Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

September 4, 2007

Choosing A Career That’s Right For You

by
Molly Keeton, PhD

When making a career choice, you must have knowledge of both yourself and the world of work. When you allow for exploration of both of these areas, you will be more likely to make an informed choice, select a career that is a good fit for you, and have greater work and life satisfaction.

In learning about yourself and the world of work, consider each of the following areas. The ideal career will be a match for these important aspects of your life and identity. You would be fortunate to find a career that is compatible with who you are as a person and allows you to express yourself through the work you do everyday.

You World of Work

Interests Job characteristics

Skills Working conditions

Values Training/Educational Requirements

Personality Necessary skills and abilities

Goals Work environment

Ideal lifestyle Job outlook and opportunity

1. Interests

When considering your career interests, think back on all of the things you have experienced in your life. Which work experiences have been the most rewarding to you (include part-time jobs and volunteer work)? What hobbies do you enjoy the most? Which classes did you like or dislike in school? What do you like to do with your free time? What activities make you feel the best or bring out the most in you? What do you do where you don’t even notice that time is passing? Allow yourself to think freely when considering your interests. There are over 26,000 jobs in the world and there are probably several that could combine your favorite activities and/or hobbies.

According to a psychologist named John Holland, career interests can be classified into six basic types. You can learn about this classification system in a more formal way through a career inventory, but this will provide you with an overview of the basics. Try to determine your type by choosing three of the six categories and place them in order of importance to you. Once you determine this, you can do more research on careers for your type at http://www.careersmarts.com/holland.htm.

Realistic

  • Generally likes working with their hands and producing something tangible
  • Enjoys nature and working outdoors
  • Prefers independence and working alone or in a small group
  • Prefers facts to feelings
  • Examples: mechanic, construction work, wildlife management, laboratory technician, agriculture, some military jobs, engineering

Investigative

  • Always asks “why”; is intrigued by how things work
  • Enjoys solving problems and examining the underlying cause of things
  • Communicates factually rather than focusing on feelings
  • Prefers independence and privacy
  • Examples: design engineer, biologist, social scientist, research laboratory worker, technical writer, physicist, or meteorologist

Artistic

  • Values creativity; express selves through work or artistic medium
  • Prefers work setting that allows for individual expression and creativity
  • Views self as independent, unconventional, expressive, and unique
  • Examples: painter, sculptor, writer, composer, cartoonist, singer

Social

  • Gains satisfaction from helping others and making positive impact
  • Enjoys solving problems through interaction and discussion of feelings
  • Works well others
  • Examples: teacher, counselor, speech therapist, clergy, playground director, social worker

Enterprising

  • Enjoys debating and persuading others; has way with words; is influential
  • Natural sales people (may sell may either a product or an idea)
  • Values leadership, prestige, and status
  • Examples: business executive, attorney, politician, hotel manager, television producer, sports promoter, realtor

Conventional

  • Enjoys activities that require attention to detail
  • Values accuracy and consistency
  • Prefers highly structured work environments and clear expectations
  • Examples: bank teller, bookkeeper, computer operator, tax expert, statistician, traffic manager, librarian

2. Skills and Abilities

Skills are learned while abilities are natural to us (learning to play golf well would be a skill, while being good with numbers is typically an ability). Generally speaking, we enjoy the things we are good at and are good at the things we enjoy. So, reflecting on your favorite activities will provide important information about your skills and abilities. Again, think back on classes, activities, hobbies, and jobs from the past. Is there any overlap between the ones you liked and how natural those abilities came to you? You can certainly choose a career that does not utilize your natural abilities, but you may find that it is more of a challenge to do that type of work.

3. Values

A third area to consider when making a career choice is your value system. Values include: prestige, status, autonomy or independence, flexibility, variety, security, high salary, creativity, challenge, advancement, physical activity, or contribution to society. It is important to be honest with yourself about your values and recognize that no value is “right” or “wrong”. We all have a different combination of values that make us unique. How we express these values is also very individualized. One person may give back to society by working with the homeless while another may contribute through volunteer work or making a regular donation to a charitable organization. Take this list of 12 values and prioritize it. You will probably find that you want almost all of these things in your life. To get more information about your priorities, pick your top 3 values. These will be the ones that you feel you cannot compromise.

4. Personality

This is another very important area to consider when making a career choice. You will often find that personality traits will overlap with interests or values, but they can be separate too. The most well known personality inventory is called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and it has been researched over several decades. This inventory looks at four personality factors:

Extroversion vs. Introversion

(Where you get and prefer to direct your energy)

Sensing vs. Intuition

(How you take in information)

Thinking vs. Feeling

(How you make decisions)

Perceiving vs. Judging

(How you relate to time, structure, and organization)

These qualities exist on a continuum, meaning that you will fall somewhere in the middle of each set of traits. Very few people are complete extroverts or introverts. Most of us prefer one to the other but can do both when necessary. When you step outside of your natural preference, it may be more challenging and you may feel tired or strained. Finding a work environment that matches your personality type will lead to greater work satisfaction. Consider the following: Would you rather work alone or with a team? Do you prefer clear answers or to find new solutions? Do you want structure and predictability in your workday or do you enjoy the unexpected?

For a free Myers Briggs personality inventory, visit www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp. Once you have this information, you can do research online about how this relates career. Begin by visiting www.personalitypage.com and searching the personality and career link for your Myers Briggs Type.

* For additional information, check your library or the Web for more career resources:

http://online.onetcenter.org (Dictionary of Occupational Titles)

http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

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