It seems that life is one major decision after another, doesnt it? No sooner than youve selected a college or university, and its time to consider your career (the rest of your life...no biggie). Where to live? Whom to date? Whether to get married...it never ends.
The good news? Your career choice is no longer until death do you part. Our parents (and certainly our grandparents, and every generation before them) had a single career for their entire working lives. But not so anymore. Many articles and (pseudo)studies claim that seven is the average number of careers over a lifetime in the modern world. And while that number seems a little high (and the definition of career varies widely), most would agree that its definitely higher than one, with 2-4 a safe estimate. In fact, the term job hopping has entered the public vernacular to describe the new status quo.
So, how do you figure out what job you want? You ask, and answer, questions.
Socrates, Polonius, Lao Tzu, and countless others over history have sung the praises of taking the time to understand ourselves thoroughly and completely.
He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened. ― Lao Tzu
Your career is important, if for no other reason than youll be spending a lot of time doing it. Eight hours per day, five days per week, for decades. You need to reflect on who you are, and what youre good at, when choosing your career (or considering a job switch). Ask questions. What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What special skills do you have? Write them down in three simple columns and then look it over. Just look. Read. Consider. The irony is that knowing ourselves is so much more difficult than knowing others. Many of us never give it a second thought.
You can get some help in this department from any of a number of online career tests. These offer advice on what youre most suited for based on your responses to a series of aptitude questions.
The science may be imprecise, but it just might throw light on a few things youd never have thought of yourself.
An easy way into all of this is to consider three simple things:
What are your hobbies? What you do for fun and in your spare time might very well be something you could morph into a career. Especially in the digital world.
What was your favourite subject in school? What careers are closely connected to it?
When your mind wanders, where does it go? What do you daydream most about? What does that say about you?
Make a list of careers you think youd love based on your answers. Jot down suggestions from career tests and career counselors.
Determine What Is Most Important To You
A career can be a lot of things to different people. You need to determine what is most important to you. Do you want to make a lot of money? Do you want to help others? Sadly, those criteria are often mutually exclusive...so which one matters more? Do you need evenings and weekends free, or do you enjoy shift work? Some careers can immediately be scratched off your list based on your answers, and others might spring to mind that need to be added.
Be Sure Your Current Job Is Wrong
Switching careers is scary. Starting over at the bottom. Having to learn how to do everything all over again. Its worth the time and effort to determine whether youre really unhappy in your current job. Scrutinize the reason(s) why you want a change. If you feel theres little to no chance for promotion, talk to your boss about it. If you feel unchallenged and under used, make those feelings known to your immediate supervisor and request greater responsibilities. Fixing your current job is much easier than finding a new one, and if its something you used to love, than its worth looking at what happened.
Do Some Research and Look Around
Once youve narrowed your list of potentials down to just a few, its time to look at stats and figures. A quick Google search can reveal a lot about the industry. Is it on the upswing (good), or has it stalled (bad). Are people hiring? Does it require a lot of fancy degrees and certifications (which is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but worth noting).
Cross out those that are not hiring, require too much additional education (unless you have the time, money, and desire to get it), or fall short in any number of ways.
Other Useful Links
Career Guidance Forum on Reddit
In a perfect world, your list should only be 1-2 choices now. Choose one and go after it, knowing full well that another change down the road is not only possible, but likely. And thats okay. Its your life, and finding something you LOVE is worth all the hassle.
Photo by Celestine Chua
Creative Commons License