The first step in the career decision-making process is to gain a solid understanding of yourself. This process is often referred to as self-assessment or self-exploration. More of your time will be spent at work than any other activity in your life, so taking the time to discover a satisfying occupation is a worthwhile investment.
Below are some exercises to help you get started, and you can also schedule an appointment with a career counselor to discuss these topics more in-depth. If you are interested, ask your counselor about taking two assessment inventories that the Career Center offers, the Strong Interest Inventory and Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, which can help clarify your preferences and how they correlate with career options.
The ''right'' job is very much a matter of individual preference, and it's helpful to examine your preferences in the following four areas:
- What are my interests?
- What are my strengths and skills?
- What are the values that are most important to me?
- What are my personality characteristics?
If you can find a career that you truly find interesting and enjoyable, you will be more likely to achieve success and find job satisfaction. A good way to identify your interests is to examine how you enjoy spending your free time. Some areas in which you might identify interests include hobbies, school involvement, academic courses, social interactions, and recreational activities. While some of your interests may remain hobbies and not directly relate to an occupation (such as playing chess for example), other interests may have elements which can become incorporated into your career. For example, if you enjoy cooking but do not want to be a chef, you may consider restaurant management, television production for a cooking show, or publishing for a company that specializes in producing cookbooks. Similarly, if you enjoy sports but do not plan to be a professional athlete, you might consider sports management, coaching, or teaching physical education.
List 10 things you enjoy doing and why you enjoy them. Look at your list, take the five top interests, and brainstorm five careers that use at least one of those interests.
Skills refer to those strengths, abilities, and talents that you possess, learn or develop. While we may be born with a proclivity toward certain areas (e.g., an ear for music, an eye for art, an aptitude for numbers), most people develop skills through hands-on experience. Negotiating, influencing, writing, reading, researching, observing, analyzing, organizing, communicating, and motivating are all examples of functional skills gained through a variety of activities which can be transferred to many careers. Gaining experience and sharpening these skills will be important throughout your career development.
Different occupations will often demand a particular set of skills, so it's important to know your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are great with numbers but do not feel confident in your ability to write, you may do better in a position dealing with budgets rather than writing press releases. If you excel in public speaking and communicating effectively with others face-to-face, you may not be happy in a job sitting behind a computer all day in a cubicle.
Think about your academic career and evaluate the courses in which you have excelled. Do you always tend to do well in certain subjects? Do you enjoy those subjects? In which extracurricular activities do you excel, and what skills do you employ? What skills did you use in jobs you enjoyed? List 5-10 things that you did well, that gave you some sense of satisfaction, or that you enjoyed doing from any area of your life. Write down as many skills as you can think of that you utilized in performing each accomplishment. Are there any patterns; if so, what are they?
Values are those principles, standards and qualities that you consider worthwhile, desirable and satisfying at work. For some people values are the strongest influences in choosing a career. For example, although you may have a talent for numbers and enjoy following the stock market, the values of helping others and contributing to the Jewish community may cause you to choose a career in Jewish Outreach Work (Kiruv). Or you may have an interest in art, but financial constraints may lead you to pursue a career in a more lucrative field while still allowing you to appreciate art as a hobby. There are many different work values that people consciously or unconsciously want in their career. Autonomy, job security, high income, achievement, leadership, prestige, ethics, creativity, responsibility, helping others, and advancement are examples of values. Taking an inventory of your values will help you in your search for a potential career.
Rank the following in order of most important to least important:
- Job security
- Opportunity for high income
- Helping others
- Reasonable hours/Leisure time (work-life balance)
As you begin to research and explore career options, consider which values you ranked as most important. Ensure that these values will be met by the occupation and industry you choose.
The last factor to consider in choosing possible career options is personality style. Everyone has a way of being and acting in the world that can be successful given the appropriate arena. For example, someone whose natural style is to work alone, utilizing analysis and logic in a highly structured environment, may excel and feel comfortable working in a position such as a computer systems analyst/designer or an accountant. That same individual may not be well-suited for a career in sales or social service, where extensive interaction with others is required and the hours can be erratic. Knowing your personality strengths and your natural work style can increase your chances of finding not only a satisfying career, but also a satisfying work environment.
Stop by the Career Center and review the book ''Do What You Are'' to learn about your personality style and how it relates to possible career choices. You can also consider asking a counselor to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an online assessment which can help you develop a deeper understanding of your personality across several areas.
Once you have determined your interests, identified your skills, prioritized your values, and discovered your personality style, it is helpful to review this information and ascertain whether or not there are conflicts, complementary patterns, or recurring themes. Then you want to begin your research stage, where you explore career fields to learn which areas might be a fit for you. It is common at this stage to be a little unsure about how to narrow down which options you should consider. Talking to a career counselor who is knowledgeable about the world of work can be helpful as you work together to brainstorm career possibilities that fit with your profile.