What do I want to be when I grow up?

Lighthouse-College-Planning (1)
How many times do you think you are asked that question in a day, week or month? When arriving at family parties and well-meaning grandparents, aunts or uncles inquire about your life goals and aspirations. Sometimes when faced with such a heavy, major decision, human nature can tend to cause us to retreat, deflect, avoid or exaggerate the many options out there that are available to us. So, in an attempt to narrow it down and really get you on the road to what is going to fulfill your intrinsic and extrinsic values, here are a few steps to take to ensure attaining your goals. If you focus on these 4 steps, you are sure to find the right career for you: Self-assessment, Exploration, Research, and Planning.
As you begin the career exploration process, you must get to know yourself and really determine what some of your values are both personally and professionally. Think about the following work values and how high they rank on your list of preferences in the job place:

  • Autonomy: receiving little or no supervision
  • Helping Others: providing assistance to individuals or groups
  • Prestige: having high standing
  • Job Security: a high probability that one will remain employed
  • Collaboration: working with others
  • Helping Society: contributing to the betterment of the world
  • Recognition: receiving attention for your work
  • Compensation: receiving adequate pay
  • Achievement: doing work that yields results
  • Utilizing Your Skills and Background: using your education and work experience to do your job
  • Leadership: supervising/managing others
  • Creativity: using your own ideas
  • Variety: doing different activities
  • Challenge: performing tasks that are difficult
  • Leisure: having adequate time away from work
  • Recognition: receiving credit for achievements
  • Artistic Expression: expressing one’s artistic talents
  • Influence: having the ability to affect people’s opinions and ideas

Before you can choose the right career, you must learn about yourself. Your values, interests, soft skills and aptitude, in combination with certain personality traits, will make some occupations a good fit for you and others completely inappropriate. Some of your interests may be in a variety of fields. Do you like to spend your day building something, attending to money matters or numbers, reading, exercising, hiking in the forest, helping others, teaching… do you like to work alone or do you work better completing tasks within a group? All of these preferences lend to a clearer understanding of some of your interests and completing an interest inventory is one of the first steps to determining your aptitude for a certain professional field. The Strong Interest Inventory is one of the most famous, long -standing self-assessment tools. Utilizing this to gain a better view of your aptitudes, personality traits, favorite school subjects and leisure activities gives you a whole picture of your possible career options.
Once an assessment is completed and analyzed, it is time to do the research. Career exploration is about finding out about the fields that interest you and learning more about what those jobs entail. If you have a lot of jobs on your list, you may be able to narrow it down by answering a few of the more basic questions about a given occupation. An important question to ask is how important or relevant is this job in today’s world. Will there be a job out there for me when I graduate? What is the job outlook, growth rate? What kind of salary can I expect? How much education/training do I need to succeed in this field? And most important of all is the daily job description? What setting is this occupation? What are some positives/negatives of this job? What are some responsibilities? What are some skills, abilities and personality traits of those in this occupation? Once you’ve explored the surface of the occupations, it is imperative to research and dig deeper on more requirements of the job. Besides using google and other valuable online tools to find this out, nothing beats job shadowing or interviewing somebody you know that is already in this profession. If you can go and live a day in the life of a doctor, lawyer, physical therapist, psychologist, teacher, wildlife preservationist… you name it…. You will have a great feel for if you can see yourself in this position in your life.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a certain field or specific occupation, it is time to get to work on the education/training part of your goal. While determining your job requirements or parameters, i.e… do you have a certain salary in mind? Do you expect to travel a lot? Are you considering a family and would you need to travel less or work more? If there are factors involved or impediments to achieving your goals, it is important to reassess how you are going to go about achieving them.
Here are some helpful links that will get you started on your self-assessment, exploration, research and eventual planning for finding the best career fit for you!
www.bls.gov/ooh (occupational outlook handbook)
And don’t forget the interest inventories:
Good luck in your search!