Autumn is a natural time of the year to assess one’s career as it is a transitional season. You may currently be at the beginning of your working life, somewhere in the middle or moving towards retirement.
“Career”, as defined by most career counsellors, is not just the work you do for income, but rather the variety of life roles you might engage in. These include your job(s), your leisure time interests (hobbies), your volunteer work, your relationships (parent, grandparent, son or daughter, brother or sister, etc), and the other things that you may do that fill your life with meaning.
Whether you are at the start of your career life, or somewhere along the progression, there are questions that you may want to ask yourself to clarify your career direction.
“Are my career goals in line with my values?” Values are a reflection of who you are, based on your cultural and family influences as well as your personality and personal preferences. A conflict or misalignment with values is normally the reason that a person will leave their job at some point. Some examples of values include: making a difference, helping people, making lots of money, working independently, working in a team, having a variety of tasks, working in a fast paced environment, experiencing adventure, as well as having a calm workplace, security, and opportunities for advancement. The list goes on. Often, in a job interview, you already have a gut sense of whether this workplace fits your values. If your gut is telling you to steer clear, that is probably good intuition and worth listening to. For example, if job security is very important to you and you are being told that the job you are applying for is 100% commission based on your sales and you are a highly introverted person, this is not a good fit.
“Are my career goals in line with my interests?” Interests are often the measure that people use to initially guide them into career fields. They are a good indicator and guide. Typically, as people gain more life experience, they have a stronger sense of their interests. Do you have strong artistic interests, or social interests, or math/science related interests? Do you have interests in areas where you can use your physical ability? It’s good to use interests as a guide as long as you consider the other areas such as values, which cut at a deeper level of importance over the long-term.
“Are my career goals in line with my personality style?” Personality style is your natural set of preferences. Are you extroverted or introverted? Do you like things planned and organized or do you like things flexible and spontaneous? Do you tend to be more logical and rational, or do you tend to let your emotions guide you? These are examples of personality preferences. They are usually stable and don’t change or shift dramatically over time. If you are in a relationship, you might notice that your partner has some opposite preferences such as preferring to have vacation activities planned and organized in advance while you prefer to have a vacation that is more spontaneously planned in the moment. A personality preference is somewhat like being right or left-handed; you can use either hand but you have more experience with the primary hand.
“Are my career goals in line with skills?” Skills can often be developed whether or not there is a natural ability, such as drawing or artistic type skills. Think about the skills that you like to use, and search for work that fits with these skills. If there are skills that you’ve always thought you’d like to develop; for example, if you’d like to learn to dance or to draw but you never had the opportunity, try these out in an evening class at a local recreation centre or college. You may or may not get paid work for these new skills, but these new skills might enrich your life and help you build confidence that cycles back to benefit you in your paid work. A word of caution about skills: There may be a skill that you are very good at, such as being mathematical, or playing the piano. If you enjoy this skill, use it to guide you in career choices, but if you don’t enjoy using it, steer clear of career options related to it or you might get yourself stuck in a career path that you dread.
Career planning and decision making is relevant to people throughout their career lives, rather than being a one-time decision. Re-assessment of where you are and where you are heading is a worthwhile activity that will yield greater life meaning and life satisfaction that comes with living in line with who you are.