In the course of job searching, career choices are too often made hit-or-miss. A job sounds interesting, and you think you would like it, so you accept the job. But six months later the shine has worn off, and you have lost the enthusiasm that you felt when you started the job.
There is much more to a good job-fit than just being interesting. The right job must fit you in three important ways: it must engage your interests; it must be compatible with your strengths and weaknesses; and it must be congruent with your values.
This is the factor that most people think of when they choose a job: they look for something interesting. And it is important for job satisfaction that your work be interesting to you.
But you will have a better chance of choosing a job that sustains your interest for a long time if you have determined the major functions that you enjoy on a job, and the functions that you dislike.
For example, maybe you think that being a radio commentator would be interesting because you like to talk about things. But have you thought about the hours of research a commentator performs in order to gather material and to check facts? Or what about the politics involved in a major news media environment? Or the constraints that the radio station might put on your content and style?
To truly know whether a job will remain interesting to you, you need to thoroughly assess your interests – what you like and dislike in a work setting – and then investigate the job to see how well it matches.
Look back over your work history to each job or significant unpaid experience you have had. What did you like or dislike in each experience? For example, do you like working with people? Dealing with details? Resolving problems? Do you dislike structure? Tedious hours at a desk? Selling or persuading others?
Use this assessment to make a list of the kinds of tasks or work environments that you enjoy and would like to have in your career, or that you dislike and want to avoid.
Strengths and Weaknesses
It isn’t enough for a job to be interesting. It is also important that the job be something that you are good at, and not require aptitudes that you don’t have.
Go back to your work history. This time, evaluate each work experience in terms of what you were good at and what you were weak at. Consider both specific aptitudes, like working with numbers or public speaking and general aptitudes, like sustained concentration on data, leadership, or handling high stress demands.
Once you have a list of strengths and weaknesses, translate it into what you want in a job (to utilize your strengths) and what you want to avoid in a job (factors that would play to your weaknesses.)
This is what I think of as the often-forgotten factor in good job-fit. We know we want a job that is interesting and that we are good at; we are less likely to think about how well a job fits our values.
It’s probably been a while since you have reviewed your values. This is a good time to do so. What is really important to you in life? What do you want your life to mean? At the end of your life, what do you want to look back and feel good about?
Think back to when you were young. What were your dreams and ideals? Are they still important to you now? How have your values changed over life?
Now think about what this means to you in terms of career choices. Do you want to help others? Make the world a better place? Fulfill your aptitudes and skills by doing something you can take pride in? Solve problems and make a company function more effectively? Work for an ethical company?
Make a list of the values that you would like to fulfill in your career.
Determining the Best Careers for You
You should now have three lists of what you want in a job: what you want to have or avoid to make the job interesting; what you want to have or avoid to best utilize your strengths and avoid your weaknesses; and what you want in the job for it to be congruent with your values.
The last step is to translate these factors into a final list of job needs. For example, your list might include work with people, opportunities to teach or counsel, independence, good pay, minimal data management, friendly environment.
Now you’re ready to start evaluating career choices to determine how well they fit your interests, strengths and weaknesses, and values. There are some good career information resources to help you do this such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, available at the library, or online sites such as O*Net. By thoroughly investigating each career option to see how well it fits your list of job needs, you will maximize the probability of choosing a career path that is truly right for you.