Thursday, May 14, 2009

What Career is Right For Me?

More often than not, I have heard this question being asked repeatedly. And many people who asked this are not your young fresh-out-of-university graduates but professionals who have been working for a good number of years. Recently, one of my clients approached me and asked me what he should be doing differently in his current career in order to advance to the next level, and amidst our conversation, the same question popped up – “What career is right for me?”

I have noticed for a while now that there are quite a lot of people out there who are confused about which career path they want or should follow, even though they have been on the same path since day one. They are always wondering if their current career the right one for them, and yet do nothing to find out the answer to that question.

Deciding which career (or the jobs within your career big picture) to plan for is almost about as important as a degree itself. There's really no point planning for a career in the wrong field, after all, this can decide your self-fulfillment, personal esteem, income level and overall success.

One suggestion I always make is that people (you) should literally make a chart when trying to figure out what career to plan for, and include the following topics into that chart –

  1. Your personal values
  2. Your unique qualities and talents
  3. Your strengths & weaknesses
  4. Your goals regarding money, time and quality of life (in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years)
  5. What you enjoy and don’t enjoy doing,
  6. The primary driver (or motivator) in your life and relate this to the work you like doing; and
  7. Where you are at right now, and how does your responses to the above topics align with the current situation

After you have put these topics down on your own personalized “career planning chart”, you should start thinking good and hard about your responses to these topics. One small tip prior to the thinking process – make sure that you are in a “good place”, meaning that the environment should be quiet and peaceful, and you should be in a focused, clear state of mind, and able to go “deep inside” and access your true thoughts and feelings. You will be amazed at the type of insight you will gain after doing this exercise.

For those who are interested in finding out more about this exercise, do give me a buzz. My current company has a dedicated career program which contains a more comprehensive suite of introspective exercises to help individuals map out their career path.

If you’re still mystified about exactly what careers you may be suited for, even after completing the “career planning chart”, and think you would benefit from some help from a third party to gain clarify on your career roadmap, then you might want to think about talking to a career consultant or coach.

Career consultants offer a range of services, from assisting in an individual’s job search or career transition, to helping to identify suitable career paths, often through the use of some kind of psychometric instrument to pinpoint skills, abilities and preferred working styles. Some may offer CV assessment and CV writing as part of their services. There are many commercial career consultants operating, but also local government- or university-funded careers advice centers where you can meet career advisors and access their career resources.

One important note here though, career consultants should not be confused with recruitment consultants, who find suitable candidates to fill their clients’ vacancies. You will not receive objective career advice from a recruitment consultant – it is simply NOT their job, however sympathetic they may be towards you. Some unethical recruiters might even push you into a job you never wanted in the first place.

Talking to a career consultant can be valuable if you want someone who can facilitate your search for a new career, who you can bounce ideas off and help you focus your ideas with the benefit of their expert advice. But to get the most out of seeing a career consultant, you must have realistic expectations – he or she will not punch your details into a computer and tell you what your ideal career is; you must be prepared to provide input too, and work collaboratively with your career consultant to assess your opportunities.


Regardless of what career you're planning for, I will always strongly recommend doing your homework thoroughly before jumping into it head first. There's nothing more challenging (or emotionally tearing) than changing careers half way through your life. Try to get it right from the beginning and the ride will be much easier.

If you happen to be those who are going to change career midway, it’s not the end of the world yet. All you need to do is to be level-headed, do that self-reflective exercise I suggested to develop a perspective, consult your family, friends or a professional career consultant or coach and then make the best most informed decision.

At the end of the day this should not be a difficult decision to make. It might be a difficult task to accomplish but definitely it should not be a difficult decision to make. And this decision should be made by no one but you.

Why do I say this?

Because…it's only you who knows whether you want to have a fulfilling career or just an ordinary job; it's only you who knows whether you want to work for yourself or for another person; it's only you and no one else who knows whether you want to become successful and have “arrived” or simply live and lead an ordinary mundane boring life. Nobody is responsible for our lives except us.

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