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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

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How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

There are thousands of careers to choose from. No wonder finding the one that’s right for you can feel like a guessing game.

Choosing or changing careers can be scary. Even if it’s right for you now, you might wonder, who says it’ll still be a fit in the future?

The truth is, you have to start somewhere. Whether you’re looking for a first job out of college or need a new career, follow this process to find the right one for you:

1. List Out Careers You Could Pursue

It sounds simple, but it’s good advice: Start with what you like. Even before you begin looking for the right career, you probably have an idea of what you’re interested in.

Next, make a second list, this one including your strengths. If you aren’t sure whether you’re actually good at something, ask someone close to you who’ll give you a truthful answer.

Once your lists are made, cross-reference them: What do you like to do and do well?

In a third list, rank these. If you’re skilled at something you don’t particularly like, for instance, that should fall lower on the list.

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2. Take a Career Assessment

Standardized tests shouldn’t make decisions for you, but they can get you pointed in the right direction. Career assessment tests gauge your abilities and interests and make recommendations for career paths based on the answers you give.[1]

Before reviewing your results, take a break. Getting some perspective can help you see whether your answers were guided by your mood. Look at the percentage match and ask yourself whether you could see yourself doing the work of the career or role every day.

For example, if your responses emphasized helping others, the test might point you to a medical career. However, if you don’t want to work in a hospital or clinical environment, you might cut that option or place it lower on your list.

3. Sweat the Details

Every career has gratifying and frustrating things about it. Before you choose one, you need to be clear on those. Reading reviews and job descriptions you find related to each career, make a list of its pros and cons.

There are a lot of factors to think through. Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are the hours required by this type of work? Can they be flexible?
  • What skills are required? Do I possess them, or would I be willing to learn them?
  • What are the education requirements? Can I afford to go back to school?
  • How much do jobs in the field pay? Is the payscale top-heavy or evenly distributed?
  • What does job growth in this sector look like? Are they traditional or contracted roles?
  • Are opportunities in the field available in my area? If not, would I be willing to move?
  • Would I be working solo or on a team?

In answering these questions, you’ll find yourself crossing a lot of careers off your list. Remember, that’s a good thing: You’d rather find out a career isn’t right for you now than after you’ve put yourself on that path.

4. Find the Sweet Spot

The crux of the career question is this: What’s the “sweet spot” between your interests and strengths and the market’s needs? The greater the overlap, the better.

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Be warned that you’ll have to compromise. Perhaps you enjoy working with animals, but there’s no demand for that line of work in your area. You might be good at math, but you wouldn’t want to crunch numbers in a cubicle for a living. Finding balance is crucial.

5. Start Networking

What’s the best way to get the real story about the careers you’re interested in? Talking to professionals in the field.

Where should you find these people?

  • Reach out to local businesses.
  • Scour your social media networks, particularly LinkedIn.
  • Ask a past employer for recommendations.
  • Sign up for industry events and conferences.

Schedule a short interview with each of your new connections. Ask them to weigh in on the comments you see online. Every role and company is a bit different, so don’t be surprised if their responses don’t align.

Regardless of who you find or what they say, write it down. If one interviewee’s responses differ wildly from online responses, chat with someone else in the field. Do your best to find out what’s the rule and what’s the exception.

6. Shadow and Volunteer

As valuable as networking can be, you need a firsthand glimpse of the work. If you hit it off with one of your interviewees, ask to do some job shadowing. Sitting beside someone as they work can help you understand not just the pay and the responsibilities but also the culture and work environment associated with each career.

Job shadowing is a good way to get your feet wet before taking a career plunge. If you felt uninterested or unhappy during your shadowing experience, it’s a good sign that you should ponder a different career path. If your shadowing experience made you want to come back for more, you may have found your calling.

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Volunteer work is an alternative to job shadowing that can get you the experience you need as you analyze your career options. As a volunteer, you can be more flexible with your time and get opportunities you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

7. Sign Up for Classes

Many careers have an academic component that you can’t ignore. If you decide you want to be a lawyer, for instance, you might want to know you can survive law school first.

Sign up for an introductory class or two related to each career you’re interested in. The earlier you do this, the better. If you’re still in college, the class will count as an elective and may be covered by your scholarship, but if not, look for a community college option to keep costs low.

Taking a single class is not the same as earning a degree in the field. With that said, it’s a good way to test the waters before you invest thousands of dollars.

If the content interests you and you look forward to class each week, that’s a good sign. If you start dreading the class or choose to drop it, focus your attention elsewhere.

8. Enter the Gig Economy

Contracted work is a great “try it before you buy it” career tactic. Skipping to an entry-level role requires more commitment than you might want to give while you’re still investigating your options. The gig economy offers the best of both worlds: paid work as well as flexibility.[2]

Gig workers take work from companies or individuals that do not directly employ them. Plumbers and artists are good examples. Rather than receiving a regular paycheck, they sell their services by the task or deliverable.

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In the gig economy, you aren’t bound by long-term agreements. If you don’t like the experience, you can simply move on.

You never know if you’ll enjoy something until you try it. And because contractors work with professionals in the field, gig workers naturally get networking and shadowing opportunities.

9. Market Yourself

As you zero in on your dream career, there’s one final test you can use to find out whether you’ll be successful: marketing yourself as a candidate for hire. Whether you get bites is a key indicator of how you’ll fare in the field.

Beware that, as someone without much experience in the field, you’re going to get a lot of rejections. Don’t be discouraged. If you get two interviews out of 50 applications, think of it as two opportunities you didn’t have before to find your ideal career.

Just as important as outreach is a good inbound strategy. Set up a website, and post your portfolio on it. Describe your dream job on your social media.

Recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates that fit their company. The more exposure you get, the more people will be interested in what you have to offer. Put yourself out there, and you just might find the perfect fit.

Don’t Give Up!

Nobody ever said it was easy to find a career that’s right for you. Finding one is tough enough, and even then, you may find yourself looking for a new field ten years into your career.

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Whatever you want from your professional life, you have to be willing to put in the time. Don’t hesitate, and don’t give up. Start your search today.

More Tips on How to Find a Career

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on September 5, 2021

How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

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How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

I don’t know about you, but it was nearly impossible for me to be proactive at work last year.

Every week, I would map out my game plan and color-coded my calendar. But when I tried to set things in motion, I faced ten-foot barriers that would force me to change direction. I’d have to reschedule meetings, push deadlines back, and reorganize my life because of all the twists and turns. Pivoting became my life, and it was taking over every part of it.

When I think back to 2020, it was like trying to survive the Tour de France blindfolded. By the end of the year, I was worn out, and I was in no mood to organize my 2021 goals. Being proactive was the furthest from my mind. In many ways, I didn’t even want to dream about new projects.

When January 1st entered the scene, I crawled back under my covers and hoped for the best—or at least a year that would be more predictable with less pivoting.

You want to be hopeful for this year, but a part of you is afraid of another year filled with more barriers and you’re tired of trying to survive the chaos. You’re not alone.

Over 100,000 businesses have permanently shut their doors because of Covid-19.[1] Start-Ups aren’t getting a second chance.[2] And according to Pew Research, one in four adults still have a hard time finding money to pay their bills.[3]

This reality is not the most inspiring for those of us who are business leaders. If anything, it feels like the grim reaper is right around the corner to destroy our dreams and add us to the rising number of failed companies.

Being proactive is one of the most challenging things to muster right now. But it is one of the most imperative traits that we need to embrace.

But first, let’s be clear, what does being proactive mean?

Defining the Term “Proactive” In-Depth

The word proactive often floats around the workplace, usually by well-meaning managers asking employees or their team to, “Be more proactive!” But have you ever stopped to think about what that actually means?

The dictionary definition of proactive is, “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.”

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Being proactive is about dealing with any obstacles or challenges before they even happen. Simply put, a proactive person plans ahead.

For example, you’re buying an older home. The seller tells you that it has a sturdy foundation and an engineer confirms it. Most people would be satisfied with this answer.

A proactive person, however, would think beyond what’s presented and look into any potential issues. They may ask questions like, “How long is the lifespan of the foundation?”, “Is it earthquake ready?”, or “Does insurance cover the foundation?”

Depending on the answers, proactive people would respond accordingly and put safeguards in place to avoid these problems or minimise its impact. While it seems like a lot of resources and effort are spent at the beginning, it can actually lessen your stress and save you time and effort because you’re either preventing a problem or already have a solution at hand when the challenge arises.

This doesn’t mean that proactive people never have to put out fires on occasion. However, when you have a proactive mindset, most of the issues that come up seemingly out of left field are already something you’ve considered. And this makes you better equipped to handle situations calmly and enact a solution.

If you want your business to succeed this year, you need to be proactive at work. Situations around the world are constantly changing and you never know what the next month, year or even hour might bring and how it would affect your work. Planning ahead and preparing for the future is incredibly vital in our current climate.

Proactivity vs Reactivity

We can’t discuss proactivity without exploring the other side of the coin: Reactivity.

Being reactive is the complete opposite of being proactive. A reactive person doesn’t feel the need to address a problem until it’s already occurred. They simply react to a situation because it’s already there.

Spontaneity and the ability to address problems as they arise is important in leadership, and in life. After all, we cannot predict the future no matter how hard we try. But oftentimes reactive people encounter problems because they refuse to take action even though there have been warning signs of imminent trouble.

Reactivity also comes from a place of panic. Because you have not thought or planned ahead, you react instantaneously. You may not offer the best solution because you haven’t had time to fully review the situation, and maybe even create more problems.

It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier with the following practical habits that I’ve put together for you. These tools will make all the difference for you and your organization.

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7 Practical Habits to Turn Reactivity into Proactivity

Even proactive people can exhibit reactive behavior. No one is perfect and the corporate and business world can be unpredictable. But you can turn things around and be proactive even when you have not anticipated challenges that face you. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t Be Busy

Repeat after me: only do what is necessary—no more and no less.

If you’re anything like me, as soon as January 1st comes along, you cram in all your five-year goals into one packed year. You love seeing your schedule filled. But being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Being proactive requires you to take a step back, reevaluate your priorities, and actually take things off of your plate before adding new goals.

The brain is not designed to always operate at full capacity twenty-four hours a day.[4] It needs a break. If we’re constantly immersing ourselves throughout the day with frivolous tasks, then we don’t have time to concentrate on our goals.

This year, I’m taking a break from the chaos and learning to do fewer tasks with more investment.

Think of it this way. Planning takes time. It’s like painting an apartment. Before you can add color to the drab walls of your living room, you have to plan and prep the area. The same is true for being proactive at work.

2. Stop Trying to Run Everyone’s Race

If you want to direct the narrative of your life, you need to take a step back and get rid of the clutter. Figure out what you can delegate and then, focus your energy away from the distractions. Not every email needs a reply, and not every job is right for you.

Shakespeare said it best,[5]

“To thine own self be true.”

These six words need to become your mantra.

If you want to reach your goals this year and be proactive, you need to walk forward with laser focus. If you compare yourself or your business to the next big thing, you won’t contribute anything except a lesser copy of yourself and your organization.

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Part of being proactive is being creative. You have to be able to see the different angles and nuances in a situation or project in order to anticipate potential issues and come up with creative solutions. If you’re constantly looking over someone else’s work, you’re not focusing on what’s in front of you. And you could end up missing a lot of obstacles that you could’ve avoided if you were paying attention.

Stop looking around. Your purpose is not to run the race of someone else. If you want to be proactive at work, you need to stop comparing yourself to your neighbor and stick to running your own race. It’s the only way that you’ll win.

3. Make “Essentialism” Your 2021 Word

When you’re figuring out your 2021 goals, take time to weigh the cost. Ask yourself if it’s worth the investment. Being proactive means that you take into consideration all the variables before cementing your goals.

Before you map out your plan or get crazy with those highlighters, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Will this goal help create balance in my life?
  • Will this goal produce a return on investment?

If you can answer a resounding “yes” to both of these questions, then take these ideas and write them down on a piece of paper.

After you’ve compiled a list of 15 to 20 ideas, take a new sheet of paper and break it into two columns. The first section should contain a list of goals that take priority. These ideas would fall under the umbrella of being trend-related and financially profitable.

The second section should contain a list of goals that will increase your social proof and promote your priority goals. This column drives traffic and promotes awareness of your business and your product.

After you’ve compiled this list, break it in half and cut it down to three goals in each section. Three is the perfect number because it gives you leeway to pivot and bend if you need to make changes throughout the process.

The two excellent tools that have helped me develop a schedule of essentialism are Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence Journal[6] and Jill Konrath’s book, “More Sales. Less Time.

Both of these tools have helped me focus on what’s important, make the best decisions for my business, and make a profit without sacrificing my health.

4. Order the Same Latte

When you look at the greats in the business world, they all encompass one thing: simplicity.

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If you minimize your choices and stick to the basics, you’ll have the ability to save time and focus your energy on decisions that require your creativity. Keeping up with the latest fashion trends not only sacrifices your time but also sacrifices your budget.

Remember, it’s not about looking successful. It’s about making choices that give you the ability to be successful.

Here are four things that you can do to save time to make you more proactive at work:

  • Buy multiples of the same outfit and mix and match throughout the week.
  • Order the same drink each day from the same coffee shop.
  • Prepare meals at the beginning of the week for lunch and dinner.
  • Set your alarm for the same time each morning, including weekends.

5. Don’t Pressure Yourself to Respond Immediately

It’s okay to be surprised or be blindsided. Sometimes things just happen that is out of your control. What you are in control of, however, is your reaction. There’s nothing wrong with not having a solution or response at hand. It’s okay to take a step back and think about it first before responding.

6. Put a Pin on It

If you find yourself being unable to come up with a good solution, you can put a pin on it. You may want to address another matter first, one you already know how to deal with. It may give you inspiration and confidence when you come back to your other issues. Unless of course the imminent problem is fire outside your door.

7. Prioritize What’s Important

The thing with problems that come up suddenly, is that they may have already caused damage you can’t reverse. You have to learn to accept the situation and instead of trying to solve the unsolvable, prioritize what’s important, see what you can salvage and take note of lessons that will help you in the future.

It’s impossible to be proactive if you feel rushed. But if you follow the above tips, you’ll gain more time in your schedule and have more energy to lead your business and operate with a well-organized game plan.

Final Thoughts

I think the majority of us are tired of feeling like we’re contestants in Survivor. After all, who wants to be filmed while living in the woods and surviving off of bugs and tree bark?

All kidding aside. This past year has been challenging. But we can learn a lot from these past twelve months.

If you want to be proactive, simplify your schedule, focus on your path, only take what you need, and be purposeful with your time and energy. Being proactive is not about filling up your schedule. It’s about creating balance in your life.

I know it seems daunting right now, and many of us are still trying to figure out how to pay this month’s rent with spare change from the couch. But if you take the time to prepare and figure out what’s a priority this year, you’ll not only meet your goals, you’ll enjoy the journey.

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You have all the tools you need to be proactive at work. Now, go map out your 2021 goals for the year!

More Tips on How to Be Proactive

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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