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5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Career

5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Career

“You can do anything you put your mind to.” If you grew up in the late 80s or 90s, this is something you heard often either at home or on TV. And that’s a good thing—much better, at least, than the, “Get the highest paying job possible and count the days down to retirement” school of thought.

When your many years of education are behind you and it’s time to actually pick what that “anything” is, both pieces of advice can be paralyzing (and depressing). For some, finding the right career is simply a matter of browsing through job ads. For many others, the process takes a lot of exploration, self-reflection, and a willingness to redirect when necessary.

Whether you’re fresh out of college or a decade down the road, it’s important to embrace the process full-on. These 5 crucial questions are a great place to start.

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1. What am I good at?

Knowing what you’re good at—as in, really knowing—can be more complicated than it at first seems. Essentially, this breaks down into:
What you’re passionate about. Don’t confuse this with a bigger, more vague dream. Instead, do an inventory of pursuits both big and small that get you all fired up and have you losing track of time. Rather than, “becoming a rock star,” look for specific skills like, “learning new instruments,” “writing songs,” “talking about art” and, “interacting with a crowd.” This will help you not only pursue your bigger dreams, but also identify traits that can apply to jobs that are less of a reach.
Tasks you do easily. Sure, it might not be your life’s dream to lead a group of people, but if you find yourself naturally stepping into leadership positions, you might just be management or classroom bound. The same goes for those well-structured emails you type out rapidly, or your ability to sketch out a design in seconds flat. While placing easy tasks at the center of your career course won’t do you much good (feeling like your career is challenging and provides room for growth is crucial for satisfaction), skills that come easily to you can form the basis of greater things.
What other people say you do well. Most of us are shockingly poor judges of our own strengths and weaknesses, whether due to overconfidence or complete lack thereof. The younger you are, the truer this is likely to be, as you simply haven’t had the breadth of experience to show you just where you thrive. Asking peers, parents, teachers, colleagues and mentors to articulate your skills, either in a list, a resume, or a recommendation letter, can unearth strengths and interests you didn’t even know you had, or shed new light on talents you may be taking for granted.

2. What locations am I comfortable living in?

This one isn’t nearly as superficial as it sounds. Chances are, you’re going to be sticking with your chosen career for a while, and that means heading where the jobs are. For some jobs, like freelance writing, designing, and well, just about anything that can be done over the internet, it really doesn’t matter whether you work from Miami or Timbuktu  But if you choose magazine publishing, chances are you’ll wind up in New York. Entertainment industry? LA. Oil? Houston. Farming? The countryside.
As such, it’s worth considering what you need from the place you live, such as:
Amenities and Homes: Living in an 800-square foot apartment in Manhattan provides a much different experience than a 2,000 foot home in the suburbs. Determine what amenities are important to you both inside and outside of your living space.
Culture and Lifestyle: Do you enjoy living in a city with a constant stream of art openings, concerts, readings, tastings and other events, or do you prefer a slower lifestyle? Do you mind living in a place where the majority of people have different life values and political beliefs, or are you okay mixing it up? Culture and lifestyle inform who we are every day.
Access to Nature: Will Central Park suit your fancy, or do you prefer the nearby lakes, mountains and streams of a place like Seattle? Or would you rather call a mountain “neighbor” on your Montana ranch? While you may need to make compromises, it’s important not to choose a career that will keep you far away from the things that rejuvenate you and give you meaning.

3. How much control do I need over my own time?

Some people love the structure of a corporate job; other people hate it. For the former, this is simply a question to check off and move on. For the latter, it’s important to examine each potential career path with questions like:
• How much travel will there be?
• How much teamwork and meetings will be required?
• Are there opportunities to work from home either full or part-time?
• How flexible is the vacation policy?
• How strict are the hours? Will there be a lot of overtime?
• Are there opportunities at companies in this industry to do things like Google’s 20 percent time?
In some cases, the answers to these questions will be obvious. A congressional aide, for example, will have far less control over her time than a woman who runs a business out of her own home. But in many cases, these are things that can only be discovered as you go. What’s more, greater control is sometimes easier to find as you rise in the ranks, so it’s always best to keep an eye on future potential.

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4. Am I more introverted or extroverted?

Introverts and extroverts bring different sets of skills to the table. Extroverts will be miserable in a role that requires a lot of introverted skills, while introverts will similarly struggle when forced into an extrovert’s shoes. A few things to consider in any given role:
• Amount of public speaking
• Pace and amount of deadlines and communication
• Amount of teamwork and collaboration with colleagues
• Degree of stimulation in the work environment
• Amount of off-work socializing required
For a deeper look at this topic, we highly suggest reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking or watching her eye-opening TED talk.

5. How much money do I really need?

For some people, million dollar dreams need to be million dollar realities before they’re satisfied. Other people are much more comfortable at lower income levels, just as long as certain needs are fulfilled. Artists, for example, might be okay scraping by as long as they can do what they love, while non-profit workers can make do with less as long as they feel they’re giving back.

Consider how important it is to you to:
• Own your own home
• Consistently put away for longer term financial goals, like your retirement or a future child’s college fund
• Go on X number of vacations each year
• Be able to buy whatever you want, whenever you want

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The overall idea here is to pick a lifestyle, not a job title. Keep in mind that this, too, will change as you grow into your career and potentially have a family. For the best results, set monetary goals in increments of 5 years, and check these goals against your chosen path.

The Takeaway

In today’s market more than ever, a career is an evolving thing, with many professionals holding multiple titles within their lifetime. It’s really not about going all for passion, or all for money. It’s about balancing your wants and needs with your goals, talents and skills, and rerouting wherever needed.

For more on this subject, we suggest taking a read through this extensive career guide from Rasmussen College, and taking a spin through the data visualization below.

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what career is right for me

    Click image to open interactive version (via Rasmussen College).

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    Last Updated on August 10, 2020

    10 Things You Should Do If You’re Unemployed

    10 Things You Should Do If You’re Unemployed

    Regardless of your background, times today are tough. While uneven economies around the world have made it incredibly difficult for many people to find work, the recent COVID pandemic has made things worse.

    Regardless of age and qualification, stretches of unemployment have affected us all in recent years. While we might not be able to control being unemployed, we can control how we react to it.

    Despite difficult conditions, there are many ways to grow and stay hopeful. Whether you’re looking for work, or just taking a breather between assignments, these 10 endeavors will keep you busy and productive. Plus, some may even help push your resume to the top of the next pile.

    Here’re 10 things you should do when you’re unemployed:

    1. Keep a Schedule

    It’s fine to take a few days after you’re finished at work to relax, but try not to get too comfortable.

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    As welcoming as permanently moving into your sweatpants may seem, keeping a schedule is one way to stay productive and focused. While unemployed, if you continue to start your day early, you are more likely to get more done. Also, keeping up with day to day tasks makes you less likely to grow depressed or inactive.

    2. Join a Temp Agency

    One of the easiest ways to bridge the gap between jobs is to find temporary work, or work with a temp agency. While many unemployed people job hunt religiously, rememberer to include temp agencies in the search.

    While not a permanent solution, you will be in a better position financially while you search for something permanent.

    3. Work Online

    Another great option if you’re unemployed is online work. Many different sites offer a variety of ways to make money online, but make sure the site you’re working for is reputable.

    Micro job sites such as Fiverr and Upwork as well as sites that pay for you to take surveys, are all quick, legitimate options. While these sites sometimes offer lower pay, it’s always better to move forward slowly than not at all.

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    Here’s How to Find and Land a Legit Online Work from Home Job.

    4. Get Organized

    Unemployment is an excellent opportunity to get organized. Embark on some spring cleaning, go through old boxes, and get rid of the things you don’t need. Streamlining your life will help you dive head first into the next chapter, plus it helps you feel like your unemployed time is spent productively.

    Try these tips: How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

    5. Exercise

    Much like organizing your life, another good way to keep yourself enthusiastic and healthy is to exercise. It doesn’t take much to get slightly more active, and exercise can help you stay positive. Even a walk around the block a few times a week can do a lot for keeping you motivated and determined. If you take care of yourself, you can make the most of this extra time.

    6. Volunteer

    Volunteering is an excellent way to use extra time when you’re unemployed. Additionally, if you volunteer in an area related to your job qualifications, you can often include the experience on your resume.

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    Not only that, doing good is a true mood booster and is sure to help you stay optimistic while looking for your next job.

    7. Improve Your Skills

    Looking for ways to increase your job skills while unemployed is a good way to move forward as well. Look for certifications or training you could take, especially those offered for free.

    You can qualify more for even entry level positions with extra training in your line of work, and many cities or states offer job skills training. Refreshing your resume, and interview and job skills may make your job hunt easier.

    8. Treat Yourself

    Unemployment can be trying and tiring, so don’t forget to treat yourself occasionally. Take a reasonable amount of time off from your weekly job hunt to recharge and rest up. Letting yourself rest will maximize your productivity during the hours you job search.

    Even if you don’t have extra money for entertainment, a walk or visit to the park can do wonders to help you go back and attack your job hunt.

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    9. See What You Can Sell

    Another good way to bridge the gap between jobs is to sell unused possessions. eBay and Amazon are both secure sites, but traditional garage sales are a fine option too. Sell off a few video games, or some electronics, for some quick and easy cash while you figure out a permanent solution.

    10. Take a Course

    Much like training and certifications, taking a class can be a good way to keep yourself sharp while unemployed. Especially when you’re between jobs, it can be easy to forget this option, as most courses cost money. Don’t forget the mass of free educational tools online: 25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

    Keeping your brain sharp can help you stay focused and may even help you learn some new, relevant job skills.

    The Bottom Line

    While unemployment numbers are still high, there are many things you can do to better yourself and move forward. While new skills to aid your job hung might seem out of reach, there are plenty of free ways to get ahead, online and off.

    Additionally, don’t forget that taking time for yourself can do wonders for keeping you productive in your job hunt. While it is a challenge, don’t give up–being unemployed can offer you extra time to better yourself, and possibly grow more qualified to find work.

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    Featured photo credit: neONBRAND via unsplash.com

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