How to Choose the Right Career
Finding the Best Fit
Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life. It's an old saying that may resonate with you if you're in the middle of trying to figure out what to do with your life. If you choose the right career, you will actually like going to work every day? Imagine that! It sounds like a magical antidote to a life of drudgery.
It's no wonder the task of picking an occupation may seem overwhelming.
With thousands of careers to choose from, how do you pick one that will make you feel like you aren't even working? Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it would at least be nice to work at a job you like going to most of the time. To find the right career, choose one that suits your interests, aptitudes, work-related values, and personality type. While you should also consider earnings, job outlook, and duties, nothing contributes more to job satisfaction than matching your occupation to your character traits and motivations. How do you go about doing this?
First, Learn More About Yourself
Your first order of business is to learn as much as you can about yourself. If you think you know all there is to know, what you discover by doing a thorough self assessment may surprise you. You can hire a career development professional, for example, a career counselor or career development facilitator, to help you through this step.
If finances are an issue, don't let that keep you from getting the help you need. Many public libraries, for example, offer career planning services. Ask the librarian at your local library. If yours doesn't provide this service, you may be able to get help from one in another community. The librarian can also direct you to local agencies that offer career counseling.
There are also free or low-cost career assessments available online.
If you attended college, you should also contact that institution's career services office. As an alumnus, you may be able to access their services. Your local college or university career office may be open to members of the community. In addition, academic programs that train career counselors often have students work with clients at no or a low cost to gain experience.
Next, Learn About the Occupations on Your List
Your self assessment will provide a list of occupations that are a good fit based on what you learn during that process, but the quest to find the right career doesn't end here. Some of the occupations may be nearly perfect for you, but others may be all wrong. They may be a good match for your personality type, interests, values, and aptitudes, but may be unsuitable in other ways. For example, the job duties may be unappealing, the outlook may be poor, or you may be unwilling to get the required education or training. To make an informed decision, explore the careers on your list.
Read descriptions of the occupations. Ignore your preconceived notions. You may think you know something about a particular career, but unless you have personal experience with it or did prior research, you probably don't have enough information to decide whether you would be satisfied with the day-to-day work involved in it.
If you are still interested in an occupation after getting a job description and learning a bit about the duties, you must learn what you will have to do to prepare to work in it. Unless you are willing to fulfill the educational and training requirements, you should cross it off your list. If you an advanced degree, for example, and you have neither the desire nor the resources to commit to that, it's not a good choice for you. Likewise, neither is a career that requires little training when you have the inclination and ability to earn a college degree, or even a master's degree or doctorate.
Finally, you will be doing yourself a great disservice if you don't look at an occupation's job outlook. Investing time training for a career only to find out there are limited opportunities when you are ready to enter your field of choice can be a waste of time, effort, and money.
After narrowing down your list to just a few choices, do more in-depth research. Conduct informational interviews with people connected to occupations you are seriously considering. They have a perspective on the field that can help you make a more informed decision.
Choosing a Career
Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you will make in life. It's about so much more than deciding what you will do to make a living. To start with, think about the amount of time we spend at work. We are on the job approximately 71% of every year. Over our lifetimes, this comes to roughly 31½ years out of the 45 years most of us spend working, from the beginning of our careers until retirement. The importance of selecting a career with which we are satisfied cannot be overemphasized.
While some people are lucky enough to just know what they want to do and end up in satisfying careers without giving it much thought, most of us are not. Many people don't put enough effort into choosing occupations or pick them for the wrong reasons. Maybe they choose careers that seem secure or pay well. They then end up unhappy. The best way to make sure that doesn't happen to you is to make a well-thought out decision.
Career planning 4 step planning process
Skills, likes/dislikes and values
Exploring what is out there
Working towards your goals
Career planning is an ongoing process that can help you manage your learning and development.
You can use the four step planning process whether you are:
- at school;
- at college;
- an adult returning to education or adding on skills;
- an adult changing job or career.
Career planning is the continuous process of:
- thinking about your interests, values, skills and preferences;
- exploring the life, work and learning options available to you;
- ensuring that your work fits with your personal circumstances;
- continuously fine-tuning your work and learning plans to help you manage the changes in your life and the world of work.
You can revisit and make use of this process all the way through your career.
The career planning process has four steps:
Step 1: knowing yourself
Step 2: finding out
Step 3: making decisions
Step 4: taking action
Step 1: knowing yourself
Begin by thinking about where you are now, where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.
Once you have thought about where you are at now and where you want to be, you can work on getting to know your skills, interests and values.
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- Where am I at now?
- Where do I want to be?
- What do I want out of a job or career?
- What do I like to do?
- What are my strengths?
- What is important to me?
At the end of this step you will have a clearer idea of your work or learning goal and your individual preferences. You can use this information about yourself as your personal ‘wish list’ against which you can compare all the information you gather in Step 2: finding out. Your personal preferences are very useful for helping you choose your best option at this point in time, which you can do in Step 3: making decisions.
Step 2: finding out
This step is about exploring the occupations and learning areas that interest you. Once you have some idea of your occupational preferences you can research the specific skills and qualifications required for those occupations.
- Explore occupations that interest you and ask yourself how do my skills and interests match up with these occupations?
- Where are the gaps?
- What options do I have to gain these skills or qualify for these occupations?
- What skills do I need?
- Where is the work?
At the end of this step you will have a list of preferred occupations and/or learning options.
Step 3: making decisions
This step involves comparing your options, narrowing down your choices and thinking about what suits you best at this point in time.
- What are my best work/training options?
- How do they match with my skills, interests and values?
- How do they fit with the current labour market?
- How do they fit with my current situation and responsibilities?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
- What will help and what will hinder me?
- What can I do about it?
At the end of this step you will have narrowed down your options and have more of an idea of what you need to do next to help you achieve your goals.
Step 4: taking action
Here you plan the steps you need to take to put your plan into action.
Use all you have learnt about your skills, interests and values together with the information you have gathered about the world of work to create your plan.
Begin by asking yourself:
- What actions/steps will help me achieve my work, training and career goals?
- Where can I get help?
- Who will support me?
At the end of this step you will have:
- a plan to help you explore your options further (e.g. work experience, work shadowing or more research); or
- a plan which sets out the steps to help you achieve your next learning or work
Decide which step is relevant for you right now and start from there.
Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting a Career:
Listening to People Who Tell You That You Should, or Should Not, Do Something: Many people think they should have a say in what career you choose—your parents, your friends, your significant other. They don't. In most cases your decision will have little impact on the other people in your life. You, however, will have to deal with your choice for years to come. Make sure the career you choose is something you want to spend your day doing.
Following in Someone Else's Footsteps: You may be haunted by your parents' expectations to go into the same occupation they are in. You may know it as the one that helped put food in your mouth, kept a roof over your head and even paid your way through school. As hard is it is to do, ignore the pressure you may feel to please your mum and dad. Remember, and if necessary, remind your parents, that they made their own choices and now it's your turn. What was right for them may not be for you. In the long run, there's a good chance they'd rather see you happy in a career of your own choosing than unhappy in one you picked to please them.
Not Doing Your Homework: Don't choose a career without taking the time to learn about it. In addition to a job description, you should make sure to gather information about typical job duties, educational requirements, earnings and job outlook.
Not Talking to Those in the Know: Your homework isn't complete if you skip talking to someone who currently works in the career field you are considering. Those who are engaged in an occupation can provide you with a truthful account of what it's really like to work in it. If possible talk to a few people to avoid individual biases.
Going for the Money, Honey: Bringing home a paycheck is important, but the size of it isn't actually a great predictor of job satisfaction. In other words, you can make six figures, but if you hate what you're doing, you'll find it hard to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Look for a balance between making enough money to support yourself and work that fulfills you.
Ignoring Who You Are: Your personality type, interests, values and aptitude make you better suited for some occupations than others. These traits are intrinsic, which means you can't change them. If you don't take them into account when selecting a career, there is an excellent chance you will wind up in an occupation that is unsuitable for you.
Not Considering Location, Location, Location: Jobs in certain occupations are concentrated in specific cities—Dublin or London for example—or in certain types of locations—such as cities versus rural areas. If you live somewhere that doesn't offer many opportunities in your field and you aren't willing to relocate, you will have trouble getting a job.
Not Looking Beyond a "Best Careers" List: Lists that tell you what careers have the best opportunities of the year, decade or whatever, can be a helpful guide when it comes to selecting a career. However, making a decision based solely on one of those lists is a terrible idea. Even an occupation with a great outlook can be a bad fit, so you have to scratch below the surface to find out whether you and a career are a good match.
Ignoring the Future: While you shouldn't make your choice solely on an occupation's appearance on a "best careers list," to ignore employment outlook is careless. There's a good chance you don't have a crystal ball that can tell you with certainty whether an occupation will grow, or at least be stable, during the course of your career. However, you can do more than hope for the best. You should consider whether a career has a promising future before you begin to prepare for it. You can at least eliminate something if its future looks bleak. http://careerplanning.about.com/
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