You might not think that choosing a career is particularly important. After all, it’s just a job, isn’t that right? It’s not as though it has an impact on your wider life, your happiness, your relationships, or even your mental health. Except, however, that whatever it is you do for a living, whether you work for someone else or have decided to become self-employed, does have an impact on all of these things. If you find you are in the wrong sector because you don’t like what you do (or even actively hate doing your work) or because it doesn’t fulfill you or because you know there is something else you should be doing instead, then you will find that it impacts your life negatively. If you have a career you love and that you are satisfied with, you’ll find that everything else in your life becomes more positive too, not least because of your positive attitude.
With that in mind, you can see how important it is to get your career right, or at least know when the time has come to change if you’re not happy. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine what you really should be doing.
What Education or Training Do You Need?
Not all careers require recognized professional qualifications, but some will certainly need specific degrees or some kind of industry certification. Once you narrow down your ideas and start focusing a little more on the different careers you might be able to get into and thrive in; it’s crucial to know what education or training you need. It might be that you are already qualified, or perhaps you need to go back to college, as would be the case if you were required to take part in a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program. Whatever it is, you need to know whether this is something you would be willing to do.
Not everyone is academically minded, so a career that doesn’t require any more education or that is reliant on on-the-job training would be a better match than one that requires any candidate to have a degree or specific industry qualifications. If you love to learn or you know you are capable of doing so, particularly if it will lead you to a good career, then you can work out how to move forward with your plans and get the qualifications you need. In either case, knowing what you are happy to do and what is needed will help you to consider the careers that will work best for you in the end.
What Are Your Interests?
If you’re unsure about what kind of career is going to suit you and, importantly, be a positive influence on your life, then there are few better places to start your thinking than by considering what your interests are. In other words, what is it you do outside of work that fills you with joy and that you find fascinating enough to spend your spare time on? This could relate to hobbies, for example, and will show you not just what you like to do, but what you are good at as well. However, even if you are not ‘good’ in the traditional sense, that doesn’t mean you can’t still find some inspiration here. After all, you don’t have to be an excellent artist or musician to have some creative spark that will help you pick a more creative career. Remember, you don’t have to suddenly look at ways to monetize your hobby; it’s just a good way to start thinking about what direction you might want your career to go in.
If you don’t want to consider specific topics such as your hobby when it comes to finding a new career – or even your first one – that will bring you joy and keep you satisfied, you can think about what you enjoy in a more abstract way. Do you like being inside or outdoors, for example? Do you like being with other people or by yourself? Are you happy to work from home, or would you like a specific workplace to commute to? These will help you narrow down your ideas and help you conduct a more thorough search.
What Are Your Skills?
As we mentioned above, enjoying something and being good at it don’t have to come together; you can get plenty of enjoyment out of something that you have no skill in at all. However, when it comes to working out what kind of career is best for you, your skills will need to be carefully considered because it might be that this is what helps you decide what to do next and which direction you should be going in.
There are two kinds of skills: hard and soft. Hard skills are those that relate exactly to a specific career, such as being able to use a certain piece of machinery or understanding tax laws, or anything else. These can be learned when you know what career you want to go into, although that doesn’t mean they should be discounted when you are thinking of what to do. If you already have some hard skills gained through experience or because you took a specific degree or did some research yourself, then this might help you.
However, it is the soft skills that you need to think about most of all. These are skills that are much harder to learn, and although they can be picked up as you go through life, many are personality traits and are therefore something you already understand and live by. Soft skills are what might also be termed ‘life skills’ and include time management, communication, teamwork, and organizational skills, for example.
Can you combine your hard and soft skills to create a route to go down in terms of your career? Or can you consider all of your soft skills and then find out what hard skills you need to get the job you feel would suit you?
What Are Your Talents and Strengths?
Think back through your life; your talents and strengths will have been a big part of everything you do and have done, and every decision you make and have made from when you were very young. Therefore, it makes sense that you should think about them when it comes to your career. After all, these are strengths you have been honing your entire life, so why not use them in a truly productive way by helping you to find a career you’re truly happy with and that you can go far in?
What’s most important about considering your strengths and talents is that you will be able to find a career that means you don’t ‘waste’ any of these talents. In that way, you will be making the most of your life and doing something that works well for you, no matter what that might be. It’s highly likely that if you can find a career that plays to your strengths, you will be able to not just stick with it for life but progress within it too.
What Is Your Personality?
What is your personality? This is a good and important question, but the first thing to know is what a personality is to begin with. A personality is a combination of everything you think, feel, and how you behave. Put this together, and you will be able to see your personality. Of course, truly being able to determine what kind of personality you have can be difficult, so there are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you come to a conclusion. These are:
- Do you prefer to follow, or do you like to lead?
- Are you happier alone or with others?
- Are you a competitor, or would you prefer to collaborate?
- Do you like to do things for yourself, or do you like to help people?
- Are you a doer or a thinker?
- Are you creative or analytical?
- Do you like routine, or do you prefer not to know what’s happening next?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you understand more about your personality type and, therefore, more about the kind of career that will suit you. If you like structure and routine and you are an analytical thinker, then becoming a freelance photographer probably isn’t something you will enjoy. Equally, if you are creative and like to work with others, being a tax accountant is unlikely to interest you.
What Are Your Values?
No matter who you are or what you like to do, you are going to have some values in life that are important to you. This could be something like financial stability, a good work-life balance, or putting right some kind of social injustice. There are hundreds of different examples as to what your own particular set of values might be.
If you want a career that you’re going to do well in and that you’ll enjoy – two things that are important, particularly the latter – then your job is going to have to align with your values. You might be more interested in what a job pays than anything else if you are keen to find financial security, for example, or perhaps you will not worry about how much you’ll earn as long as you can do some good for a particular sector of society.