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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, therapist in New York City, New York
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