The Inner Journey

TruSpark is a story-based motivation quiz for teens.

Whether you’re a teen or a working adult, it’s natural to dream about what we may become, how we can make a valuable contribution to the world, and the best route to find meaning and enjoyment in a profession. Use TruSpark as a guide on this journey! Your test results will amaze you. And the curriculum will escort you into career exploration and practical applications. (See a sample here.) 

Moms Share Their Teens’ TruSpark Experiences

How to Predict My Future Career When I Don’t Know What Career I Want

Of course, there’s no way to accurately predict your future career. And even if we look at motivations, interests, and skills, there’s no guarantee you’ll end up in a field that meshes with those preferences! 

In fact, with so many workers unhappy with their jobs, it may be more likely for you to find yourself in a job that doesn’t suit you than working in a field that does!

…job satisfaction climbed from its lowest ever rate of 42.6 percent recorded in 2010 to 56.9 percent—the highest in 20 years.”

The Conference Board

Despite the rosy wording, this means that 43% of workers are not satisfied! Those are not great odds for your future career!

But with the help of a motivations quiz that reveals your inner drives, you can predict what future careers will be the best fit for you

Having a crystal ball to see your future career is not helpful. What is helpful is knowing what kinds of careers best match your Core Motivations and then working towards whatever education the job requires. You may not need a 4-year college degree to have the job of your dreams!

You don’t need to predict the future. You need to create your future based on your own personal super powers. 

I Don’t Know What Career I Want: A Guide for Teenagers

What Is My Calling Quiz

When I was grappling with the concept of a calling, a wise person told me that calling is simply a feeling inside that says you ought to do something. A calling is so strong that it’s hard to reject. Callings are often associated with service fields: ministry, social work, activism, politics, teaching, medicine, etc. But, truthfully, a calling could be in the field of robotics, customer service, retail sales, or restaurant management—anything that feels you ought to be doing it because it’s right for you or it’s what you were meant to do.

While TruSpark isn’t a voice from above bestowing a holy mantle of responsibility onto your shoulders, it can point you in the right direction, based on what gives you zest for life. Knowing your Core Motivations is one step to identifying what your purpose, or calling, is. 

I Don’t Know What Career I Want: A Guide for Teenagers

Choosing a Career Based on Strengths When You Don’t Know What Career You Want

Common advice is to choose a career based on your strengths—what you’re good at. Other common advice is to go with interests—what fascinates you. These suggestions seem smart on the surface. But here’s the problem with that well-intentioned advice: Strengths and interests can and do change over time. 

That’s right! Skills and strengths are not static. We can learn new skills, thus changing our strengths. And different settings may require us to rise to the need with particular strengths. In that case, we’re not relying on an innate characteristic but responding to an external stimulus.

What about interests? This one should be fairly obvious! Think back to your childhood interests, your adolescent interests, your early 20s interests. While you may remember them fondly, there are probably at least a few that don’t hold much appeal for you now as an adult. Why? Because interests change.

But Core Motivations do not change! They remain consistent over a person’s lifetime— yes, even from adolescence to adulthood. This permanence is why it’s best to choose a career path based on motivations.

give your teen the gift of a fulfilling career path


With this FREE

2-page worksheet for teens