What Kind of Job Do You Want?

One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is to start looking for a job before they're really ready — even before they have figured out what career field they want to work in and what job they are qualified for. Before you begin your job search, you must have a clear picture of what you want to do, what you can do, and where you want to do it. You need to define your objectives clearly. Good career planning is essential. Remember, it's not just a job; it's a step in your career.

A Good Match

Time and again, career counselors report that one of the most common problems job seekers run into is that they don't consider whether they're suited for a particular position or career. Keep in mind that, on a daily basis, you'll spend more time on your job than you spend doing anything else. It's important to know that you'll enjoy the work. If you are thinking about becoming an elementary school teacher, be sure you enjoy spending a great deal of time with children. If you want to be an accountant, ask yourself if you're meticulous and if you like detail-oriented work. If you want to work for a daily newspaper, be sure you can handle a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.

A Job and a Lifestyle

When you choose a career, you are also choosing a lifestyle. If you decide, for example, that you want to be a management consultant for an international firm, it is likely you'll be spending a great deal of your time in an airplane. You'd better like to fly!

You also have to think about where you will have to work. Some jobs exist primarily in certain areas. Do you want a career that would require you to live in a large city? Or would you rather live in a less populated, rural area?

Compensation is another important factor you must consider. Do you feel it is more important to make a lot of money or to be fulfilled by your work?

What will your work schedule be? If you want to have a flexible work schedule, you will have to choose a job that allows for one. Are you willing to work the long hours that are common in certain fields? If not, there are some jobs you shouldn't consider, like most jobs in the legal profession.

Think about how fast you want to advance. Some careers offer a much greater chance than others do to advance quickly. In other fields, the opportunities for advancement are virtually nonexistent. When looking for a particular job in your field, you should also be aware that companies do not all offer the same opportunities for advancement.

Career-planning professionals have learned that money does not equal job satisfaction. A person who is not doing work he enjoys will not have job satisfaction even if he is earning a lot of money. That does not mean compensation isn't important. One should earn enough money to have the lifestyle one wants, but should also look for a job that is fulfilling.

Self-Assessment

If you are in the process of choosing a career, a self-assessment is in order. A self-assessment looks at your interests, values, skills, and personality. These factors help determine which careers you will find most satisfying and in which you will be the most successful. Although it's been said that you are what you do, think about this phrase reversed: You do what you are. Your personality, likes, dislikes, and values should determine what you do and where you work, not the other way around. Self-assessment is usually done through vocational or career tests that include interest inventories, values inventories, skill assessments, and personality inventories.

Interest inventories let you home in on your interests by presenting you with a series of statements and then asking you whether you agree or disagree with each one. The premise of interest inventories is that people with similar interests will be successful in the same type of work. Here are some statements you might find on an interest inventory:

  • I enjoy playing golf.

  • One of my favorite activities is reading.

  • I would rather participate in sports than watch sports.

  • I would rather watch sports than participate in sports.

A test that focuses on your values will consider the importance to you of different values. Here are some questions you might find on a values inventory:

  • Do you enjoy making a difference in people's lives?

  • Is having a prestigious job important to you?

  • Do you need to have a lot of leisure time to be happy?

When involved in the self-assessment process, many people elect to work with a career counselor. Many municipalities offer free or low cost career-planning services. Your local employment office can help you locate such services. Career counselors also operate private practices. The National Career Development Association maintains a list of career counselors, arranged by state, on their Web site: www.ncda.org.

A test that assesses your skills will not only ask if you have certain skills, it might also ask if you enjoy using them. Although you may not have the skills you need to work in a particular field, it doesn't mean you shouldn't consider that career for the future — after you've obtained them. Here are some questions you might see on a skills assessment:

  • Are you good at working with numbers? Do you enjoy working with numbers?

  • Do you pay attention to details? Do you like having to pay attention to details?

  • Are you good at working with people? Do you enjoy working with people?

Career-planning professionals have discovered that people with certain personality types are well suited for some careers but not for others.

A personality inventory like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator will look at factors such as traits, motivations, and attitude.

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