What to Consider Before You Embark on a New Career

Two businesswomen in suits shaking hands and smiling.People enter their chosen careers for a variety of reasons. Often we have a role model; perhaps mom or dad works in the legal field, so becoming an attorney feels like a natural choice. Our peers can play an important part; if your college is known for an excellent teaching program, or most of your friends are pursuing jobs in school environments, then working in education may seem like the thing to do. And for some, given the rising costs of living and financial needs, income is the highest priority, so a lucrative gig on Wall Street becomes the goal.

All of these factors are important and worthy of consideration, whether you are a young adult thinking about your career for the first time or an established worker who is contemplating a career shift. All too often, however, we limit our career decision-making to these variables. We focus solely on what our friends are doing, what our family wants for us, and how much money we can make. All too often, we neglect the most important variable of all: who am I, and how do I fit into the world of work?

This piece is not nearly as clear and accessible as the external factors. Figuring it out requires a process of meaningful self-exploration and assessment. What are some of my proudest moments? What has historically given me joy? How do I like to spend my free time? What truly drives me? What do I want my work-life balance to look like? What are all of my life roles? Taking the time to explore these issues is valuable not only for increasing self-awareness, but it can make the difference between experiencing long-term career satisfaction and ending up in a field that makes you unhappy.

No matter where you are in your career or life stage, it is never too late to consider key parts of yourself and make a much-needed change. Below are five areas that should be explored in depth before you embark on a career, whether it is your first or your next:

  1. Past accomplishments. You may not think that winning that fourth-grade spelling bee or the delight you felt when you delivered that speech in college relates much to jobs, but it can and it should. Those accomplishments—moments when you felt pride in social, academic, or professional realms—tell a story about you. They can reveal insightful patterns about where you get your drive, passion, and joy.
  2. Interests. Assessing the activities that we truly enjoy doing, whether at work or in our leisure time, can provide direction toward careers that will allow us to engage in these activities.
  3. Skills. We tend to feel happiest when we are exercising the skills in which we are most competent, and frustrated when we are not tapping into our strongest talents.
  4. Values. How much do you know about what motivates you, and to what extent are these ideals influencing your career choices? We feel much more inspired to get out of bed and go to work every day when we are doing a job that helps us live out our values.
  5. Personality. Certain careers allow for the expression of certain personality preferences. It is helpful to examine what your personality preferences are, what the dominant personality type is for different fields, and how easy or difficult it may be to “fit in” to a particular field.

Entering or changing careers is a HUGE decision that will impact all parts of your life. Engaging in self-exploration and processing that journey with a counselor trained in career development theory, practice, and assessment will allow you to make an informed decision before committing to a new job or career. This is a great time of year to consider what changes you need to make in your lifestyle, relationships, and work; make a smart investment in your future by engaging in career counseling to figure out what will not only meet your needs but also make you happy.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Adia Tucker, MSEd, LMHC, Career Counseling Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Cecily

    December 9th, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    You know the one thing that I did not even consider but probably should have at the time? This was what would my job security be in this new profession versus what I currently had. The job that I had before, while terribly boring, paid well and had little chance of me being let go.

    But now? I work as a freelance artist and as most of you know there is not that much stability there… but I would not trade it for anything because I am happier now than I have ever been.

    With that being said if you are younger and have any doubts, this could be something to at least think about before making that leap of faith.

  • Eric

    December 9th, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Great article and perspective. Thank you!

  • Cara

    December 9th, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    You have to think about the timing. Is this the right time to make a big change like this and are you in a place financially that you can withstand some of the growing pains that can come along with making a big career change? Hopefully it will be one that will pay off in the long term but can you withstand it in the short term?

  • Josie

    December 10th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    Gosh I remember those young days of wondering what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a career. Luckily I have been very fortunate and have always had some wonderful jobs, but I have always let them find me, I have never had to go out searching because the right thing sort of always fell into my lap at the perfect time. I wish that this could be the case for everyone but I know that it isn’t. So what I would say would be to follow your heart and your dreams. You spend a lot of time at work so at least try to find that in a place that matters to you and that you feel like you are doing something worth your while. You may not always feel like that but this is what you need, to find something that fulfills you and where you understand that you are making a difference to someone every day.

  • joan

    December 10th, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    you may have to start by looking beyond what you think that other people may want for you and look instead at the things that make you happy and the priorities that you have set for your own self in life. those things can be very different but much better to go with your instincts over what someone else may want for you to choose.

  • Henry

    December 11th, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    For my parents it was always about the money, how much this job or that one would pay, and for me it was always more about fulfillment and what I would get on a personal level from a certain job or career.

    I used to think that they were shallow always thinking about the money, and they thought that I lived with my head in the clouds NOT thinking about the pay, and we have had to learn to compromise a bit together so that we could all see that there are ways to be happy if you balance out what is best in both areas.

  • Adia

    December 12th, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I am pleased that the article has generated discussion. I especially appreciate the comment about the importance of timing when making a career change – very important to ask yourself whether you have the supports in place, financial or otherwise, to change course.

  • solomon

    December 12th, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I always thought that I knew myself well enough to know form the start what I wanted to do after graduating from college.
    Turns out I was very wrong but I know that the decision was a little easier for me to make because I was not married nor did I have kids so I did not have all of the financial worries that other people may have when they are looking for the right timing to start a new career.

  • Julisa

    December 14th, 2014 at 5:17 AM

    MY now ex husband thought that he had it all figured out when he wanted to change jobs all the time, you know that the grass will be greener on the other side. he never once stopped to think about how all of this change and upheaval would affect the rest of the family, he only thought about himself and how this would make him feel. I think that when you have a family you have to go beyond what feels right for you and think a little bit too about how this will impact the whole family. He was never any source of stability for us because he never could find that for himself. We all wanted to be able to depend on him, but he could never provide this for us because there was something that he was always struggling with internally.

  • stp

    December 16th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for all things and changing jobs can be a huge step in the right direction for many folks. But then there are those who do it without thinking, who just hop around from one thing to the next hoping to find the next great thing and it is never there because they are going about it all wrong.

    A job, a career, is never going to give most of us what we need to be happy. It can be a means to some great rewards, but I think that if you are looking for yourself in the things that you do for work, then for me that kind of feels like you are focused on the wrong things. Yes I work and I work hard, but it is not what I live for.

  • Helen

    January 24th, 2015 at 6:53 AM

    I’m 51 and finishing up MS Mental Health Counseling. It was the education and career change I needed to be able to support myself after I got divorced. I started my journey 7 years ago by beginning my bachelors and now and ready to make both marital to single and stay at home mom/ student to career woman leaps simultaneously. Many times our eventual career changes are years ahead of us and we need to stay strong, committed and focused on that goal even if the path swerves along the way.

  • Adia

    January 31st, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    Thank you all for sharing your stories and thoughts! Very interesting.

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