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What Is the Right Job For Me? - Finding A Career Path

Updated on October 11, 2011

Whether you are fresh out of high school or college, recently unemployed or just looking for a change of pace, it can be worthwhile to do a bit of planning before hitting the classifieds, (or your favorite internet search engine).

Many people think about a job in terms of how much money they will make, or the prestige associated with a certain title. Sure, it would be nice if we could all be doctors or lawyers, but are you really prepared to work 80 hours a week for surprisingly low pay for the first five years?

A carefully chosen career will lead to greater happiness both on and off the job.
A carefully chosen career will lead to greater happiness both on and off the job. | Source

Identify Your Needs in the Workplace Environment

First, forget those terms like doctor, nurse, teacher, electrician, or reporter. Get out a pen and paper, and write down answers to these questions:

  • Am I willing to travel for work or relocate?
  • Do I prefer a structured environment (someone else assigning daily responsibilities), or do I need a greater level of autonomy?
  • Do I work better independently, in a small group, or as part of a larger team?
  • Am I okay with needing to dress up for work, or would I rather be in a more casual environment?
  • How high is my tolerance for tedious or repetitive tasks?
  • Could I work nights/weekends/holidays or would a traditional nine to five job work best for me?
  • Am I looking for stability/consistency/security or am I craving excitement, challenge, or opportunities for advancement?
  • How important is money for me? What is my target salary and what would I be comfortable with?
  • Is feeling that I am helping out someone or something high or low on my priority list?
  • Do I need my own workspace, such as a private office, or am I comfortable working near and around others?
  • Am I willing to take my work home with me, or when I leave at the end of the day do I not want to think about work again until the next morning?
  • How much physical energy and stamina do I have?

Consider Your Strengths and Interests

Next write down a list of your strengths. Are you a people person? Good with money? Detail-oriented? Great with kids or animals? Punctual? Assertive? Organized? Don’t be shy, and check your modesty at the door. No one is going to see this but you!

Now, forget all those negatives you think you know about yourself. A lot of these are going to be stereotypes, such as “I am bad at math,” “I hate to read,” or “I am primarily a creative artistic person and will never be happy in a field that doesn’t recognize that.” A lot of these things are preconceived stereotypes of ourselves that come from bad experiences, often an incident in college or grade school. Start by writing down a list of things that you enjoy. It doesn’t matter what. Basket-weaving. Balancing your checkbook. Baking and decorating cakes. Reading articles from Scientific American. Hobbies, interests, passions, these are all important. 

Using Your Past to Plan Your Future

Now think back. What were your favorite activities or subjects in school. It doesn’t matter if you have no interest in them now. Think about a club that you enjoyed, a game that you liked to play. Think about moments when you were most happy, and when you felt an extreme sense of pride in what you were doing. For example, did you develop a great sense of satisfaction from working on your high school yearbook, or enjoy writing stories that you never showed anyone but your best friend? Did you spend every afternoon in sixth grade trying to train your family dog to behave like a circus bear? Were you always the one that helped your friends with their science homework?

Chances are, if you spend some time identifying the things that at one time really made you tick, it may spark an idea about something that could translate into your present or future. It doesn’t need to be exactly literal, just think about the skills you were using, or the ideas that interested you. The same with your present interests. Often we assume that the things that we do in our leisure time are just that, leisure activities. But with a bit of work and possible retraining, we can often translate the things that we enjoy into viable career choices.

Reasearch Your Options

So go ahead, write down some possibilities. Compare them to your first list. Perhaps that dream career of large animal trainer at the zoo wouldn’t be the best bet, but working in a vet’s office might be a better fit. Maybe that lucrative job in pharmaceutical sales isn’t as appealing as the emotional reward of working in elementary education.

Once you have some ideas to go on, check them out online. Look into what qualifications you would need, and what the job market is in your area. Often browsing job openings is the best way to do this. Another great resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, which gives breakdowns for a large variety of occupational choices, including average salaries, employment statistics, education or training necessary, and job duties or requirements.

Through a combination of honest self-assessment and a bit of research, it is possible to find a career that will be more than just another job to pay the bills. The average person changes careers eight times within their lifetime, so why not make this change one you can enjoy!


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