CareerAde.com | Refresh Your Career

CAT | Identify career

prepWe think the setting your goals is the critical 1st step in your job search. You need to define success before you suit up and enter the battle.

At the end of the job search process you need to have ended up in a career that suits your true needs. The process below you help you figure out which career to pursue

For all of what we talk about below, please understand that the answer will be different for each individual. What is right for your best friend will not necessarily be right for you.

In finding the right career there are many different issues you need to consider, but we think it boils down to two key issues: will you enjoy the career and will it move you forward on your journey.

Enjoying your career

This is quite simple in theory but often difficult to get right. We think that you can only really succeed at what you do if you derive at least some enjoyment from it. The more you enjoy it, the better. But you don’t have to absolutely love it. You have to enjoy it well enough to get you out of bed, push you through a tough spot and make you feel content when you have a quiet moment and reflect upon your life.

So how do I find a career that I might enjoy?

  1. Write a list of activities you enjoy (dealing with people, helping people, tinkering with complex machines, etc). High-light the ones you enjoy the most.
  2. Next do the same for activities you really hate (dealing with rude people, not being your own boss). Again, high-light the ones you enjoy the least.
  3. Next, work with these two lists to brain storm careers that maximize the activities you like, and minimize the stuff you hate. Don’t do all of this by yourself, ask you best friends, family members – especially those you think are open minded and have a broad horizon. Also look up career lists (we will post links to these elsewhere on this site) or talk to career advisors.
  4. At the end of this process you should have a long list of potential careers – maybe 20-30- that you think you might enjoy.

Moving you forward

Next, you need to narrow down your career list to those that make sense. You might really want to be a fighter pilot, but if you are too tall to sit in the tiny cockpit it doesn’t make sense to throw too much effort into entering that specific career. You also want to make sure that the specific career moves you forward, helps you achieve your underlying ambitions.

How do I find a career that moves me forward?

  1. First, take the long list of career options that you might enjoy. Quickly identify those that you believe you do and likely never will qualify for. You might not be sure about this, but in your gut you should have a pretty good sense. Please consider the following:
    1. Education and training: do you have or can you reasonably get the training you need?
    2. Physical fit: are you healthy or fit enough for this career
    3. Basic talent: if this is a career that requires talent – is your talent sufficient. You might really want to be an NFL quarterback, but do you realistically have the talent to succeed?
  2. Weed out the careers for which you don’t qualify. If there are careers that you could qualify for if you invested some more effort (e.g. by getting a grad school degree), keep them on the list
  3. If you are unsure about a career, find someone who can talk about it. That person’s knowledge will be critical later down the road when you launch your application process in earnest, so invest the effort and find someone in your circle of friends that can help.
  4. Next, spell out your ambitions, your life goals, e.g. being able to live in comfort while still living in Manhattan, being able to raise a family, being able to retire at 50, etc.
  5. Work out what it would require for you to meet that ambition along the following dimensions (and any others that might be unique to your situation) and for the following time periods:
    goals
  6. Fill in the chart, and then compare it against the remaining options on your list. Kill options that clearly don’t get you to your goals. When in doubt talk to people who know the career and can help you fill in the gaps, e.g. salary expectations etc. If you end up killing all ideas you need to a.) look for more ideas and b.) revisit your goals and see if they are reasonable.
  7. If you are left with more than 10 careers, you should amp up your goals – call them aspirational – and redo the filter step to narrow the list down to 2-3 careers.

Now you should be ready to begin your job search in earnest. You have identified 2-3 careers to focus on in your search that best fit your goals and aspirations while still being grounded in reason as you qualify or with some effort could qualify for these careers.

Also, you have now spelt out the criteria that a specific job in a given career needs to satisfy – it is the “Year 1” column from the work sheet above.

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