For career and job search direction, you must answer the fundamental question “What do you do?” Your answer is a basic component of your personal brand and is intertwined with your choice of profession.
There are thousands of professional specialties, most you don’t know about. What are the odds that you have chosen (or fallen into) the optimal one? Based upon my observations, I would say it is highly unlikely you have gotten lucky and chosen the optimal one… or even one in it’s vicinity. That’s why this article could be of value to you.
There is a saying among career professionals that “Most people spend more time planning their next vacation than they spend planning their entire career.” This may explain why notable numbers of 20, 30, 40, and even 50 somethings admit to me that they don’t know what they want to be “when they grow up.” Many feel stuck due to their education or historical career track. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s the good news: It’s not as hard to identify good professional options for yourself as you might think. As noted in the third chapter of my career book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), you may be able to solve this riddle using some readily available online assessments and some exploration effort. It is likely to require more work than planning your next vacation, but the potential future rewards will be worth it!
Before we look at a suggested process for defining career options, it is important to be aware of common pitfalls that you may have experienced or could encounter in the future. Three examples that you should approach with caution (I’m being polite here) are the selection of your profession based upon:
- The advice of others who have known or unrealized personal biases (family members, friends, etc.)
- A longing to emulate someone you admire, to please them or to achieve their status.
- The career guidance of questionable career assessment tools (MBTI, most all personality tests, pop psychology such as “strengths” tests, Ouija boards, etc.)
So, if you are not going to choose your profession based upon the opinions or tools that 95%+ of all humans use, what do I suggest? Here is an outline of some of the process I use in my practice and detail in Chapter 3 of my book:
1. Take the CISS career interests and skills assessment for around $20 at www.profiler.com.
2. Take the MAPP career motivations assessment Starter Package for around $70 at www.assessment.com. Ignore the narrative section.
3. Consider the top motivational professions identified by the MAPP. Which ones make sense to you based upon your level of education and willingness to gain more, if required? Which ones make sense based upon your past work experience, skills, and knowledge? Which ones make sense based upon what your “gut” says that you would enjoy? It is likely that these questions will get you to a short list of 2-5 options.
4. Now, compare your short list to how these options scored on the CISS. Those that indicate high skills and interests would seem to be more likely matches. You should be down to a list of 1-3 options.
5. Now, ask yourself if the option or options make sense to pursue. For those that remain that you have done before, you have a strong knowledge of what it would be like to pursue them. For those that would be new, you will need to conduct informational interviews to learn more before making a go/no-go decision to pursue.
One cautionary note: Your choice of profession can gain or cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and expense. The do-it-yourself process I have outlined will not be effective for everyone. For many, working with a career professional for guidance would make more sense than relying completely on what I have outlined here.
It’s your life and career. Consider investing effort now, so you can reap the financial and emotional rewards for years to come. Best wishes for you success!
Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).