Saturday, October 25, 2008

Three Steps to Choosing a Career

Step One

Figure out what makes you tick by asking yourself:

  • What sparks and holds my interest?
  • What do I do well?
  • What kind of personality do I have?
  • What's really important to me?

Take any career-related tests your college's career center might offer. Or think of times when you've enjoyed and excelled at a job, internship, class or aspect of your personal life. A great book to help with this process is Do What You Are by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger.

Step Two

Learn about your career options. Rarely do you have the opportunity to take a class in college that shows you what the work world is like. You have to take the initiative to explore it yourself. See if your college's career office has a library of books describing different kinds of work, the typical qualifications needed and the salary ranges for various occupations. Your college's career counselors should be able to help. Also, talk to people through informational interviews, and try out careers by shadowing and taking internships or part-time jobs.

Step Three

Sort out your priorities. After you've spent time on steps one and two, some of your strong preferences may start to emerge. You might learn you don't want to be in a corporate environment. That rules out investment banking. Or you might find that your interest in art wouldn't sustain a career, so you cross those types of jobs off your list. Whatever it is that you learn about yourself, you're making important discoveries that will help you choose a good career when the time comes.

Most importantly, keep it all in perspective: You don't have to live forever with any career decision you make now. Most people change careers several times during their lives, so the first job you choose right after college probably won't be your career 40 or 50 years from now -- unless you want it to be. So don't put too much pressure on yourself to make the perfect decision, and always keep your eyes open.

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