Choosing a career is one of most important decisions we make in our lives.
It’s right up there with deciding who to marry and whether or not we will have children.
The time you spend at work will represent over one-third of your adult life, so there’s a little pressure to get this one right.
But, for all the classes we’ve taken throughout our lives, we’ve never seen “How to Choose a Career” listed on the course list anywhere.
Advice in the form of one-liners abounds, though:
Advice from well-meaning family members is usually in good supply, too:
So, off we go to college to choose a career, based on our limited knowledge of actual careers and the expectations that come along with them.
How many of us actually get it right?
If we consider the large percentage of people in the country who are are unhappy in their jobs (71% currently report being “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at their jobs, according to a recent Gallup poll), I’m guessing not that many.
We pick our careers early in life based on little sayings, expectations of family members, and “our best guesses” with regard to the type of work that we will enjoy.
Some of us overestimate the role of money. We think that, as long as we’re making good money, we can make anything work.
Some of overestimate the role of prestige. We think that a nice title and the appearance of “success” will make us happy.
And some of us just plain get it wrong for any number of reasons. We thought we’d like teaching or accounting or sales or management, but… oops. We screwed up.
So, what are we to do about it? How can we start over, whether we’re 25 or 35 or 45 or older? How we do it right this time? How do we choose a career that will really work for us?
Dan Miller, in his amazing book No More Mondays (later re-released under the title 48 Days), says that any work we commit ourselves to must blend the following three areas:
This means that we must choose work in areas that complement our natural strengths. What are we naturally good at? What comes easily to us? What do we enjoy doing?
We must choose work that fits our personalities. What kind of work keeps us in our “zone?” Is it social enough / too social? Active enough or not? Do we enjoy predictability or spontanaeity? Are we more analytical or creative?
And… just what is it that matters to us? How can we use our skills and abilities in a way that makes a difference? In a way that we are proud of at the end of the day?
Miller says that we should spend the majority of our time accomplishing the mission of our lives.
Do you even have a mission for your life?
We can start to see that choosing a career is no small task. We have to back up before we choose a job and choose — really choose — what we want to pursue in this life.
Money, says Miller, is never ultimately enough compensation for an investment of our time and energy. We also need a sense of meaning, accomplishment, and purpose in our lives.
Choosing a career, then, is going to require you to do some digging. Some soul searching. Some serious evaluation of your goals in life.
When you figure it out, pursue it with ruthless determination. When you find the right fit — the work that encompasses your strengths, your abilities, your personality, and your passions — you’ll find a joy and fulfillment in your career you never dreamed possible.
LEGEND Talent Management assists with the career planning process by offering online career assessments that can help match individuals with jobs that match their abilities, personalities, and interests. To schedule a Career Assessment, which can be taken online in 60-90 minutes, please contact us at info@LEGENDTalentManagement.com.