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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 February 20, 2019

    17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

    17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

    When we look at a job advertisement, it can seem as though employers want an exhaustive list of experience and technical skills from their new hire.

    They list desirable qualities such as ‘initiative’, ‘team player’ and ‘strong work ethic’. Those words can mean a variety of things to different people and it can be quite hard for employers to illustrate fully the combination of technical and soft skills they want their potential employees to have.

    What they often want is a mix of versatile skills that make it easy for them (and you) to adapt to the changing needs and demands which occur in businesses today.

    After all, adaptability and innovation are what make businesses thrive.

    In today’s ever-changing environment, versatility is a mandatory attitude every working person needs to have. With the following seventeen work skills, you will not only make your employer extremely happy and confident that hiring you was their best decision, you will experience greater personal satisfaction and results.

    1. Know What You Want but More so Why You Want It

    Employers need to sense you have a solid idea as to why you are a fit for their role and their organization. They need to sense you have your own sense of purpose.

    However, it can be a double-edged sword to say you know exactly what you want to achieve and gain if you are successful in your application and interview.

    Some employers can perceive this as arrogance; your needs first, theirs second. What employers are really looking for is your internal sense of knowing that potential to join their organization is a winning combination for both of you.

    2. Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Skills Save Money, Lost Productivity and Efficiency

    Can you agree to disagree? Can you evaluate without passing judgment or at least be self-aware of your own biases? Can you put these aside to find solutions for the betterment of the team?

    Employers look for versatility in soft work skills that bring peace, lower stress and contribute to creating harmony. If you have ways with words to help heated arguments reduce to a simmer so there is space for compromises, negotiations and reasoning to take place your employers’ respect for you will jump at least tenfold.

    Peace-making skills are invaluable in changing workplace culture, particularly toxic ones. Any good employer knows a strong in-house negotiator will save them thousands of dollars in engaging an external mediator.

    3. Know How to Set and Reframe Your Own Goals

    Much research has documented that when employees have a clear purpose, mission and goals, they are more likely to be highly productive. They are less likely to flounder around in many directions nor be busy and not produce results that matter.

    Employers know well that employees who develop their own goals and can align these with those of the company are more self-driven, self-sufficient and take greater ownership for performing their role.

    And the benefit is not only to the employers. You personally will find greater personal satisfaction from achieving targets you have chosen to set yourself. Everyone wins!

    4. Great Time Management and Organization Skills Make You Highly Productive

    Being able to exercise versatility with these work skills needs no explanation. Great time management does not mean multi-tasking. It actually uses more brain power and reduces effectiveness.

    Having great skills to prioritize your activities and demands, being able to assess how long things might take you to address are planning skills which greatly aid effective and better execution.

    Working in harmony with your colleagues’ timetables makes for better teamwork and workflow plus a less stressed environment.

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    In today’s working world, any strategies for reducing stress-invoking opportunities are like finding golden nuggets. Your employer will want to hold on to those for dear life!

    5. Be a Flexible Team Player by Being Able to Change Roles When Required

    Employers will be looking to see how flexible a team player, a potential employee could be.

    If you are a natural leader, being a better team player might, in fact, mean you stepping down from the helm and encouraging someone else to exercise and step into their leadership potential.

    It might be more beneficial to your employer to play the role of Indian as opposed to the Chief in certain situations. Stepping into different positions on your team not only helps you grow but also the rest of your team.

    Employers relish having a versatile work team which can adapt and is ready and willing to play different roles, even if uncomfortable when crises happen.

    6. Initiative, Self-Motivated and Driven

    When you have your own internal reasons for looking to undertake a role your motivation is driven by something sizzling inside of you.

    There is a personal drive and desire for the satisfaction you will experience when you meet a certain target that no other person will be able to give to you.

    When you can genuinely identify and demonstrate your own personal connection to the role’s objectives and the greater goals of your employer’s business, they will see you have an internal drive that they don’t need to whip and flog to keep the momentum going.

    Any employer will be grateful they just need to help navigate you and support you with the right tools and network and off you go.

    7. Be Confident but Not Arrogant

    Imagine if you were conducting initial telephone interviews with shortlisted candidates and one of the questions they asked was:

    “How long would it be until I’ll be eligible for a pay rise or promotion?”

    There is a significant difference between being confident and arrogant. Employers are not looking for confidence purely in you being able to perform every aspect of your role at gold star level.

    It comes with being comfortable to say you don’t understand, you have made a mistake, you need support, further training, acknowledging what your limits are and being willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone.

    When you’re a new kid on the block, respecting that you may need to learn to walk before you can run is essential. Unless it is your job to start making significant changes from day one, chances are you’re going to create enemies if you’re so confident your new methods and ideas should replace existing processes.

    8. A Positive Attitude

    Demonstrating positivity as a work skill that will truly win over your new employer is about being genuine and actively applying strategies which look for the glass half full.

    Recruiters and employers are not dumb. They can easily see through short-term bright smiles, nervous giggling and general ‘you just need to think positive’ statements.

    In the face of grueling challenges, employers are going to look much more favorably on that candidate who can acknowledge the negative features of a situation but still encourage another solution-focused perspective to be adopted.

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    Even better, if you can use language effectively to demonstrate how you have adopted a positive perspective and helped turned around a tough situation.

    It is one thing to have a positive attitude but your potential employer will see you as a superhero if you can show them how you have successfully applied it.

    Take a look at these tips to learn more about staying positive:

    10 Tips To Make Positive Thinking Easy

    9. You Are Resourceful but Know the Value of Asking for Help

    There is nothing more unproductive (let alone frustrating) than that person who simply asks out loud a question to their team when they could simply have Googled the answer.

    Or worse still, they have a manual at their fingertips which has the answer to their question…they were simply too lazy to look for themselves.

    Be that person with Sherlock Holmes as their middle name who sleuths like a dog after a buried bone. You can research and turn over stones to discover and learn what you need but you also are able to ask for help and assistance when you need to.

    Any employer will relish that person who looks to discover the answers to their own questions first before reaching out and asking for help.

    Hesitate to ask for help? This article may just change your mind:

    Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!

    10. Emotional Intelligence Creates a Harmonious Workflow

    Despite the level of seniority of your role having a strong ability to handle emotions is fast becoming an essential work skill (and also life skill).

    It is even more desirable for any employer when your work skill set includes the ability to detect, adapt to and have skills in managing certain emotional patterns of others you need to work with, manage or report to.

    So much time, energy and productivity is lost due to individuals’ lack of skills in this area. Any manager who can see you possess and can demonstrate such versatile work skills will think they’ve won the managerial lottery!

    You can learn how to improve your Emotional Intelligence from this article:

    7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

    11. Be Able to Adapt Your Learning Style

    There is no real evidence that using preferred learning styles actually increase the rate at which we learn nor the effectiveness of certain styles.

    However, being able to make changes to what we are given to learn and adapting it to suit our needs and preferences does help us settle into a new work transition sooner.

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    We also need to recognize that even though we feel uncomfortable learning a new skill a certain way, it might actually be the way we need to receive it to cement the learning. It is also likely that our new employer only knows or has a budget to deliver training in a certain way.

    Either we can choose to adapt or resist but we know for sure the latter is not going to benefit to anyone.

    Want to find out what your learning style is? Take this quiz:

    How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

    12. Flexible Leadership Style

    Dan Goleman has conducted extensive research on different leadership styles, emphasizing that being versatile to switch between different styles (e.g. authoritative, coaching, affiliate, coercive, pace-setting) and knowing when to do is a fundamental skill for any leader.

    Being able to change your style to lead other people is as important as how you lead your own role responsibilities.

    If you want to be a better leader, these books are great resources:

    15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

    13. Incredible Communication Skills That Actively Listen and Give Clear Messages

    Strong and effective communication across all mediums takes time, life experience and highly developed intuition.

    Knowing when to use email, a face to face conversation or telephone discussion is one thing. Another is to use words which emotionally connect and influence the receiver to accept, hear and heed your message.

    Great communicators know that it is their responsibility as much as the receiver for good communication to take place. However, they also know that the receiver may not feel this is the case.

    When you can listen equally, be sensitive to read between the lines to hear the message of ineffective communicators and can respond kindly with inspiring, equalizing and encouraging words, your influence and general likeability as a new addition to your employer’s team will develop in leaps and bounds.

    These books are also nice resources to learn effective communication:

    13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships

    14. Accountable, Responsible and Dependable

    We’ve all worked with people or managers at some point who lay external blame the instance something goes wrong.

    Contrary to popular belief, making mistakes and owning up to it is a highly desirable and versatile work skill that gains loyalty and understanding particularly when mistakes occur.

    Owning up to errors early allows both yourself and the business to recover quickly and shows you’re willing to take responsibility to continue forward on when you have stumbled.

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    When you illustrate you can do this, you build your employer’s trust and faith in you.

    15. Exercise Proactive Self-Awareness

    Self-reflection is a highly empowering work skill that contributes greatly to becoming better and performing better.

    When you actively look for the achievement, celebrate your success and look for pockets of where mistakes you have made can be corrected you improve faster, become more effective and make your work easier.

    When you start to look at your own errors, receiving feedback from your employer about the same errors can feel far less confronting and having corrective conversations is easier, transparent and far less stressful and emotional.

    You naturally increase your resilience and make life easier for yourself and your employer if you conduct regular self-check-ins and keep your employer updated.

    Here’s how to practice self-awareness:

    How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

    16. Apply a Problem-Solving Growth Mindset

    When faced with a problem or challenge, your ability to activate a growth mindset is a highly versatile work skill employers love. Not only are you able to reduce the pain and anguish that a fixed mindset can sustain but your ability to remain open to possibilities to find different pathways or ideas is refreshing and helpful.

    If your thought patterns automatically ask: “How can we?” or you often think “there must be a way”, you will only contribute to creating growth opportunities for your organization and inspire others to think the same way.

    Learn more about developing a growth mindset here:

    5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

    17. Be Teachable

    If you have ever tried to teach someone a new skill or technique and they keep reverting back to traditional ways that are familiar to them, you might have become frustrated to the point of giving up.

    Don’t be that person who’s stuck in tradition which no longer serves the business. Whether you are entering a new environment, learning new software or negotiation skills, know that all employers need people who are open to being taught.

    Innovation is a core concern of every business. Innovation means change and change means doing something different.

    Stay Versatile and Keep Learning

    Technical skills can often be taught. Ray Croc illustrated how well a systemized franchise can dominate the planet. Over 36,000 McDonald’s establishments around the world are run by managers barely in their twenties!

    Soft work skills, however, take time to develop, learn and confidently apply.

    There is a key combination of work skills that would make any candidate employer’s dream. However, the essential factor underlying all of these work skills is versatility.

    Equip yourself with these 17 work skills, stay curious and keep learning; and you’ll always nail the job you want.

    More Resources About Career Success

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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