After witnessing the challenges in the lives of professionals dealing with under-performance, under-achievement, stress, anxiety, career stagnation, anger, depression or financial failure; I decided to write this article on how to make better career choices.
Choosing the right career is important because you spend the major part of your day (9 to 11 hours) at work. If you make the wrong career choice, you will put yourself in a painful, challenging situation.
So, choosing the right career ranks as one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life.
Here is my review of the right and wrong ways of choosing a career.
You may choose a career based on the recommendation of family members, friends, colleagues, college counselors, coaches or other professionals.
Recommendations from friends or family are usually well-intentioned but they are sometimes based on the individual’s limited experience, fears, personal interests or hearsay.
Some common examples include recommending a career because a brother, sister, father, mother or family friend is in that same profession.
Apart from career coaches or counselors, most people making career recommendations do not actually assess the strengths or weaknesses of the individual who they are making the recommendations for. Rather, they are solely focuses on what they perceive to be the opportunities in the industry.
However, you need to determine that the individual making a recommendation is knowledgeable about a wide range of careers or that they are not biased in their recommendations.
You may decided to choose a career based on your personality type.
For example, If your personality leans towards that of an introvert, you may decide to choose a career in computer programming instead of project management.
On the other hand, if you are an extrovert, you may choose a career in technical recruiting, account management or sales.
Choosing a career based on your personality is effective because it factors in your strengths and weaknesses.
For example, if you train for a career that your personality is ill-suited for, you will find it hard to get a job or succeed at the job if you are hired.
If your personality does not match the profile required for the job, you will find it hard to convince employers to hire you, even if you have strong educational qualifications!
Self Interest Or Hobbies
You may choose adopt a hobby or a recreational pastime as your career.
For example, you may start programming as a hobby before deciding take up a formal, full-time computer programming career.
Turning a hobby into a full-time job is effective because you are choosing to build your life around “what you love doing or your passion“, instead of some other shallow reason!
You may decide to pursue a career that is aligned with your college major or educational background.
That can be is okay as long as you don’t limit yourself to what you learn or did not learn in college.
Choosing a career based on a college major is not always effective because, what you get from college in some cases is a good theoretical education but not necessarily the strong functional education, knowledge or skills required by employers.
You may not be making an informed decision if you base your career choice on your college coursework because the two may not be closely aligned.
I get a lot of questions along these lines, for example; from MBA graduates who assume that the MBA course work is the same as that of business analysts!
Fact is, your college major or degree does not help, hinder, limit or restrict your career options.
A lot of professionals choose their careers based on the perceived financial reward, salary or compensation.
Here is what they miss; regardless of the career you choose, if you are a top performer, your income will grow and exceed the average salary paid to professionals in your industry!
If you are really good or exceptional at what you do, you will be paid well regardless of your profession or career.
So, while you may choose a career because for financial reasons, a better path may be choosing to become a top performer in a career you really love!
So, if earning more money is important to you, identify the factors that lead to high performance in your career and then work on becoming a top performer as quickly as possible.
Do you know someone who is in a particular profession like medicine or law because of the prestige attached to that profession?
The problem with choosing a career because of it’s prestige is that what seems prestigious right now may not feel prestigious in a few years or when the glamor of that profession wears off and you are back to the daily grind!
Remember that getting a prestigious job may not make you happy or successful in the long run because your happiness is governed not by the prestige others attach to your career (an extrinsic factor) but by how much you enjoy doing your job (an intrinsic factor).
Your lifestyle may dictate your choice of careers. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent, you may not want to commute daily to work.
Keep in mind that certain lifestyles are more available in some careers than others.
For example, a freelancing lifestyle is more accessible to a computer programmer than say … a project manager.
And a technical recruiter or sales rep is more likely to spend time driving from office to office, meeting clients than say … a business analyst.
You may also have noticed that professionals in sales are more likely to travel for their work than computer programmers.
So, if you really must have a certain lifestyle, you have to do due diligence and choose the type of career that supports that lifestyle.
Do you know someone that choose a career simply because that is what was locally available and that person has no intention of ever leaving his or her city to get a job?
If you cannot afford to relocate to a different city because of the associated financial costs, the cost of leaving your social / family network or the challenge of starting out in a new city, you may be limiting your career options.
Just remember that you don’t have to feel constrained to jobs or careers that are locally available.
Moving to a different city may bring much needed fresh perspective, energy and opportunity into your life!
You may choose a career because it has a shorter or longer learning curve.
If you choose careers with longer learning curves (e.g. C++ programming career versus C# programming) you will have to wait for a longer time to get a job.
On the other hand, choosing a career with a shorter learning curve means that you will be ready for work sooner or faster.
If you do not realize that each career path has a learning curve attached to it, you may make the wrong career choice or fail at your career transition.
If you discuss your career options in terms of “what you cannot do, what you are afraid of doing or worried about”, then you are motivated by fear or handicapped when it comes to choosing a career!
Don’t choose a career because of fear, worry, anxiety, worry, outsourcing, layoffs, recession or bad news.
Instead, choose a career based on what you love doing, your hopes, dreams, visions, goals, good news and other more positive factors.
SWOT Analysis allows you to compare your strengths and weaknesses, the threats, disruptive changes and opportunities in the environment.
SWOT Analysis is one of the most effective ways to choose a career because it helps you make an unbiased, fact-based decision by balancing your strengths and weaknesses (internal factors) against threats and opportunities (external factors) in your environment.
Why this list is not exhaustive, my hope is that you will use to evaluate your decision making process when it comes to choosing careers. That way, you will have a better, more fulfilling and happier life.