By Dr. John D. Meyer
Dean, School of Business and Technology at Edison State College
As Florida continues its ascent from depths of the Great Recession, many have found that jobs become both easier to get and easier to leave. When people regain their confidence about finding new and better work, they feel comfortable enough to voluntarily leave if the grass looks greener.
For many, greener grass looks like a job that offers more money or better benefits. For others, the requirements would include intangibles such as finding meaning in the work, expressing their native abilities and experiencing ongoing intellectual stimulation. If the latter describes what you are looking for, you are looking for a career, not just a better job.
There are many ways of identifying potential career pathways, but let’s explore a three-step model for determining potential careers for you. The first step is to take one of the personality-based career assessment measures. Many of the popular ones use a self-report, forced choice design based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung to determine which of 16 personality categories is you. Based on the results, the tool then suggests several potential careers suitable for that personality type. One such test is free online at www.careertest.net. It does not require any personal information, takes only a few minutes and provides a graphic ranking showing where you fall along each of the four measured typologies: Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving. This type of test can yield different results depending on your mood at the time you tested. You might also ask someone who knows you well to take the test for you and then compare results.
For step two, get some paper and allocate some time to think and to be introspective. On the left side of the page, create a heading entitled “Things I Like” and on the right, “Things I Dislike.” Then start listing on the left those elements that you like(d) in any job you’ve had. There are no rules as to what constitutes the elements and they don’t even necessarily have to have come from paid employment. The list does not have to be comprehensive – your goal is to list about five to seven of those things you’ve enjoyed doing while working.
Make a similar list on the right side, instead listing those things you have disliked. Again, the goal is not to list everything; shoot for about five of the biggies. Once you have your likes and dislikes, take them one at a time and ask yourself why you liked or disliked that element, then write those answers under the appropriate element. If you are like most people, your first several answers to each question will be either too broad or too specific and will probably be related to the job. What you want is to get to the core intrinsic motivator (for the likes) or demotivator (for the dislikes) that relates to you, not to the job. For example, suppose you liked cleaning the stock room in a department store. The ultimate answer to the why question is probably less that it gave you a chance to know what was in there and more that you like quiet tasks that don’t demand much focus so that you can daydream, or that you are introverted and working the sales counter instead made you anxious. The ultimate goal here is to create a list of the real drivers behind the likes and another of those cumulatively toxic stressors you need to avoid. Understand that these are both specific to you and universally applicable to your career.
The third and final step is to try to determine from your motivators/demo-tivators list, in broad terms, what elements need to be present in your new career and what elements should be minimized or absent. Consider these carefully as you examine the career list from step one. Think about other similar careers that may fit the bill for you. Consider what training, certification, and/or degree you would need to obtain and then take appropriate action. Following these steps should help you select a career that will be good for you, allow you to be fulfilled and enable you to stay with it for the long term.
The processes briefly described in this article are grounded in the scientific literature. I have deliberately steered clear of a “put tab A into slot B” prescriptive approach because everyone’s situation is different and dynamic. There is no practical prescriptive approach to career choice or growth, just as there is no practical prescriptive approach to choosing a mate and falling in love. That said, there are practical ways for an individual to guide his or her thinking in approaching career choices and that is the aim of the information contained in this article. I wish you good hunting!
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