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Some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives. They go to school, land their dream job and have a long, fulfilling career. And then there's the rest of us.
Choosing the right career path can be difficult, and individuals can spend years in a job they dislike before they make a change. If you're in a career crisis, follow these tips to decide on the best job for you.
Are you in the wrong career?
If you're considering a career change, chances are, you already know you may not be on the right track. The first thing you need to determine is whether you're in the wrong field or just in the wrong environment.
"Many people who contact me don't need a career change but just a move to another company," said career coach Phyllis Mufson of Catalyst for Growth. "What was bothering them was their relationship with their supervisor, or the need for a new challenge, or perhaps they need a change of culture."
However, if you frequently find yourself feeling anxious, bored or stressed at your current job and struggle with or dislike your daily tasks, a career transition may be necessary. Dreading going to work, constantly watching the clock and daydreaming about leaving your job are other telltale signs that you're not where you should be.
There are many reasons people end up on the wrong career path. They may choose a job to please a friend or family member, achieve a certain status or salary, or simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
"We are taught that if we are good at something, we should do it as a career," said Joanne Sperans, owner of Volo Coaching. "The problem is, we're often good at several things, and we're passionate about several things. It's where those two meet that we should look.I know many people who followed a career because they were told they were good at it, and 20 years down the line, they found themselves miserable."
Figure out what you want (and don't want)
Once you arrive at the decision to change careers, your next step is to ask yourself what you really want from your next job. Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, owner of The Career Success Coach, advises using a self-inquiry model called the Six Dimensions of Career Clarity. This group of questions assesses what skills you can build a career upon, how your preferences and personality factor into choosing your ideal work, where you want to work, which workplace environment/culture you will thrive in, your deeper mission and purpose for working, and who you have always wanted to be.
"When people take the time to do some thoughtful brainstorming around these questions, they'll come to an authentic and deeper understanding about what their ideal career path might be," said Wittenstein Schwerdlin. "Every though they may not get exact answers right away, the clues they'll discover will lead them in the right direction."
David DiMartile, president and managing director of DiMartile HR, said there are three generic roles in any given career: individual contributor, manager of people, and executive. Based on your individual preferences and capabilities, you should determine which of these roles you are best suited for before settling on a specific career discipline.
"Each path requires different competencies, and not everyone is skilled in or can develop the required competencies," DiMartile told BusinessNewsDaily. "Some of the questions that individuals need to ask themselves related to their competency skill level and job/career fit are: Am I most comfortable when others rely on me to solve problems, or when I am given solutions to implement? Would I rather lead a team or be a team member? Do I want recognition for my personal accomplishments or for the accomplishments of my team? Would I prefer dealing with the here and now or anticipating what challenges are ahead?"
Assess your background and personality
When you know what you want out of your career, evaluate your qualifications for jobs in that field. Two of the most important factors in choosing your ideal path are your background (education, previous experience, practical skills) and your personality (character traits, interests, values). Both should be taken into consideration, but depending on your desired career, your personality may be more important than what's on your résumé.
"Obviously, for highly technical careers like engineering, medicine and law, training is very important," Sperans said. "However, for the 'softer' roles, including executive management, personality traits — like a commitment to one's workplace and employees, a strong work ethic and empathy — are as important if not more so. You can teach skills, but you can't teach attitude and ethics."
Holding a degree in your chosen field can certainly help, but not having one won't necessarily bar you from getting a job. A person with the right aptitudes and willingness to learn can be a good fit for a position, without having formal education in that field. Ideally, your career should be a place where your personality and background intersect.
"People who are thriving in their careers are easy to spot because there is such consistency — they are living what they do, and it shows," said Lisa Severy, career services director at the University of Colorado and National Career Development Association president-elect. "People who are dissatisfied and stuck in their careers are usually experiencing some disconnect between what they are doing and who they are."
Ask for advice, but don't always take it
The people closest to you often take an interest in your success and want to offer their advice when you're taking your life in a new direction. These individuals may know you fairly well and have nothing but good intentions, but ultimately, the decision about your career needs to be based on your own self-assessment.
"Suggestions can always be welcomed as a courtesy, but it is unlikely for friends and family to know all the dimensions of the person who is making a career choice," said Jane Roqueplot, owner of JaneCo's Sensible Solutions. "Most people don't even realize their own total person until [they are] assessed to reveal the information about their style, aptitude and values. Family and friends can be far more important in helping one get a job after the appropriate career path has been determined."
Similarly, Mufson noted that outside advice can be very helpful only if you take control and ask specific questions that will assist in your self-discovery and career research.
Be open to all possibilities
No matter what stage of your life or career you are in, the most important thing to remember when choosing the right job is to keep your options open. If you're just entering the job market, take the time to explore your interests and learn about different career paths.
"Trust your own instincts, and refrain from being swayed by naysayers," Wittenstein Schwerdlin said. "Know that trial and error in choosing a career path is part of the process."
The same can be said for individuals making a career change. It's never too late to achieve your professional goals. Even if you've been on the wrong path, you can still switch to a job that you may not have considered but that will make you far happier than the one you have now.
"Career development is a lengthy, deep process," Severy said. "I think of it like writing an autobiography from the present, rather than looking from the past. The person in career transition is the author, taking all of the themes in his or her life and crafting the next chapter.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.