One of the best ways to choose a career is by exploring your interests. Many career advisers agree that examining the activities you have associated yourself with in the past and gained valuable experience from can have a powerful impact on your career decisions.
Studies have linked career interests to greater job satisfaction and professional success. Exploring your career interests is usually the first step to knowing yourself because it helps you develop as a person.
It is necessary when you have no idea what you want to do in your career. For the majority of people, this happens when they need to make a decision at the age of seventeen or sometimes earlier, but exploring your interests may be needed later on in life, for example, when you decide to change careers.
How Important are Career Interests
What are ‘career interests’?
Career interests have often been associated with career assessment, which has been defined as the process of researching, learning and discussing your career interests. It is widely used in the areas of career guidance, counselling and psychology, and refers to career exploration.
Getting to know your career interests means that you are finding out what you enjoy doing on a regular basis. These are the activities that can be associated with a specific industry or job and help you make a career choice.
Why look into your career interests?
Exploring your interests can help you become more self-aware, discover your personal values and how to utilise your strengths. Ideally, this can help you identify where your motivation lies and what you are most likely to stay committed to. The underlying idea that links your interests with your career is that it urges you to choose what you love to do.
Finding a job that involves tasks that are interesting to you is more likely to make your job enjoyable and keep you motivated to keep that job. You will also have a greater chance of being good at your job and getting promoted.
How do they help you choose a career?
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘find what you like doing the most and then get someone to pay you to do it’? Well, this is exactly how your interests can help you choose a career. Exploring your interests helps you find what is most important to you. Knowing what careers match your interests can help you avoid jobs that won’t take advantage of your natural talents and strengths.
Exploring Your Career Interests
An excellent way to identify your career interests is getting in touch with your emotions. Ask yourself how you feel while you are carrying out a task or an activity. You will know you enjoy what you are doing when you experience any of the following:
Passion – This is something that speaks to your heart. It’s a mixture of nervousness and intensity that has the power to create something beautiful.
Fun and Excitement – The key here is happiness. You know you are interested in an activity when you are constantly looking forward to it.
Consistent Engagement – Being bored is a foreign concept to you. You enjoy your job so much that concentration is effortless, consistent and unflinching.
Timelessness – Time flies by when you are engaged in something fascinating. The passion, fun and engagement brings you to a point where you wish time stood still, and the only thing that can stop you is extreme fatigue.
Irresistible Urge - You simply can’t get enough of it, and you find excuses to spend some more time on it. Whether it’s playing music, singing or dancing, it’s an activity that you can’t stop doing. This is the kind of dedication you would expect to put into your work.
Relaxation and Reward – When you are done with the task, you experience an amazing feeling of pride and fulfilment. That’s when you are completely convinced that it was worthwhile after all.
There is a variety of self-assessment tools that can help you understand more about yourself and career interests. The most popular career assessment tool has traditionally been the John Holland’s RIASEC model, which provides a framework of six general personality types describing different areas of interests. These are Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional; and they help you explore your interests in relation to work and career. This model has been used as the foundation of many career tests.
What’s important to remember when you take a career interests test is that you have to be able to think of your past, present and future. You need to look back at where you started, evaluate your experience and then visualise how you see yourself in the years to come. This requires answering honestly, getting to know what you need to feel complete and identifying your professional goals.
To help you out, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What do you like doing in your free time?
- What activities have you participated in (academic, cultural, social, service or spiritual)?
- What interests do you have that can be translated into a career?
- Which projects or accomplishments have been most fulfilling and why?
- What has been your favorite internship/job? Extracurricular activity? Hobby?
- In your previous jobs, what do you like and dislike?
- If you would teach a course on any subject, what would it be? To whom would you teach it?
- Which world issues concern you?
- If you would trade jobs with three people, who would they be and why?
- What do you daydream about?
- What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?
While trying to answer these, you will find that you have certain skills that come more natural to you. For example, this might be managing a team and for others could be coming up with creative ideas or giving a presentation. One thing’s for sure – there is something you are really good at and you enjoy doing the most throughout the day and that’s what you need to find out. This comes down to what Confucius once said: ‘choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’. The famous quote encapsulates the idea that you should find a career that you enjoy and from which you need not to escape from. When you manage to combine a career and a passion together, that’s when you begin contributing to something meaningful.
If you are struggling with identifying your interests, take a look at the following checklist prepared by Tufts University Career Center to give you an idea:
Listening to music
Playing with children
Reading spiritual guides
Engaging in business
Exploring new places
Using social media tools
Conserving natural resources
Drawing, painting, sketching
Working with and being around animals
Carrying out scientific research
Studying the media
Joining public causes
Talking about politics
Doing electrical work
Writing poetry and stories
Observing human behavior
Observing human behavior
Solving crossword puzzles
Creating new things
Learning how things work
Dissecting an organism
Anticipating other’s needs
Visiting the elderly
Caring for the sick
Playing team or individual sports
Career tests allow you to explore your interests presenting these statements or variations of these as questions. In a test, this is usually done in the form of a 1 to 10 scale, asking you to rate the statements in order of preference. Alternatively, they might ask you to choose the answer that is most appropriate to you with options like Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree and Strongly Agree. Such questions can help you recognise themes and specific areas of interests comparing your results with those of individuals in a variety of occupations.
Identifying your career interests is the first step to making a well-informed career decision. When you have an idea of what you want you can explore what categories your interests fall into and the decision-making process becomes easier. It can also help ensure that you don’t get bored and avoid career stagnation.
However, you need to be aware that your career interests can change as you progress professionally. This happens as you constantly equip yourself with skills and have new experiences. As a result, you may develop a new interest in an area that you didn’t have the chance to explore in the past. At this point, you may need to go back and start the whole process again.
Have you taken the time to think about your own interests? Let us know in the comments section below!