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Last Updated on September 1, 2021

How to Find the Right Career When You’re Undecided

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How to Find the Right Career When You’re Undecided

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question we have all been asked countless times from early childhood all through our school-age years, and sometimes even as adults!

It’s a great question, and probably one that you will want to explore regularly in your life.

Finding the right career even when you’re undecided can be a challenge, but one worthy of investing your time to discover.

Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life!

I will spare you platitudes like “do what you love and the money will follow.” But I do strongly encourage and promote the idea that you can “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life!”

To live a meaningful life filled with passion and make contributions worthy of your skills, talents, and abilities, you have to spend some time evaluating what you want out of your life and career. You will need to match your skillset and values with your position, which will take some thought and effort on your part.

If you want to know how to find the right career for you, read on.

How Often Do People Change Jobs?

We live in a unique time in history. Regardless of your level or specific area of education, you will have many choices in your life. You will probably hold many jobs (and possibly even multiple careers) throughout your lifetime.

Many people also choose to add to their education base more than once throughout their careers. This not only opens up more options but this also opens you up to more job or career changes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S.), the average person will change jobs 12 times in their lives. [1]

Those statistics vary depending upon age bracket, gender, and geography but regardless of where you fit into the stats, it will be vital for you over time to continually hone your skills, add to your resume, and enhance your “hire-ability”.

Fortunately, with a little focus and effort, it is relatively simple to improve your skills and raise the bar on your education through the virtually endless options for personal development, business training, and general education online.

Why Do People Change Jobs so Often?

There are numerous reasons why people change jobs often, including:

  • More money and security
  • Benefits and perks
  • Satisfaction
  • Relocation
  • Layoffs and company consolidations
  • Better overall feeling of contribution
  • Feeling valued

…and those are just a few!

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Regardless of whether you are happy in your current employment situation or you’re feeling like it is time for a change, there are ways you can find or create a more satisfying and personally fulfilling career.

In fact, there are far more opportunities now in our modern, globally-focused society to design the kind of career that can not only make you happy but also feel like you are contributing.

If you are on the hunt to find the right career, there are a few tips you should consider before settling on your next position.

Tips On Identifying Your Work Style

Identifying your own work style isn’t a difficult ordeal. Consider the following 4 tips to help you identify your own work style.

  • Look at your communication preference. How you choose to communicate does narrow down the type of style you have. For example, active listening skills can be found in someone with a more supportive work style than in others. On the other hand, someone who writes concise emails or is direct in their communication would suggest a detail-oriented work style.
  • Consider how you plan your day. Another key indicator would be how you plan the day. Detail-oriented workers would have a clear plan and rarely miss deadlines. Someone with a more lax work style would have more fluidity and wait until the last minute to complete work.
  • Determine how you handle conflict. Even how you deal with problems can say something about your work style. Someone with a logical working style would welcome a good debate. Others might avoid conflict, even if the argument is friendly in nature.
  • Try a personality test. Personality tests are the fastest way to discover your personality. They provide specific questions that can result in pinpointing who you are in a general sense. Many employers use these tests as well to determine where candidates or employees would be best suited too.

6 Steps to Find the Right Career When You’re Undecided

1. Start With a Complete “Personal Inventory Exercise” (P.I.E)

Most people build their resume and job search parameters around their specific education and work experience. While the degree (or degrees) you have and your previous job experience are important, you also have an entire set of unique life experiences that contribute to what you know and how you operate in the world.

Don’t underestimate the value of your life experience.

When working with a new coaching client, the first thing I do is walk them through a Personal Inventory Exercise (or P.I.E., as in “all the pieces of your PIE”).

Begin by pulling out a sheet of paper, journal, or a blank document on your computer and just start writing.

Your P.I.E. should start with the obvious elements like your formal education and work experience (including paid and unpaid work, internships, literally every job you had all the way back to your paper route when you were 12, or selling Girl Scout cookies).

What have you learned from each of those?

Starting with your education is ideal because it is easy to remember and will help to get you into a good flow.

Then, just keeping writing.

Put down all the workshops, seminars, independent study, work-abroad programs, arts, music, writing, books you have read, and audiobooks you have heard.

You can also include intangible pieces of your PIE, like your relationships (friendships, romantic, marriage) and what you learned from them, like painful life experiences like the loss of close friends or family members and parenting skills.

Include also your travels and what you learned from other cultures, domestically or internationally.

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When you finish, review everything, sum it all up in a few paragraphs and now you’re fully cocked and loaded for the next steps in your career discovery journey.

The ultimate purpose of doing this exercise is the profound insights you will glean from simply taking the time to realize just how valuable you are before you get started on your career search.

It forces you to see your own value based on a broader view. It allows you to see yourself as more than just a product of your formal education but also your ongoing life experience and independent interests.

You will likely be surprised and perhaps even amazed at what you discover through doing an exercise like the P.I.E.

2. Focus On Your Values

Understanding your core values will help you focus on the job you really want. [2]

Your values determine what is most important to you in your life. More than you might realize, your underlying core values are also your ultimate drivers when it comes to decision-making.

For example, after exploring your core values, you may find that freedom and independence are important to you that you might decide to set aside the “job” market for an entrepreneurial pursuit.

So, spend some time getting clear about your personal and business values by asking yourself exploratory questions like these:

  • What is most important to you?
  • What drives and motivates you?
  • How important is money to you?
  • What kind of people do you prefer to work with?
  • What do you admire in others who work in your field?
  • Do you prefer to collaborate or work independently?
  • What is a “deal-breaker” for you? In other words, what types of situations (or people) will you absolutely NOT tolerate?

Understanding your own values is an essential element in this process.

Prospective employers often ask value-based questions in the interview process, so understanding your own values will help you in landing your ideal job or career once you have discovered what you want to do.

3. What Are Your Short And Long-Term Career Goals?

It is always surprising to me how many people I encounter who don’t know where they want to be in a year or two, or five years, or 20 years. After all, how will you get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going?

Setting specific goals help you stay focused on your desired outcome. Writing those goals down is vital to the process as well. With your personal inventory and values in place, it should be simple to start writing down your goals.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” ~ Napoleon Hill

One commonly used goal-setting tool is called SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym for:

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  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Sensitive

Using the SMART goal system is a great place to start. You should also set specific goals in life categories beyond your career, like personal, spiritual, education, and any other area that is important to you.

While I am a firm believer in long-term goals, you can only take action in the short-term because, in reality, you can only work on today. So, having a system for tracking your goals daily is powerful. You might start with 90-Day or Quarterly (short, achievable), then 1-Year, 5-year, and 20-year goals.

This will give you both a short and long-term view of how you see your life unfolding, which will give you important insights on how to choose your career path.

4. What Kind of Career Do You Really Want?

With the foregoing in mind, now consider your ideal options.

Make a list of the possibilities that fit into your P.I.E. – your values and your goals – and then ask yourself the question that we started with:

“What do I really want to be when I grow up?”

Let that little kid in you just dream for a few minutes about the “perfect” scenario.

Imagine yourself in your perfect job environment, doing what you love to do (so you never work a day in your life).

What does that look like? How does it feel? What are you doing on a day-to-day basis?

Consider the type of work you have already done, and take note of what made you feel like you were accomplishing something important.

Which jobs did you do (or possibly observed others do) that were “in the zone” for you? If there was a certain part of your job that you always looked forward to doing, what was that?

5. Make a List of Possible Career or Job Options

Now that you have a clear picture of what you would like to be doing, you can start making a list of the possibilities that might fit those parameters.

List the careers you already know that fit the bill. Then, do some research to determine what else might be out there that you have not yet discovered.

Ask people in your network or on social media channels for information about those types of careers, or who they know that might be currently doing what you want to do.

“Who do you know?” is a very powerful question to ask your friends, family, business contacts, and social media connections.

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When you track down a few of the people who are either doing what you do, working at a firm that you are considering, or know someone who is, have a conversation with those people and ask questions to gain insights about that particular job or career.

Once you have performed your research, then you’re ready to take your final step.

6. Choose the Options That You Think Will Work Best for You and Go For It!

Now for the fun part! Make a list of your chosen options in order of top priority. Then simply set your targets and start connecting with the companies on your list that have openings in your field (or might in the near future).

You can once again contact people in your network, and ask that magic question:

“Who do you know at [this company]?”

In your research process, you probably even made some new contacts that might help you go in the right direction or refer you to the right person to contact for an interview.

13 Career Quizzes You Can Try

There are several types of career quizzes available that you can consider. Many are free while some will require payment to get the full results. Here is a list of some top rated career quizzes:

  • My Next Move: 0*Net Interest Profiler – Identifies where your career interests lie and what kind of careers will feed those interests. It’ll display current jobs that would fit your needs now but also makes predictions on future jobs too.
  • 123Test.com’s Career Aptitude Test – Using the Holland Code result, you’re given a personality type and career choices based on the associated type and occupations that work with that type.
  • What Career Is Right For Me – By ranking your skill set along with interests, work style, values, salary expectations, and potential growth, the test provides you with a career field that can fall within those parameters. It even provides links to job descriptions and job openings.
  • Truity’s Big Five Personality Test – Figure out how you relate to others and uncover other personality traits. It’s particularly useful in understanding how you handle your work and your co-workers mostly.
  • MyPlan.com’s Various Tests (Some are free while others cost upwards of $20) – Through four different assessment options, you can get an ideal career option through the information similar to a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, one of the most popular tests that categorises you in one of 16 personality types.
  • CareerExplorer’s Career Test (Free, but the premium reports costs $35)- Measures your interests, history goals, and more, this in depth report gives you personalized top career matches and insights. 
  • CareerFitter.com’s Career Test (Free to $40) – A 60-question quiz to identify personality strengths and apply those to seeing where you work best. The free version gives you core strengths and management style information but the premium provides you with a 10-page report with deeper information in helping you find a suitable career, shows you potential weaknesses, and provides you with an ideal business environment. 
  • MAPP Career Test (Free sample but costs $89.95 or more for full results.) – Focusing on your motivations, the test reveals what tasks you like best, how you like to do them, how you deal with people, data, things and more. A free sample gives you a general view (and 10 possible career options) but paid versions provide in-depth information to make the decision easier.
  • Self-Directed Search ($9.95) – Matching people with jobs based on aspirations, activities, interests, and more. It’s a more personalized report that’s similar to the Holland theory personality test.
  • Riso-Hudson Ennagram Type Indicator ($12) – Indicates which of the nine Enneagram types you are like. From there it can give you an assessment of how to get along with people and what characteristics you need in a career for it to be fulfilling.
  • CliftonStrengths ($20 or more) – Uncovers what you naturally do best and helps to develop your strengths and indicates fitting skills to advance your career.
  • MBTI Instrument (There are free versions but the full and actual test costs $50 for basic online reports and $175 for the full with personal feedback.) – Widely popular, the MBTI categorizes you into a personality type that points to careers that would suit you best. The test can also reveal what sort of environments you excel in and what working preferences too.
  • Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation Aptitude Assessment ($750 for most offices with it being $850 in San Francisco, Florida, and Austin) – An expensive but highly detailed test that provides an abundance of information about your career paths. You’ll discover your natural aptitudes and strengths and help you pinpoint the appropriate field. Note that these tests are only available at 11 testing centers across the country.

As the saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The second best time is now.” Similarly, taking a career test at this point in your career is not a bad thing. It would’ve been prudent to take this test sooner if you’re in a job that you don’t like or feel uncertain about.

Good Luck on Your Search for the Right Career!

All of these empower you when it comes to finding your ideal career path. The previous six steps are designed to give you more clarity about what you really want to be doing.

Depending on what you are seeking, it may not always be easy to hit the bulls-eye on the first time out. But remember that clarity and focus allow you to keep your eye on the prize.

Keep up your persistence and go after what you really want, so you can live a life that brings you satisfaction and purpose through your chosen career path.

More Tips on How to Find the Right Career

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jeffrey Howard

Jeffrey Howard is a Serial Entrepreneur, Peak Performance Coach and Consultant, Bio/NeuroHacker, Speaker, Author, Trainer, Musician and Producer

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Last Updated on November 30, 2021

4 Effective Ways To Improve Your Work Performance Greatly

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4 Effective Ways To Improve Your Work Performance Greatly

Peak performance in the workplace is essential for company growth and high-levels of productivity, but what’s easy to do is also easy not to do.  Searching “work performance” in Google pulls up 4,180,000,000 results in less than one second. To say that work performance is a buzzword is a complete understatement.

Everyone and their mother are interested in finding the latest gadgets and hacks to optimize their workplace productivity and output. Companies are caught between a rock and a hard place as they attempt to navigate the uncharted waters of working from home while keeping their employee productivity levels high. Sadly, if businesses had prioritized the essential components of creating quality company cultures, instilling trust in their employees, and showing high-levels of empathy before the pandemic, most wouldn’t be finding themselves in this situation.

Work performance, a highly subjective term, essentially comes down to finding ways to maximize an employee’s use of time, energy, and results, as these are things that can be both measured and used as a marker for productivity. While time is fixed and can never be changed, energy levels are fluid in nature and can become depleted over time unless people know how to harness it, and results are the end product of productivity.[1] They can be measured and, to be frank, are usually independent of the time or energy it takes to reach an end goal.

To truly understand how to improve performance at work, we need to understand what controls these factors.

The brain controls everything, which is why no single “hack,” pill, therapy, or product will be the cure-all for maximizing productivity at work.[2] The brain isn’t binary. It’s complicated and requires many factors to function at its highest level.[3] So, if you genuinely want to improve your performance at work, you must heavily invest in the maintenance of maximizing your brain and cognitive output.

1. Move Your Body to Activate Your Brain

If we were able to bottle up the effects of physical movement into a pill, it would be a blockbuster drug for the rest of eternity due to the exponentially growing body of research showing how effective exercise is in improving brain function cognitive processing.[4]

While physical exercise has traditionally been used to improve our physical structure, lose weight, and increase cardiovascular endurance, the game has completely changed with the growing number of research showing its beneficial effects on mental and psychological processing.[5]

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Physical exercise is one of the most influential activities one can do to improve their mental performance, which then improves your performance at work. It can change DNA expression and create molecules of emotion that can improve your mood, provide mental clarity, and change the way your brain processes information.[6]

Movement vastly increases blood flow to the frontal lobe, a region on the brain responsible for cognitive processing, high-level thinking, and maintaining mental alertness.[7] It also increases oxygenation to the body, which improves your body’s ability to create energy and maintain mental focus for long periods. And while physical exercise can be one of the most efficient ways to activate the brain, it can also help you lose weight, which can also have detrimental effects on your productivity.

Research has shown that visceral fat stored around the body can decrease your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate due to the inflammatory markers fat creates throughout the body.[8] By losing weight and exercising, your can dampen inflammatory processes that are clogging your drain pipes of processing while also improving circulation and oxygenation to tissues that need it the most. And guess what? It doesn’t cost you a penny to take the initiative to get out and move.

Studies have shown that physical movement for as little as 10 minutes duration can provide significant benefits, vastly increasing your brain’s ability to update your internal software for enhanced memory and processing capacity.[9]

2. Take a Break to Get Ahead of Your Workload

People love talking about the number of hours they put into their work, with forums and LinkedIn posts chock full of individuals boasting about how many hours they dedicated to projects during the week. While this may sound great in theory, we know it’s full of fallacies and lies because it doesn’t jive with what neuroscience tells us about brain function.

Studies show that the brain has a maximum processing time of about 90 minutes before we start to see cognitive processing decline in quality.[10] As we continue down this path towards longer hours with no breaks in-between, we begin to see a vast increase in simple processing errors and mistakes, which mean lost time taking steps backward to retrace your steps to fix your errors.

It also means the brain can no longer perform at the levels it initially started with, making the tasks more challenging to complete and increasing the amount of time it will take to finish a project. We’ve seen this play out in endless scenarios, but they hold weight when taken from medical emergencies and surgeries.

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Studies have shown that doctors performing medical procedures and making diagnoses at the 17th to 19th hour have an intoxicated individual’s equivalent mental capacity with a .05 BAC.[11] Does that make you think twice about booking your next surgery?

Taking a break from your work doesn’t mean you should sit and scroll through social media sites or be a troll on Reddit. You need to break away from work and do something that will replenish your energy stores and stimulate your brain. Taking a walk, laughing with a coworker, or even closing your eyes and doing meditation for a few minutes can vastly improve your performance at work and recovery time without skipping a beat of productivity.

3. Sleep Like Your Life Depends on It (Because It Does)

Sleep is a superpower. All organisms in the animal kingdom sleep to some extent, which provides some pretty compelling evidence about the importance of sleep and its role in our general health.

Sleep isn’t just a time to take a break—multiple chemical and physiological processes take place while we sleep, helping us regenerate tissue and restore our bodies to a high level. We now know that while we’re asleep, the fluid inside the brain (cerebrospinal fluid) increases in both flow and velocity to help the brain clear out toxins that build up throughout the day.[12] This internal housekeeping is a vital component of brain health and is theorized to be a hallmark sign of an aging brain.

Sleep has also been an influential factor in our mental health. It allows our brain to process information throughout the day and pose theoretical future situations through dreaming and lucid-like states of cognition.[13]

Memories are also filtered, consolidated, and stored with different sleep stages, which can significantly impact your performance at work and productivity over the long term.[14] If your boss always has to remind you of previous conversations in the boardroom, do you think they will trust you with major tasks and projects to get that next promotion?

Your memory can serve as your best friend in the workplace, which is why prioritizing sleep and making it a staple in your lifestyle can be a significant factor in your career trajectory—greatly improving your performance at work. Plus, sleep dysfunction can be one of the earliest signs of aging, especially in the early stages of neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.[15]

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4. Fast-Track Your Way to Success With Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Food will always be the fuel that powers our internal engine, so why do so many people make such poor food choices?

For many, it’s usually easier to blame a food than it is to blame our decisions or actions about choosing that food. Poor food choices lead to poor brain function, promoting excessive amounts of inflammation and high levels of blood sugar, which can inevitably tear down your body’s castle walls of immunity and self-repair mechanisms.[16]

Without drawing a line in the sand about which diet or dietary guidelines you should follow, it’s safe to say that in general, if your food came from the ground, it’s probably safe to eat. While keeping this in mind, there’s an even more critical caveat to consider: Intermittent Fasting (IF).[17]

Although fasting has been around for millennia and played a pivotal role in religious ceremonies for thousands of years, it has recently made a comeback in the public eye due to its remarkable capacity to prolong life and protect our DNA.

Fasting from food (especially foods that increase our blood sugar levels) can significantly influence the body’s ability to repair and do internal housekeeping, which is a constant battle that never ends. Fasting from food allows the body to route coveted resources to other remodeling projects in the gut, brain, and body, facilitating a sort of “taking out of the trash” scenario to improve cellular efficiency and output.

With fasting, we see inflammation levels decrease, blood sugar levels drop off, insulin sensitivities increase, and we’re able to get rid of old cells that slow down the rest of the chain in command.[18] These senescent cells are old cells that are too energy-intensive for the body to demolish, so they stick around and slow down other cellular processes, kind of like the slow group in golf that holds up the rest of the course for the entire day.[19]

Fasting can also give our brain additional energy reserves through the production of ketones created from the breakdown of fat within the body. This process serves multiple purposes of getting rid of unwanted weight and fueling the brain on high-octane fuel.[20] And the best part about fasting? It costs you NOTHING. Zero. Nada. Zip. It will decrease your grocery bill and help you lose weight, increase your energy levels, sleep better, have more sex drive, and make your brain work at a higher capacity.

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Putting It All Together

It will always be up to you to decide how to implement these tools. No one else can make these choices for you, so if you’re looking to take your game to the next step to hit that promotion, finish that project, or improve your status within your company, choose one of these habits and own it for the next 30 days.

The goal with this is to make it into a lifestyle, not a diet or short-term focus. You can have our cake and eat it too. It will just take hard work and dedication on your end.

These habits may seem daunting, but try to remember that brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and getting dressed for the day used to be a daunting task for you when you were growing up. Habits become effortless because you do them more often, allowing your brain to use less energy and mental real estate to finish up a task.

Turning these tasks into daily habits will allow you to neurologically and cognitively maximize your personal and professional life. Make the hard choices now to live an easy life later.

More Tips on Excelling at Work

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Workfront: The Right Way to Measure Work Performance: Results, Not Tasks
[2] NCBI: Major Structures and Functions of the Brain
[3] NCBI: Physiology, Cerebral Cortex Functions
[4] NCBI: The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities
[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight
[6] Scientific American: How Exercise Affects Your Brain
[7] SpringerLink: Acute Effects of Physical Exercise on Prefrontal Cortex Activity in Older Adults: A Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study
[8] The Journal of Clinical Investigation: Visceral adipose NLRP3 impairs cognition in obesity via IL-1R1 on CX3CR1+ cells
[9] Harvard Health Publishing: Need a quick brain boost? Take a walk
[10] Psychological Review: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance
[11] BMJ Journals: Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
[12] Scientific American: Deep Sleep Gives Your Brain a Deep Clean
[13] NCBI: Does improving sleep lead to better mental health? A protocol for a meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials
[14] NCBI: About Sleep’s Role in Memory
[15] NCBI: Sleep dysregulation, memory impairment, and CSF biomarkers during different levels of neurocognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s disease course
[16] ASPEN: Diet and Inflammation
[17] NCBI: Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Feeding Compared to Continuous Energy Restriction for Weight Loss
[18] NCBI: Fasting induces an anti-inflammatory effect on the neuroimmune system which a high-fat diet prevents
[19] NCBI: The role of senescent cells in ageing
[20] NCBI: Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy

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