One of the most damaging pieces of career advice that anybody can dole out is the suggestion that people looking for a job should discover their passion and find a job that matches it. First, not all passions lead to careers, and not all passions match one’s talents. Second, it’s a bit of a snobbish concept. Are the people who choose careers that aren’t creatively fulfilling somehow lacking in passion? It also sets jobseekers, especially younger ones, up with this notion that they are too good to take jobs that aren’t wholly pleasurable all of the time. Anybody who has ever watched the often cruelly, embarrassing audition episodes of reality singing or dance competitions has seen what happens when people pursue careers solely out of passion.
Forget about asking yourself about your passions. True career satisfaction is more likely to come to you when you understand your talents, your skill set, your motivation, and the actions you are willing to take to get to where you want to be in your career. The following five questions will help you examine these points, and will hopefully help you to map out a career path that you can follow now.
1. How Do You Want Work to Fit Into Your Life as a Whole?
Some people get up in the morning feeling upbeat and driven because their work is the focus of their lives and that makes them happy, and that’s okay. Others wake up in the morning and go to work for other reasons. Maybe it pays the bills. Maybe it is what they must do right now in order reach a future goal. Maybe working funds the things that they enjoy doing after work. It is entirely possible to have a job that doesn’t particularly excite you and still have an exciting, fulfilling life.
What you want to explore when you ask yourself this question is where you are now when it comes to work-life balance and where you want to be. If you truly need a career that is exciting and that is the center of your life and who you are as a person, the next four questions should help you discover what you need to do and what you are willing to do to get to that point. On the other hand, if your ideal career is simply a means to some other end, keep reading. Even if your work isn’t your life, being satisfied and comfortable within your career is still important.
2. What Are Your Skills And Interests?
More than anything else, it is your skills and talents that are important when it comes to your career path. If you do not have the skills and talents to do a particular job, and you do not have the ability to develop those skills and talents, you will never be happy at any job.
For these reasons, an honest self-assessment of your skills and talents is absolutely necessary. While your interests are important, you first need to understand your abilities and where they can get you. When you are clear on these things you can start considering career options.
In order to be effective about considering and eliminating career options you can use the following three categories to help you in your pursuit.
- Work that matches your skills and interests
- Work that matches your skills but not your interests
- Work that matches neither your skills nor your interests
3. What Other Things Are Important to You?
Let’s recap. Now, you know how you prioritize the role of work in your life. You have an inventory of your skills and an inventory of your interests. You also have a means to categorize future job opportunities accordingly.
This question addresses what else is important to you. For example, is it important for you to have a lot of autonomy in a job? Do you enjoy working with people or do you prefer solitary pursuits? Do you function better in a serious, task-oriented environment, or would you find that to be absolutely stifling? Do you want to work outside or indoors? Other things to consider are, the level of physical activity, who your customers would be, and the amount of pressure you would be under to perform.
When you look for work, you often consider big picture issues such as pay, benefits, and your core duties. The above items may not seem important initially, but they contribute to your day to day happiness on the job. Over time, these factors will become more important than you know.
4. What Have You Been Successful at in the Past?
So far, we have explored your talents, your interests, and your needs. The next thing to consider is your history. What have you been successful at in your past? What have you consistently struggled with? The best way to make this determination may be to consider the feedback you’ve gotten from others.
For example, have you ever been fired for performance-related reasons? What was the cause? Is there a consistent criticism that you have received in a variety of jobs? Have you ever been in a job where you received negative feedback or did not fit in with your co-workers? Are you able to identify what the issues were? Of course, this isn’t meant to be entirely negative. Think about all of the performance reviews that you can remember. On which topics have you always received praise and positive feedback? What about informal feedback? What have customers and coworkers told you in previous jobs that stand out to you?
Each one of us is likely to be at least a little biased when it comes to self-assessment. But failing to consider the input of others is myopic, and can lead to repeated, career-related mistakes.
5. What Can You Do Now?
In an ideal world, you would have the time, money, and energy to do whatever it takes to put yourself in a position to pursue only the jobs that are absolutely perfect for you. Unfortunately, this is rarely anybody’s reality. This is why it is important to identify what you are capable of doing right now to get closer to finding a job that works for you and that makes you happy in the context of your life as a whole. You may be ready to take big career steps like finishing a degree, relocating, or hiring a career counselor. You may not be ready for any of that, and your best decision right now might be to stay where you are.
Happiness is only one thing to consider. Whether or not you are willing and able to make a change is important as well. There is nothing wrong with staying where you are until the time is right.
See Also: How to Steer Clear of Bad Career Advice
If you ask yourself these five questions you will learn a lot about your needs and desires. Once you understand your abilities, interests, needs, talents, personality traits, and the level of your motivation, you will have a good idea of ‘where to go from here’. In addition to this, these answers will be priceless when you are ready to look for your next job.