Before we’re old enough to vote or even get a driver’s permit, people are asking us what we want to be when we grow up. While most of us don’t ever grow up to become astronauts or princesses, the question of “What job should I have?” is one that perplexes a lot of people — and for good reason.
Finding a career that hits all the right marks of money, satisfaction, and work-life balance is no easy feat. Sure, there are hundreds of online quizzes out there from the goofy to the scientific that promise to tell you what job is right for you, but have you ever met anybody who entered a career field because of a job quiz they took?
Landing the right career is more a path of discovery than anything else. Most people simply have to go through a bit of trial and error to discover what job they should. Take some time to ponder these questions and examine how each plays into your own path of discovery towards the right job.
1. What Are Your Interests?
This question often gets rephrased as “What are you passionate about?” Looking at potential careers with a requirement of passion, however, isn’t particularly constructive. Most people like a lot of things, but how many of your likes would you say you have a genuine passion for?
The idea that following our passions will lead to happiness is fraught with inaccuracy. For starters, research suggests that people aren’t particularly good at predicting how they’ll feel about something in the future. The workforce is full of people who thought they’d love a chosen career but ended up hating it a few years later.
Let’s ditch the word “passion” and replace it with “interests” as it allows for a broader path of discovery. Most people don’t finish college with a passion for advertising, but they may have interests in graphic design, writing, and psychology.
2. What Kind of Personality Do You Have?
Your personality can play a huge role in determining your success in a job. How you think and behave naturally impact what job is right for your unique way of looking at the world. Some of us like calling the shots and directing others in a team setting, while others prefer to follow orders and buckle down on a particular task at hand.
If you’re outgoing and high-energy, a job where you’re working alone at a desk for hours probably isn’t the right fit.
Consider taking an inward look at your personality and asking yourself a few questions when exploring potential job and career possibilities.
- Do you like to lead or follow?
- Do you consider yourself competitive?
- Do you like structure and routine or do you prefer flexibility and freedom?
- Are you promotion or prevention-focused?
Another aspect of your personality to take into consideration when exploring job possibilities is the promotion or prevention mindset.
Those with a promotion mindset tend to see goals as an opportunity for advancement and achievement. They are more likely to seize opportunity and embrace risk but are also more prone to error.
The flip side of the personality coin is those who have more of a prevention mindset. They tend to look at goals a layer of security. They are often very analytical and detail-oriented in their thinking, but they may work slower and be less likely to take risks.
Both mindsets are better suited for certain jobs than others, and most of us tend to have a dominant focus that leans more towards one than the other.
3. Who Do You Want to Work With?
You’re going to spend a large chunk of your time working, and, depending on the job, that could mean being surrounded by a lot of people or hardly any at all. Some of us are more social and spending eight or nine hours a day alone would be torturous. Then there are those of us who would be miserable working in an office with 300 other people.
Getting along with your coworkers can have a big impact on your job satisfaction and performance, but it’s also important that you take into account the people you’ll be serving. If a job is a poor social fit — for example, an introvert in public relations — there’s a high probability of unhappiness.
4. What Culture Comes With the Job?
Doing some investigation work can quickly answer whether a particular career is a good match for your personality. Those who consider themselves to be a free spirit probably won’t be happy or perform well in a rigid industry with strict guidelines, such as the insurance industry.
Looking at the culture of a specific job should be taken into consideration before accepting any employment offers. Creating a winning company culture is a discussion for another time, but if the company’s beliefs, work environment, and mission doesn’t align with your own values, it’s probably not the best fit.
5. What Education or Training Do You Have?
Most careers are going to require some sort of training. Now, of course, many artistic careers do involve formal education programs, but it’s also not uncommon for professionals to be self-taught. The self-educated route isn’t an option for many jobs, though — nobody wants to visit a self-taught brain surgeon — and years of schooling may be required.
When considering a potential job field, there are three important questions to ask yourself:
- Is advanced training needed?
- How long is the training program?
- Am I willing to spend the money needed for it?
If you’re feeling uneasy about the realities of these answers, it may be time to look at other options.
6. Can You Learn to Be Good at It?
If a person isn’t good at their job, they’re likely to either burn out and quit or get fired. However, nobody is going to be good at their job right out of the gate. Author Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, for example, argues that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Whether or not this is completely true, expertise is something that comes with time and practice.
Nobody is going to be good at everything, no matter how much time they put in. I could spend all the time in the world working on math, but I’ll never be a mathematician. It’s just not something I have a knack for.
This is why it’s so important to try different things. Eventually, you will stumble upon something and have that lightbulb moment where you realize you could be good at it.
7. Is There Room for Growth in the Field?
Alright, let’s get practical for a second. Some career fields are simply going to offer a lot more career possibilities and job growth than others. As much as you may have an interest in 15th-century Polish poetry, there just aren’t a lot of jobs out there that need that sort of expertise.
It is generally a good rule of thumb to aim for a field that’s hiring. A dwindling industry may have increased competition or little room for long-term career growth. Check around for which industries and career fields are going places and which ones are on the decline.
8. How Much Work-Life Balance Do You Need?
Lots of jobs don’t function on a 9 to 5 schedule, so it’s important to examine what sort of work-life balance you need and how that matches up with potential job choices. Some people may enjoy the rigidity of a 9 to 5, while others may want something that changes from day to day.
Do some background research into a potential job’s requirements regarding travel and what sort of hours people in that field tend to work. If you’re not willing to work an overnight shift, going into a field such as police work or nursing probably isn’t a good fit.
9. Where Do You Want to Live?
Even with the advantage of the internet, there are some jobs that are still limited to location. There’s little need for crab fisherman in Nebraska. Having an idea of where you want to live is another important factor that too many people neglect when exploring what job might be right for them.
If you’d like to work in the fashion industry or as a lawyer, there’s a good chance that living in a bustling urban environment such as New York, Miami, or Chicago is in your future. If you have an interest in the outdoors and environmental conservation, you’re probably going to find more jobs in rural areas.
10. Will the Money Match up With Your Personal Needs?
Ah, the money question. Obviously, this is one question that can’t be ignored. Money shouldn’t be the main factor when deciding what job you have, but it is definitely is a factor to consider.
Do a little research on the average salary for a particular job and then ask yourself if it’s enough for you to comfortably live on.
How much money we need to live comfortably often changes as our lives progress, so take career growth and the money that comes with it into consideration.
There’s no secret formula for finding what sort of job you should have other than exploration. Just like finding the right life partner, you simply have to see what’s out there and what’s a good match.
It will likely take some time and self-reflection, but by carefully examining your own personality, needs, strengths, and interests, you’re that much more likely to provide a good answer when you start asking “What job should I have?”
More Tips on Finding the Right Job
- How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You
- 6 Steps to Finding the Perfect Career
- The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career
Featured photo credit: Nik MacMillan via unsplash.com
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