May be you are a student or a professional struggling with how to choose a career that would bring more meaning and satisfaction. Perhaps you are in a career transition, and do not know where to begin. Career-life planning is an ongoing process rather than a single-time event that happens during times of crisis.
Choosing a career starts with an assessment of who you are? What are your strengths, talents, and interests? What personal experiences have impacted your career – life vision? You can start this exploration on your own but if you are going in circles and not getting any results, consider career counseling.
Here are the critical elements to consider when choosing a fulfilling career:
Family of origin occupations and preferences:
Career development starts early in the family, and we make education and career choices based on parental guidance and family views about the working world. Think about occupations of family members – your mother, father, and siblings. What kind of impact they had on your choices? Some people follow the advice of family members until they discover the chosen field is not their true passion, calling or path.
Interests, hobbies, activities: What are your fondest interests and passions in your life? What did you dream of becoming when you were young? What do you enjoy doing?
Think of times when you were so lost in an activity that you lost total track of time. What were you doing? Maybe it was research, a class you taught or a presentation you developed. What talents did you demonstrate? The idea is to find out what activities provide you with energy, drive and motivation to keep going.
Work and Life Experiences:
Work Roles: What activities do you enjoy mostly in your current work? What do you like least about your work? Evaluate what needs to stay and what you want to discard. Think about any volunteer work you have done, hobbies and activities you do outside of your regular job.
Life Experiences: Sometimes life experiences have such an impact on us that they push us to grow in a new direction, and chose an occupation that is more in tune with our identity. Some people decide to re-invent themselves and their careers due to major life events. You will hear about a woman who decided to become a teacher or start a daycare business after she became a parent. Or may be someone who was laid off from their career, and decided to pursue a graduate degree and make a major career change.
Natural talents and skills: Assess your natural talents and skills that allow you to do things with easy. These talents give you a special ability to do certain kinds of tasks easily and happily.
What kind of skills do you already possess and which ones do you like to develop further?
Personality and temperament: The MBTI (Myers-Briggs Assessment based on Jung’s Typology) is great for assessing your personality and preferences for working environments.
Here are some questions to consider: Are you an extrovert or introvert? Do you prefer working with people, teaching, collaborating or analyzing information? Your goal is to choose a career and environment that would be a natural fit for your personality.
Possible Occupations: What possible future occupations are you considering? Include both the practical and fantasy careers. If there were no limits placed on you by your education, skills, finances, etc., what would you be doing? The idea is to brainstorm first, and later identify specific experiences and skills required by those jobs.
Positive self-talk and view: Your confidence and self-talk play a major role in making decisions about your future work and choices. You want to be able to create a meaningful story of your work experiences that would provide the strength and motivation to undertake a new direction.
Keep in mind this process consists of three major components – retrospection, research and evaluation of options, and developing a plan of action. Check out our Resource page with information about career change and exploration.
Assess –> Explore –> Decide –> Create a Plan of Action
If you are gathering this information on your own, I recommend creating a career journal or portfolio where you can keep this information well organized. You want to be able to draw out some insights and connect the dots among all different components of your exploration. In a way, you will be creating a personal story that accounts for your career and life, and enable you to make meaningful career decisions.
If you still find yourself confused as to how to choose a career, and need some help discovering what you desire in your work and life, feel free to reach out for my help. As you organize your thoughts, you will find more clarity, and feel empowered to take action.