What career is right for me?
It’s the million dollar question…..Literally, choosing the right career could lead to a successful path towards job happiness and great financial life time returns. Stepping into the wrong industry on the other hand, could lead to an unsatisfying and reward-less future. With a little planning, you could be learning about the different industries and finding a right match before you graduate from school.
So, what career is right for me?
I work with hundreds of university students and recent graduates who ask this all the time. And I’d say it’s probably one of the most important questions that they should be tackling while they are still in school. We all know that once we graduate, it’s off to work we go, and we’re going to be spending a huge chunk of our time working, all to get that cheddar. With so many things to consider including financial factors, the thousands of different types of areas, family and peer pressure, it usually ends up becoming that huge burden that we avoid until the last moment.
So, how do we answer that question; what career is right for me and what can we do now to start the process? Trial and error of course. Well ok, part trial, part error and a whole lot of preparation. Like anything in life, if you want to really succeed, then preparation is a key to help you towards finding the right path.
In 5 steps, I’m going to help you get on your way towards finding that destined career path.
Step 1: Find out what’s in your DNA. Who do you look up to and want to be? When I was young, I wanted to be like Mike (now a days that would probably be Kobe, or Jeremy Lin). That was a long time ago and now I want to be more like my dad, a successful entrepreneur.
A role model is a great way to figure out what types of careers might be right for us and starting with our parents is as close to our hearts as we can probably get. Make a list of all the people in your life that could be good role models. Your parents, other family members, your parent’s friends, your friend’s parents, teachers, any other people in your community that you interact with. Anyone who you feel is successful. List out why you think they are successful, what their career is, what values they have that made them choose that line of work and why you think they are successful.
Now go and interview as many as possible to ask them directly what they do and why they love what they do. If they hate what they do, find out why. All this information will be useful for you to evaluate and digest to get you on your own glorious path.
You should be compiling quite a list by now so I’d suggest using some software to help you keep track of all your information. I use a free mind mapping software called Freemind for Mac that helps me keep my information organized yet easily accessible so that I can review and compare different sets of information effectively.
This is a sample of my map that i use to help me figure out what career is right for me. I have been continually adding to my map and so have includes a few other categories that you probably don’t need yet.
Step 2: Figure out your passions. What are your personalities and priorities. What do you think your priorities will be in 10 years, 20 years, so on. What did you always want to be?
When I was growing up I always wanted to be a ninja and basketball player. Luckily I realized that these were not great career choices (because these days there’s no money in being a ninja, and I suck at basketball). Instead, I went on to travel to China after college and kind of fell into an internship in marketing. If I knew what I know now, I’m sure I could have shaved many years off of the experimental path I had to take to find where I wanted to be.
You should also include your interests, hobbies, values, goals and anything else about you that will be helpful to map out who you are. You’re looking for anything that is going to help spark your passion. If you’ve already worked, what were the areas that you excelled at. What type of work did you really enjoy doing and what tasks made you squirm. What about other activities, team sports, band, debate class, volunteering or any other organized activities where you had some responsibilities.
I had you first go and review your role models to help inspire more relevant ideas in case you draw any blanks. In college, I’ll be the first to admit that my priorities were not always in line with what were really important with who I wanted to be or become. Hey, like you, I thought just enough about how to get good grades in college and the rest of the time thinking about having fun. As I mention before, I ended up not knowing what I wanted to become and wasted a few years working and figuring that out. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change those experiences that I gained living in China, I now know I could have taken advantage of my time a lot better and accomplished more had I prepared a bit in between all of the partying.
You can also take one of the numerous personality tests available online that usually assess your character and traits and match you up with job types. I would only use this as a tool to help find some more job options that you haven’t thought about, opportunities that might be very interesting for you. The Meyers Briggs personality test is one the best known but there are a lot out there that are free and can give some great insights about you. In the end, they are just stats and figures, and the human being, especially those of the college type, are extremely complicated and hard to just square away in a box.
Step 2.5: Think about the money. In my humble opinion, money should be only a small part of the equation. I’ve met quite a few people who bring home amazing pay checks but are unhappy and unfulfilled with their jobs. While others bring home more modest incomes but seem to be extremely satisfied and happy with their current status. Money is just a means to an end, it shouldn’t be the end all goal. If you find something you love to do, you will have a better chance to succeed and ultimately if you succeed you are adding value that will be compensated with a good income.
Money is still important, so figure out how much money you need to be happy. What amount you need to live on now and in the future. What about in the future for a family, this will also affect how much you need to make
Step 3: Match your self up with potential careers. You should have already thought of some jobs that you might like through working out the first 2 and a half steps, keep brainstorming ideas and try to include as many areas that you might be interested in your future. Now is a great time to go and speak to a career councilor or adviser. Your university has a career center so go in and make an appointment to get some help. All the information you compile is going to help because the adviser is probably going to ask you to list some of them out, imagine how surprised they’ll be when you show up prepared.
Step 4: Test out those careers through an internship or part time job. There’s no better way to “test drive” a possible career than through a short term internship. You not only learn what that industry is all about, but you build valuable experience, a network of contacts and if you’re lucky a job opportunity waiting for you after you graduate. And if you realize that you didn’t like that area of work, at least you know now what to avoid when your real job hunt begins.
I know, I know, it’s been tough these days to even get a non-paying internship so you’re going to have to really work hard to find any opportunity you can. Ask your peers if you could intern in their office or if they have any contacts that could help out. If not an internship, what about a day where you volunteer in their office for a day doing random chores and at the same time learn what it is that goes on there. Again, use your university internship and careers center as they should have a wealth of information and contacts. Go online to job forums and see what others in your interested fields have to say. If you can get an internship, oo all you can to try and get a good feel for what jobs, tasks or projects you would have, what the environment is like and what type of people seem to thrive by asking around and using Google.
Step 5: Evaluate and try again. You will need to review the experiences and information you gained, add notes to your personal map and keep trying out new jobs until you find that one you know you’re going to be passionate about. The earlier you start, the more trials you run, the better your chances of finding that job your going to love and succeed in. Make sure to keep adding to your map and include what you liked, disliked, your strengths, weaknesses and any other information that’s going to be helpful for your career search.
Spend the time to figure this out as you will be spending a large percentage of your time in your job so it’s important to really find a niche that you will love and really succeed in. Remember, it’s all about finding something that you are going to be passionate about, a job you’re going to love to go to every day. Nothing is guaranteed and you might still end up in a career you don’t like but through this process you will also identify other niches that might fit and you can quickly move to other industries to try them out.
Ok, by now you have probably decided that my 5 steps are definitely not easy and is going to be a lot of work, maybe even too much for you to want to do. If you are deciding to just jump in and hope for the best, by all means, go ahead. Hey you only have a slight chance of joining the over 50% of Americans that are currently not satisfied with their current jobs.