These career-related tips — for all job-seekers making the journey of career self-discovery — have been gathered from numerous sources throughout Quintessential Careers and organized here for your convenience.
If you’re worried about choosing a major that will lead to success, you might be surprised by the college-major choices of some of the folks who turned out to be CEOs of the 1,000 largest U.S. companies, reported USA Today recently. Only a third of the CEOs have MBA degrees. About 18 percent majored in engineering; 15 percent in liberal arts, and 7 percent in economics. Offbeat CEO majors include East Asian history, medieval history and philosophy, French literature, and industrial engineering.
For psychology majors with an interest in business, the list of job possibilities is almost endless. Business many psychological theories, from management to marketing. Quintessential Careers Career Exploration, such as Ashland University’s What Can I do with a Major in…? and click on “psychology” to download a .pdf document.
These sites will give you a broad range of jobs and career paths. Also, get some experience. You can get an internship in an area of business that interests you. The internship will help solidify your decision about a career in business and will give you the much needed experience that most employers are looking for — even from recent college graduates.
An important piece of career planning is developing a list of key employers to target when you’re ready to move on to your next job. In her syndicated column with Dale Dauten, Kate Wendleton talks about making yourself more in demand through such targeting. “Have six to 10 things in the works,” she suggests. “Take your target list of organizations, and then divide them into an A, B and C list. The A’s are the companies you would die to work for; the C’s are the companies that would die to have you. Contact the C-list companies first. You’ll practice your interviewing skills and — who knows? — one of them might turn out to be the perfect opportunity. As things start to move along, go to the B companies and say, ‘I’m talking to four other companies, and things are happening pretty quickly, but I didn’t want to accept any of their offers until I talked to you first.’ They will be interested in you because others are interested. As the B’s start to come along, you move to the A’s.”
“Throw out the charts and occupational outlook books,” advised teacher and writer Martin Kimeldorf in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers.
“Find out what you have a passion for and develop your connection with that job through reading, ‘Net-surfing, emailing, interning, volunteering, and creating in that chosen field. Then go looking for work and you’ll find that your job search is really a search for information and meaning. You’ll also actually enjoy the search for the occupational grail when the target is near your heart,” Kimeldorf urges.
If you’re just starting your career and don’t know quite what you want to do, first take a look at your strengths and weaknesses. Take a look at the classes you liked in school and at the things you like doing in your spare time – hobbies, activities, etc. Also take a look at the jobs you’ve had. Was there anything about them that you liked? Then take a look at the classes you did not like in high school and at the jobs you’ve had and why you haven’t liked them. From these exercises, you should have an idea of things you like and dislike doing — and probably things you’re good at and things you’re not so good at.
Second, go to the Career Assessments section of Quintessential Careers. These assessments are designed to help you further discover the things you like and dislike and to suggest what types of jobs and skills sets may be best for you.
Third, reflect on these first two steps and see if you can see a direction for your next job/career search. Remember that jobs and careers are ever evolving, so any path you take is likely to change — and the best thing you can do is keep growing, learning, preparing for that change. No choice you make today is irreversible — you have plenty of time to discover what you really want to accomplish in your life.
What’s the best way for job-seekers to figure out what career will give them the greatest happiness? “I think we often carry the answer deep inside, in a raw, unformed fashion,” said teacher and writer Martin Kimeldorf in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers.
“Through brainstorming the soul, we allow the idea to surface. This brainstorm can and should take multiple forms and connect with our different ‘intelligences’ or learning styles. Take paper-and-pencil tests, take online tests (but don’t give your actual email name, use an alias to avoid spam), talk to good friends, partners and ex-employers. Research on the ‘Net, talk to strangers in bars, attend career workshops or conferences. And do the hard thinking and analysis, the kind you find in the exercises that go with [Richard Nelson Bolles’s classic] What Color Is Your Parachute? It will come to you in the middle of the night, during a shower or bike ride, while doing something totally unrelated . . . it will surface,” Kimeldorf says.
Are you a high-school student stressing over what to major in when you get to college? It’s great to be thinking, contemplating, and exploring, but don’t stress too much over the decision just yet! Enjoy the rest of high school!
Choosing a career is a journey, and certainly not something you have to decide right away. If you really want to get a leg up, check out the six-step process that may help you think more about your career and a college major in our article, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
College students’ biggest mistake is pursuing money rather than their dreams according to nationally known speaker and author Gary Tuerack. “That’s a fatal mistake,” Tuerack said in the Q&A interview he did with Quintessential Careers. “And statistics show that those who do what they love end up being the millionaires in society.”
One of the best sources of information about careers and jobs, including working conditions, education and training, salary, and much more can be found in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.
You can browse the entire document, or search by keywords.
What would you do with your life if education level and experience weren’t a factor? That’s a question that Marcia Merrill, career advisor at Loyola College, MD, often asks her students. “These daydreams often reveal their career passion,” Merrill observed in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers.
“Someone who’d love to be an actress and has a strong value of helping others might look at training or teaching. Someone who dreams of being a novelist could channel that love of writing and words into publishing, corporate communications, news writing, and numerous other fields. Job-seekers need to look at possibilities when deciding on a career path. They also need to determine what their likes/dislikes are and have information about the world of work. By doing some self-assessments, researching various fields/industries, and having experience in some areas, the process of determining what career(s) might give them happiness is easier to manage.”
Next, once you’ve discovered a few career possibilities, go search the Occupational Outlook Handbook and/or one of the general job sites and do a search to get a feel for the types of jobs in that career field.
Finally, talk with people in your network — family, friends, teachers, colleagues, etc. — and ask them if they know of people in the type of careers you’re thinking about so you can get some firsthand information about careers in that field.’
The best way for a job-seeker to discover his/her career passion varies depending on his/her temperament and preferred style, observed career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Some clients can make great decisions after reading about many different career paths, while others need to do something experiential with each option in order to make a decision. Some people need to do more exploration, while others need to muster the courage to commit to something. Some clients need to raise their expectations, while others need to learn to tolerate imperfection and the normal routine frustrations inherent in any option.”
“Career assessment is usually very helpful, but the interpretation is often most useful in the context of a helping relationship. Data alone can be more confusing than clarifying, which is why I am not enthusiastic about most online career assessment. My experience has shown me that the most valuable part of the assessment often comes from the process of exploring ambivalence, contradictions, and inconsistencies between the real self and the ideal self. Most online career assessments fail miserably when evaluating according to the ethical standards of good test administration and interpretation — two notable exceptions are the Self-Directed-Search and CareerHub,” Scarborough says.
Career assessments can be a great way to help you determine if you’re headed in the right career direction, but before you even take one of the tests, sit down and make a list of the five skills you enjoy using and the five skills (or things) you really never want to do. Then make a similar list for the five things you like most about your current job and the five things you dislike about your job. These two lists should go far in helping you sort out what kind of work might make you happier. Here are some other questions to answer: What was your major in college? Why did ou choose it? Visit Quintessential areers: Career Assessments for the best career and self-assessment tools on the Web — some free and some fee-based.
The biggest clues to self-discovery come from re-visiting childhood interests, noted author Gale Montgomery in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Children are typically free from limitations and go about their daily business in an enviable uninhibited way. Observe a group of children, and you will inevitably begin to identify character traits and activities that give clues as to how they are gifted. Occupations involving those gifts typically are the ones in which the most passion and joy are found,” Montgomery relates. “The trick is to stay focused and not be discouraged by set-backs. Steven Spielberg’s father gave him a camera at a very young age and he knew that he wanted to make film his career. When he was denied entrance into the prestigious UCLA film school, he simply took a different route and went to work for one of the studios. Leonardo DiCaprio was a cute little guy who enjoyed getting attention. Unfortunately, his antics got him fired from Romper Room at the age of 5,” Montgomery notes.
Step 1: Examine the things you like to do — at work and at play. What activities give you the most joy and get you energized?
Step 2: Examine the types of activities that you dislike performing – and never want to perform again.
Step 3: Now look at your strengths and weaknesses. What are the types of skills and activities where you excel? What are the types of things where you have troubles?
Step 4: With this newfound knowledge of yourself, go back and take a few of the assessment tests. The career services office at your college probably has a few you can take — or go online and take a few of those. Here’s a great article that includes a review of all the major online assessments: Online Career Assessments: Helpful Tools of Self-Discovery.
You can find these steps — and more — in the article, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
The “read first” exercise is a good way to help identify a career path, advised career consultant Karen Chopra in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Pay attention to what you read for pleasure. What sections of the newspaper do you reach for first? Which articles do you read all the way through? What types of books appeal to you? What you read first may be a clue to some things that really interest you.”
Don’t worry too much about making the right choice of college major early on. Many recent studies show that a large number of people are working in areas totally unrelated to their college major and that people will change careers — not just jobs, but careers — at least five times over the course of their lives. For guidance, though, read Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path. Also, see how the Internet can help you choose a major at the Choosing a Major portion of our tutorial on Job-Hunting on the Internet.
Plan your career, advised professional resume writer Beverly Harvey in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Establish and write down short-term and long-term career goals – where do you want to be in one year, two years, three years, four years, five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years,” Harvey exhorts. “Talk to people in those types of careers, and find out what you would have to do to accomplish your goals. Write down each step you need to take to reach your goal and how long you estimate it will take you to reach each step. A goal without a date is only a dream, so be sure to decide when you will reach your goal. Find a mentor who can help you achieve your goals. Your mentor should be someone who is successful and already achieved the goals you’ve set for yourself. Be sure to review and rewrite your goals frequently, and keep a journal of your successes. Continually refine your goals and include more and more details as your goal becomes clearer and clearer.”
Interested in a law career? According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job market for lawyers over the next eight years will be very competitive. A good resource can be found at FindLaw.com’s Website, which has numerous articles and links to other resources.
Career Tests: 25 Revealing Self-Tests to Help You Find and Succeed at the Perfect Career, by Louis H. Janda (Adams), or Career Adventure: Your Guide to Personal Assessment, Career Exploration, and Decision-Making, by Susan M. Johnston (Prentice-Hall).
We also list some very helpful career exploration Web sites at Quintessential Careers: Career Exploration.
Looking for a career that offers travel, good money, but also creativity? Consider consulting with a firm such as Accenture (the former Andersen Consulting), or international management. Both of these careers can offer you a travel, allow you to be creative in handling new problems, and provide a good salary.
The key for those who are confused about their career direction is to spend time doing some self-assessment. Once you’ve completed your self-assessment, you can try to marry those things you like and are good at with jobs and careers. Go to the Career Assessments section of Quintessential Careers. You’ll find some great advice about self-assessment and using self-assessment tools, as well as links to some of the best assessment sites on the Web. Also read this article by Kathryn Lee Bazan: Research Your Next Job by Targeting Your Preferences and Ideal Companies. Don’t worry too much about finding that one perfect job because, as the business environment continues its rapid change, what is in demand today may be obsolete tomorrow.
What if you’ve chosen your college major but suddenly realize that the careers associated with that major are not at all what you want to be doing for the rest of your life? Relax, you’ve taken the first — and perhaps most important — step, which is realizing that you have made a mistake and you need to look at other possible careers to find something that better suits your unique skills and attributes. Take advantage of the advice and resources discussed in our article, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path, which takes you through a six-step journey that should lead you to greater clarity and direction about your future career. Most importantly, don’t panic.
Find even more job-search advice and tips in Critical Career Path Tips: Advice for Career Discovery — #2.
Review all our Quick and Quintessential Career & Job Tips.
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