Choosing your career

by Entrypark September 23rd, 2011

Career decision-making is not simply  about matching yourself to a specific job but choosing education, training  and jobs that match your interests, values, personality and skills.  It may be the case that choosing a career happens once in your lifetime,  but it is more likely to happen a number of times as you change and  redefine your goals. There are three main steps to choosing a career: self assessment, career exploration and decision-making.

Self assessment

Self assessment is a vital first step  in deciding which career you want to pursue. It very much is concerned  with gathering information about yourself in order to make informed  career decisions – basically, it is about evaluating your interests, values, personality and skills.

  • Interests: what you enjoy doing (e.g., socializing, sports)
  • Values: the things that are important to you (e.g., challenges, responsibility)
  • Personality: your individual qualities, needs and attitudes (e.g., openness, honesty)
  • Skills: the activities you are good at (e.g., writing, teaching)   

To begin your self assessment, write  down these four headings on a piece of paper and list your ideas beside  each one. Here are some examples of questions you should ask yourself: 

  • Interests: What are my strengths/weaknesses?
  • Values: What are my priorities in life? Happiness? Money?
  • Personality: Within which type of work environment do I work best? Am I a leader or someone who prefers to be instructed?
  • Skills: Which areas of my education did I excel in? What special projects was I involved in and what did I learn from them?

This list will help you to establish  what it is you’re looking for in a university course, an internship  or a permanent job – or more generally, in your career. Most certainly,  your school/university careers service will be able to help you further,  providing vast resources as well as the services of a career adviser. A career adviser will discuss your ideas with you and help you  to plan your next steps. He/she can support you in choosing an appropriate  university or college course by helping to identify which courses best  match your skills and aspirations. In the same way, an adviser will  help you to identify suitable careers and to understand which skills  are most important to employers. Typically, these include problem-solving,  time-management, and communications skills as well as competency in  foreign languages. Thus, a meeting with a career adviser will enable  you to identify the skills you need but do not yet have for your career. 

 

Psychometric tests can also aid  the self-assessment process. Psychometric tests assess a person’s  ability or personality in a measured and structured way and are most  commonly known as ‘aptitude tests’ or ‘personality tests,’ and  these are often used by companies to select the right candidate for  the job. If you’re looking to choose a Higher Education course then  there are a range of tests to help you. For example, The University  and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the UK offers the Stamford  test to help you find suitable courses. Please click on the following  link to find out more: http://www.ucas.com/students/beforeyouapply/whattostudy/

 

If you want to see which jobs best suit  your skills and personality then follow this link: http://www.mindtools.com/page12.html

 

Career exploration

Self assessment should be the first step  in the career planning process, not the last. Once you have established  what you need from a university course or job, it’s time to begin  your research, which involves brainstorming possible options and gathering detailed information. You can explore different industries and occupations online or via newspapers, magazines and books. An occupation  is a particular position within an industry (e.g., a secretary). The  term industry refers to the type of business or employer, such as healthcare,  manufacturing or real estate. However, some occupations (like a sales  representative) are available within several industries. 

 

You can also use business blogs  when researching potential employers. Business blogs are often written  by the employer itself or an ex-employee and provide real insight into  how an organization operates. Generally speaking, blogs are more regularly  updated than web pages and are much more interactive, allowing you to  post questions. Similarly, message boards are a good way of enquiring  about a particular job or company and gaining advice from experienced  professionals. 

 

Networking is also worthwhile and can be as simple as asking friends, relatives  and contacts about their line of work. What do they like about their  jobs? What advice can they give you? Networking also allows you to:

  • Compile a list of people who work in your field(s) of interest
  • Set up informational interviews with them
  • Carry out some work-shadowing whereby you follow one of your contacts around work for a day or so to experience life in the job

Career fairs and events are a  particularly useful form of networking. Held all year round and worldwide,  career fairs are an ideal opportunity for students about to graduate,  recent graduates or experienced professionals to meet potential employers,  investigate different industries and market themselves to company representatives.  Career fairs are often sponsored by career centers, so they are a valuable  source of contacts and interview experience too. Click on the following  link to find out about upcoming career events: http://www.entrypark.com/events/.

 

Another way to find out more about a  particular occupation is to undertake some work experience which  will not only give you a taste of life within the industry but also  boost your CV. Work experience is particularly valuable as it is a way  of distinguishing yourself from the competition and is highly regarded  by universities and potential employers because it demonstrates initiative,  drive and adaptability. It’s also possible that by making a good impression  you will be contacted if a position becomes available later on. To find  out more, please see the practical experience section under 'Developing  your career'.

 

When exploring careers, please remember  that just because your self assessment indicates that a particular course  or job matches your interests, skills, and values doesn't mean it should  be your first choice. Similarly, just because your self assessment doesn't  indicate that a particular course or job is appropriate, doesn't mean  you should ignore it – you just need to do some more research. Hence,  exploring a variety of courses and jobs will help you to discover the  options that best suit you. To prioritize your exploration, create a  shortlist of at least ten different courses and jobs that are compatible  with your skills, interests and experience, then select the three that  most appeal to you and explore them in more detail.

Decision making

After carrying out the necessary research,  it’s time to decide which career is the most interesting to  you. In terms of career choice, if you’re still undecided then  your degree is always a good place to start, but it may be that you  want to branch out into a different field. Many jobs require you to  have a degree but the subject you studied is not necessarily important.  To make your decision you must weigh up the pros and cons of each option  you have shortlisted by evaluating the information you have gathered  in terms of career outlook, salary, promotion opportunities, etc. When  choosing a career or a university or college course, it’s always useful  to talk though your options with family and friends to get their input.  The most important factor, however, is being honest about what you want;  self awareness, occupational awareness and intuition all come into play  when making your decision. In any case, make sure that you do not do  the following when deciding on a career:

  • Don’t follow the crowds and choose what your friends do. Everyone is different and has their own competencies and interests. Do what feels right for you!
  • Don’t choose something to  please other people, particularly your parents. A career is a personal thing and it’s up to you to decide its path!
  • Don’t lose your focus. Choosing  a career can be extremely overwhelming but try to remain focused by referring to the lists you made during the self-assessment stage
Once you have selected a career, you  have to work out how to reach your goal of working in that field which  may involve taking some classes, getting a degree or finding an employer  who will provide on-the-job training. It’s also worth finding out  who the biggest employers are in your chosen field and gathering information  about their recruitment process. However, before you do anything, you  should write a formal career action plan that includes both long-term  and short-term goals. This will help you to retain focus and means that  you have a coherent written document that you can refer to at any time,  to remind yourself of your goals. 

Now it’s time to begin your job  search. In order to make informed decisions about potential employers,  you must explore jobs and companies thoroughly and assess your options  carefully. To do so, tackle the following 10 questions when researching  an employer:

  1. When was the organization founded?
  2. How many workers does it employ?
  3. Who are the key people within the organization?
  4. What does the organization do? What products and services does it provide?
  5. What are the organization’s strongest values?
  6. Who are its main competitors? What do you know about them?
  7. What distinguishes the organization from its competitors?
  8. Who are its biggest customers?
  9. What is the organization’s global/national/local reputation in the market?
  10. What awards or recognitions has the organization received?   

To answer these questions and to find  the right jobs and internships with great employers, there are various sources you can use.

 Among them are:

  • Entrypark’s job board – http://www.entrypark.com/jobs/
  • Your university's careers    service – your university library will provide information about graduate schemes and jobs as well as the services of a career adviser
  • National newspapers – typically, jobs are advertized in individual newspapers on specific days of the week
  • Trade magazines – these normally advertize jobs for experienced professionals but can also provide you with useful information about developments within a particular industry
  • Contacts – as mentioned earlier, speak to family, friends, and colleagues and network as much as possible
  • Employment/recruitment agencies – companies that match workers to jobs. Such agencies specialize in both full-time and part-time work and can tailor the job search to your skills and    needs
  • Speculative applications – applications that you send even though there is no job being advertized. In this case, you should target your letter and send it to the correct person whose details you can find in directories and/or online
 

 

 

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