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Find Your Authentic Self and You Just Might Find Your Next Career

Man tying tie on himself

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” —Steve Jobs

For those considering a career change, it can seem overwhelming that the U.S. Department of Labor currently recognizes a total of 12,741 careers. And that number is growing every week! How do you narrow down that list to pursue careers that might be right for you? Where do you start?

Many individuals start the process of career exploration by skipping the exploring. They begin by searching through job listings in the hopes that one or two will jump out at them and the choice will become clear. Others use sites where they can upload their résumé or tweet a mini-résumé to all the large job-search sites in the hopes of hearing back from a few employers. For those who are stressed about which career to pursue, it can feel good just to be doing something concrete that does not require too much time or emotional energy. But if you start your job search before you identify what type of job you actually want, it is likely you will become more discouraged and overwhelmed than when you started.

So what is the best way to explore careers and discover which one(s) might be worth pursuing? My answer to clients when I am asked that question is always the same. The more work you have done getting to know yourself, including understanding and embracing your passions, interests, likes (and dislikes), personality, and abilities, the easier it will be to identify your next career. Putting in this time and effort will also help you more easily develop a strategy to land a job in your chosen field. The catch? It takes work and time. Learning who you are in terms of career is much harder than learning how to look for a job or craft a résumé. That is why a lot of people put it off. If you are willing to put time and energy into discovering who you are in terms of career, it will be an investment in yourself that will help you not only in your career, but also in your relationships.

First, get to know yourself better and continue to discover the authentic “you.” This may not be the “you” that your current coworkers or fellow students have seen. It may not be the “you” that your family members or close friends always see. Many of us learn to adapt and “fit in” to environments so well that we lose touch with parts of ourselves. This step involves introspection and the ability to be honest with oneself. How you accomplish this depends on what works best for you.

Are you a reader? If so, there are several books that could help you identify your passions, values, interests, personality, and abilities. A good place to start is to complete the exercises in Chapter 11 of one of the most established and popular career books, What Color Is Your Parachute?

If you are someone who would rather take personality and career tests, there are many online that may be helpful—and several are free. The Jung Typology Test at humanmetrics.com is similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and does a good job of identifying personality types and linking them to possible careers. After taking the 72-question yes/no test, you will be given a four-letter personality type code. Go to personalitypage.com/careers.html and choose that four-letter code for some career ideas and more information about your type. Though this online test may not give you the exact answers you may be seeking, it will help you start the process of linking your personality type to a career.

If you are a verbal, relational person and would rather talk with someone, it may be most helpful to find an objective friend or knowledgeable career counselor who can lead you through the process. GoodTherapy.org features counselors who specialize in career transitions (do an advanced search for this), and it is helpful to research them online and talk with them ahead of time to find a good match.

If you are a writer, you may find you are best able to think things through by keeping a blog or journal. The important thing is that you find a way to identify what, to you, is motivating, important, interesting, meaningful, and consistent with your personality and abilities.

After investing time and energy in discovering the “authentic you,” the next step is to learn about and identify careers that are consistent with who you are. A good site for this is the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine site at onetonline.org. There, you can do an advanced search and identify careers based on skills, interests, personality, knowledge, values, and more. Careers are identified with comprehensive and detailed information regarding outlook, trends, education needed, job activities, and expected salaries based on region. You can also go to mynextmove.org to take a free “interest profiler” assessment.

As you go through the process of self-discovery and learning about careers, you may find yourself getting stuck or frustrated. You may even be tempted to ignore this part of the process and go straight into a job search. Depending on your financial situation, you may need to find that next job even if you know that it is not what you ultimately want. But if you make a promise to yourself that you will put in the time, effort, and money to work hard and uncover the “authentic you,” and choose your next career based on what you uncover, you will make an investment in your future that will pay off. If you find yourself getting stuck during the process, it is probably time to ask for help from someone you feel is objective and knowledgeable. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep learning about yourself and career possibilities. As Steve Jobs said, you will know when you find it!

© Copyright 2013 by Gail Goodman, MEd, LPC, therapist in Austin, TX. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  • billy January 22nd, 2013 at 11:17 PM #1

    having known my preferred career choices through deep thinking an a lot of work,I took up a psychometric test a couple of months ago.the results were pretty accurate.in fact it surprised me to find that the psychometric test gauged me so well.so folks don’t dismiss these tests,if you find you are not able to put in enough effort o see for yourself then take one of these up,the results are pretty accurate.

  • Howard brock January 23rd, 2013 at 3:58 AM #2

    This is all well and good, but does finding your true self guarantee that you can pay the bills? Does it mean that you can live free from fear of constantly having to worry about how you are going to make it week to week and month to month?
    Call me practical, call me old fashioned, but a job is a job, a means to pay the bills and have some insurance. I am too far gone down that road for too many years to think about my “authentic” self now. Those are indulgences that I have to foster during my time off. Otherwise I am going to work every day at a job that is just okay but has paid the bills for a very long time and kept me and my family very comfortable.
    I think that there is something to be said for that too.

  • victor January 23rd, 2013 at 11:59 PM #3

    and just how do you find your authentic self?I was in a career of accounting and then thought my true calling was to be an activist.now I am neither happy nor do I have enough money.sometimes it seems following your heart is not what will end up making you happy.it has to be heart and mind both.there may be no job or career that makes some people happy,its all about balance.

    so to all those who cannot find their true calling-just hang in there with what you have.a lot of people dream of the job you currently hate!and if it pays the bills then why not grin and bear it!

  • Sampson January 24th, 2013 at 11:42 AM #4

    I would love to change jobs and see which one I enjoy the best or am good at. But money matters do not allow me to do so. I am sure this is the thought that most others have. We do what we do not necessarily because we enjoy it or see it as a perfect fit but because it pays the bills. Sad but true.

  • Brinkermann January 25th, 2013 at 10:32 AM #5

    I do think that it is great to suggest that if we find our true selves then we will be happier overall.
    But in the meantime what do we do?
    I am all for exploring the things that we are the most interested in and seeing if that is actually the perfect way for us to live.
    But what if it’s perfect for us but does not cover the lifestyle we are accustomed to livin g or it doesn’t make us any money at all? Then what do we do? Continue to deny what we are really happy doing?
    There are going to be some times in all of our lives that you have to make some sacrifices and hopefully find a way to balance the things you have to do with the things that you want to do. Hopefully there will be some convergence there and the two will meet but that isn’t always guaranteed to be the case.

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