Choosing a career is one of life’s biggest decisions, without a doubt.
Whether you’re young and trying to figure out where to start, or you’re older and trying to navigate a midlife career change, the decision is no less daunting.
So where do you start in trying to choose a career?
Let’s start by eliminating some of the usual suspects. Here are some of the places that you should not start:
- Job Boards
- Classifieds / Want Ads
- This year’s list of “hot” careers or top-paying jobs
Starting in any of those places is getting ahead of yourself.
Before you ever start working on that resume… before you start trolling the job sites and applying for positions… you’ve got a little homework to do first.
Choosing a career starts with defining the person looking for it: YOU.
I’ll make some assumptions here that are bold but that I believe will be true: you’re not just looking for any old J-O-B. You may be looking for a paycheck, but there are things you’re willing to do for money and things you’re not (I hope!). There are things that you could do for money, and then there are things that you would love to do, regardless of the money. You’re looking to do something that is worthy of your time (most jobs require you to spend a third of your waking hours at work every week) and talents. You want to do something that matters. And you want to feel good about the people you’re working for or with. When you consider what your organization is trying to accomplish, in the grand scheme of things, you want to be proud to be part of the same team.
Am I right?
I don’t think that most people are afraid of hard work. I think that people actually want to work hard – to give their best to a cause or career that is truly a good fit for them.
For your career to be a good “fit,” there’s got to be alignment of three key things:
- Your skills and abilities
- Your personality
- Your interests / passions
Choosing the right career will require that you define these in terms of work that you would be well-suited for.
Skills and Abilities: What skills and abilities do you delight most in using? We may be able to perform a number of tasks with competence, but… do we necessarily enjoy using all of our skills? I may be good at cleaning my house, but do I want to use my cleaning abilities in any kind of career? No way. Just because you can do something (even if you can do it well) doesn’t mean you should do it. Figure out what your very favorite skills are, and make those the cornerstone of the career you seek!
Your Personality: What environments are best for your personality? The right career fit will complement your natural personality well. You’ll be happier – and more effective – when you can be your authentic self. If you’ve ever taken a personality assessment, you’ve probably seen how you rank on a number of behavioral scales. Often, traits like introversion / extraversion, assertiveness, objectivity, independence, and more are measured. Find a career that allows you to stay in “the zone” that is most comfortable for you. Anything that puts you in an environment that’s not a natural fit for your personality will just end up driving you crazy.
Interests / Passions: What’s really important to you? (Think beyond the paycheck here!) What kind of environment / organization would you love to be a part of? What kind of work would really matter to you? Try this exercise: fast forward to your retirement years, and imagine looking back to your career highlights and accomplishments. What could you do with your career that would bring a smile to your face later as you pause and reflect?
Choosing the right career has to do with finding work that is in alignment with these three areas. Find the right one, and you’ll work with a passion and purpose that will fulfill you in ways that you never imagined “work” could.
Do the homework. Figure out what you’re really looking for in a career before you rush into applications and interviews.
Don’t rush it. It may take some time to dig deep and define all of these things. This approach may not be the “fast” approach to choosing a new career, but it’s the best approach to making the right choice in the long run.
This Guest Post was written by Lisa Sperow of LEGEND Talent Management. Lisa’s firm works with both career coaches and individuals looking to transition careers. They offer assessment tools that assist in matching an individual’s skills, abilities, personality and interests with rewarding career options.