Wondering what is the best way to choose a good and secure career? Discover the 4 basic types of career paths, and learn how to select the right one for yourself.
4 Types of Career Paths
Broadly speaking, there are 4 types of career paths – job, business, knowledge-oriented jobs and skill-oriented jobs.
Career paths can basically be categorized into two broad types: one is a JOB, joining others business. And the other is doing your own business, or as I call it, DOB.
Further, a job can be classified into two broad categories: one is a knowledge-oriented job, and the other is a skill-oriented job. These are the main types of career paths.
1. Knowledge Professionals
A knowledge-oriented job is where you have acquired and use some kind of knowledge, such as medicine, law, engineering, accounts, finance, management. These are all are types of knowledge-oriented career paths.
Knowledge professionals are those who contribute to the others business through their knowledge and time, with regards to problem-solving, advising or soft product (software) creation. Common knowledge professionals include anything that involves the computer, such as:
- Computer engineers
- Web designers
- Data Scientists
- Management Consultants
- IT professionals
- Marketing Professionals
2. Skilled Professionals
Next on our list of the types of career paths are skill-oriented professions. These are more physical skills, such as labor, welding, plumbing, mechanic, etc. Skill-related types of career paths are those that are very hands-on, providing a service or physical product and are often paid by the hour. They involve some skill and can also be paid on a freelance basis or a job per job basis for odd jobs. Examples include:
- Repair technicians
- Mechanics or Plumbers
- Construction workers
Knowledge and skills are intermingled. A lot of jobs or career pathways use both skill as well as knowledge.
For example, one can debate whether coding is knowledge-oriented career path or skill-oriented. However, broadly I would define physical labor skills as skill oriented jobs and the others as knowledge oriented jobs. Even careers such as welding, plumbing, etc. still require some knowledge, but these are more hands-on. Here are some examples of jobs that use skills and knowledge almost equally:
- Interior decorators
3. Business or Entrepreneurship
The next types of careers involve being your own boss, or a business, in which you can set up your own venture or enterprise. The business is something that adds value to the customer, in the form of trading, selling a new product or service.
So if you’re going down this path, you will need some capital, and the means to create a product or service, so that you can set up this business. You will also need a diverse set of skills, such as hiring the diverse people who will make your team, creating a supply chain or customer-base.
Entrepreneurship can be of many types, such as opening a small shop and buying goods and selling them with an added value. Often entrepreneurs use a combination of skills and knowledge to build their business.
4. Independent Freelancers
Another type of business is selling a service or skill. In this, you have a basic set of skills or knowledge, but you become independent and sell it as a freelancer. If you’re not tied to a corporate, then you’re just an independent freelancer. This includes chartered accountants, photographers, web developers or artists. Basically, freelancers include anyone who is not bound to an enterprise and is self-employed.
So these are the four basic categorizations or types of career paths.
Doing a Job with a Side Business
Sometimes we also see that people start by acquiring a skill or knowledge, or a combination of both, and they start by doing a job with a corporation. Once they have the means to produce a product or a sell-able skill, then the venture out to create a start-up.
It could also be that they start with a skill that has a demand in the industry, and then they start selling that skill as a freelancer. For example, web developers and graphic designers sometimes work full-time in a job, but also do freelance work on the side.
As another example, you might actually consider acting as a skill, which requires you to be present and deliver your acting chops. An actor can work as a freelancer, or self employed professional, as they get paid per hour or on a job per job basis. Or a studio can hire them as a salaried employee, which means you’re doing a job. But if you’re independent of a studio or corporation and are selling your skills on a need basis, then you’re independent or self-employed professional as most actors are.
How to Choose the Right Type of Career Path
Sometimes these categories may get intermingled, but it’s important to know which path out of these you want to choose. How to find out which career path to choose? The best way to know what career pathway is the right for you is to get hands-on.
You have to get some understanding of the career path of your interest through an internship or research or by talking to professionals. Doing an internship at a company is the best way of getting to know your job and profession of choice. It will help you understand whether you are made out for it or not.
Some people are, some people aren’t. Some people are more of conformists. They require a structure and external motivation, and they are better suited to do a job. On the other hand, some people are non-conformists. They like to create their own work and rules, and are more proactive or self-motivated. They are better suited to do entrepreneurship.
How Are Some Career Paths Considered Better?
In the early years, most jobs were skill oriented, such as farming, welding, construction, factory jobs, which was prior to the Industrial Revolution. However, after the Industrial Revolution, knowledge oriented jobs became more common, such as management, accounts, design or computing.
The advent of machines required engineers and people to manage them. Computers are the newest machines. So if you’re wondering whether you should go for a knowledge oriented profession or a skill oriented one, ask yourself if you like sitting in front of the computer all day long. If so, then knowledge-oriented jobs are for you.
If you like to be outdoors with a hands-on job or something that doesn’t involve a computer all day long, then a skill-oriented job is a better idea for you. For example, if you don’t like it in front of the computer, you can consider jobs that involve traveling. You may also like something physical like sports, fitness or stage performance.
Should You Go for a Skill Oriented or Knowledge Oriented Career Path?
Some of the skill oriented professions pay little bit less than knowledge oriented ones, but there are exceptions. For example, being an actor or singer are skill oriented jobs. And if you get recognized and become popular, you can get paid much more than people in knowledge oriented jobs do. Such professions can be extremely rewarding both monetarily and creatively.
Similarly, specialized professionals in skill-oriented jobs can also earn more than, or as much as, knowledge-oriented professions. For example, being a specialized mechanic or artist, something that is a specialized skill but also has demand. Even sport is a skill, so if you hone your skill, or develop a skill that has high demand but less supply, you have a high paying profession.
Skill or Knowledge: You Should Aim for a Mix
To be really successful, you need to have a mix of both knowledge and skill, in a career field that has high demand, or will be in the future. You need to have knowledge in a certain area, and also you need to acquire skills. For example if you are a good writer, but if you are so quiet understanding of marketing, you able to build your skill set in a way that is easily employable.
Similarly, if you’re an engineer but also acquire management skills, you can either get a job or sell these skills on a freelance basis. So whatever you do is usually a mix of both. Whatever you do, whether it’s a job for entrepreneurship, it’s based on these basic fundamentals.
Ideally, a student should aim at a career which helps you acquire both knowledge and a skill set. For examples, if you are a singer or actor, you really need to hone your skills to be successful. But at the same time, you also need to have an understanding of marketing, communication, personality and presentation. This will help you “sell your skills.”
So, skill is not enough to be successful these days specially in the saturated markets. You can only deliver real value if you have the right combination of skills and knowledge. In other words, you don’t need knowledge to sell skills, and you need skills to sell knowledge.
Types of Career Paths: How to Choose for Your Market
Students need to find what they are good at, but also that also needs to be something which has some demand. At the end of the day, you need to cater to the needs of the current market. Timing is very important when choosing the right career path.
For example, if I’m a stamp designer, I can still do it as a hobby or once in a while as a paid service as a specialized requirement. But since postal mail is not used much nowadays, this would be the wrong time to be a full time stamp designer. One needs to find a profession that suits their timing.
In the 1980s to 1990s, engineering was the most after sought after profession since a lot of factories were coming up. As a lot of machinery got built, everybody wanted to become an engineer. But post-1990s, there were too many engineers in the market. Then companies realized that they require managers to oversee the engineers. So management skills became the most sought after in the 2000s. This brought about the money management boom. Nowadays there are so many management graduates. And that’s why the average freshers’ salary for management graduates has gone down drastically.
Consider Jobs of the Future
In the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of management graduates in India. What we are seeing in the market, is that they do get jobs but not all of them get high-paying jobs as fresh graduates. Lots of them don’t even get jobs in management and have to change their career path. And you see a lot of engineers who are not doing engineering.
With the advent of AI and internet, the new most sought-after professionals have become coders, AI engineers and computing and data processing professionals. This is the area where people need a lot of computer oriented skills. We see a lot of start-ups in India, that are hiring more computer-oriented professionals such as web designers, web developers, data and it analytics and app developers.
So it’s a good idea to see how you can cater to the market with your skill set and knowledge base.
It might sound a little bit boring to think of it just as a supply and demand problem, and you may have seen your parents perceive a certain professions which may have become obsolete in your generation. But going forward, the skill of your choice may not be as rewarded as any upcoming skill or those that are in high demand. So explore expose yourself to newer technologies and explore new skills that might might be employable in the future.
At the same time, we are moving towards the future where lesser jobs are going to be created, because of AI and automation. So you need to try to find skill sets or knowledge which are more unique, which do not face any threats from automation.
How to Choose a Secure Career Path
Before you choose your career path, you need to understand in which direction the industry is moving and try to get a diverse knowledge base and skill set. If you want your career to be secure, you need to be in the know of industries and do a lot of reading even as a student. You want to read the newspaper and catch up on the news on TV.
Study & Track Your Favorite Industries
Keep analyzing your favorite companies and understand what kind of professionals they are hiring and what their demands maybe in the future. For example, if you love fashion magazines, read about fashion magazine jobs list. Try to ask yourself what are the skill sets that really excite you that you want to see yourself doing tomorrow.
Try to analyse what are the trends that your favorite industries are heading in. Read news about new types of products that are coming out or services that companies are delivering. This will help you get a lot of options to consider for your career path.
If entrepreneurship interests you, you can also always keep in mind how you’re going to be able to start your own business. Also understand what experience you require for it, and what skills you actually need for it. Keep constantly being on the lookout for new opportunities, knowledge and skill sets. This will keep you proactive, and that’s what any successful professional requires.
It’s a good idea to position yourself in a way that you’re able to find and create new opportunities. We all constraints in terms of resources, abilities or opportunities. But it’s the best idea to be honest with ourselves and persevere interests with dedication and sincerity. What differentiates a successful entrepreneur or professional from others is that you make an attempt to grab an opportunity. And never give up.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.