Making Career Choices That Won’t Make You Miserable!

In the current economy, many professionals have had to make different career choices by necessity or because they wanted to change their career direction.  With a record number of unemployed workers, it is tough to switch jobs, and many people therefore stay in their current position.  Does that mean that people are satisfied with their current job? 

Not really.  A January study by the Conference Board (Report #1459-09-RR) indicated that only 45.1% of employed Americans were satisfied with their jobs in 2009 (as compared with 61.1% in 1987). The biggest drops in satisfaction when comparing 2009 numbers to those from 1987 were observed for the following age groups: under 25, between 35-44, and over 65. Given these numbers, chances are that a majority of you are at best mildly satisfied with your job. So what can you do to make your job better (or move to a better job)?

First, it is key for you to better understand and articulate how you want to make a positive social and/or environmental contribution through business. Do you know which career to pick? What if you make a wrong choice? Is the best option to just keep doing what you have been doing? The hard part about career choices is that the same job could be a dream job for one person and a complete nightmare for another person. For example, you might have a friend who is absolutely thrilled if she can spend hours challenging herself finding a way to solve a problem by putting together an elegant computer code. In contrast, just the idea of this type of activity might be the equivalent of torture to you. How can you find out more about what your strengths are and how to align your career with your strengths and preferences?

Fortunately, there are a number of amazing tools out there that can really help you articulate your natural preferences and strengths and from there help you research careers that people with similar strengths to yours report enjoying. Remember that with these career tools, the goal is for you to best articulate your preferences, there are no wrong or right answers when using any of these tools. Here are two tools that might help you clarify your strengths and how to use them to make informed career choices:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – This assessment can provide valuable insights into what makes you feel energized, how you prefer processing information, how you make decisions, and how much you welcome ambiguity (or not). The MBTI focuses on these 4 dimensions, with two possible letters per dimensions, which lead to 16 possible MBTI types. The idea is that the more time to you spend utilizing your natural talents, the best you will perform (and happier you will be). Certified coaches can administer this assessment, but you can also find out your preferences based on free online tools such as typefocus.com. Going through the interpretation of your results with a certified coach can considerably accelerate your learning and enable you to build upon these results to narrow down career options that might fit your preferences. Books such as ‘Do What You Are’ by Tieger and Barron or ‘Please Understand Me II’ by Keirsey can also assist as you put in writing 3 of your strengths that you want to utilize in your next job or future assignments. You can use these strengths as elements of your elevator pitch. By assessing the approximate amount of time you will spend using your preferred strengths based on reading a specific job description, you can considerably make more informed career choices. These books and your work researching careers that align with your preferences might also help you gain clarity about projects you can volunteer for within your current role that can help you gain skills that align with your preferences and strengths. This process can help you go a long way in preparing you for another role within your current company.

StrengthFinder 2.0 – The goal of this tool is also to articulate your natural strengths and preferences. In addition, the model has been further developed to best understand how specific constellations of strengths lead to specific leadership styles. Access to this tool is provided through buying the book itself. StrengthFinder is built around 34 themes. Similar to the MBTI, the idea is that the more your daily tasks tap into your top 5 themes, the better you will perform, the more engaged you will be as a professional (and the happier you will be). You can use your top 5 themes as elements in your elevator pitch. Furthermore, reading ‘StrengthFinder 2.0’ and/or ‘Strength-Based Leadership’ (both by Tom Rath) can help you further formulate what you want to do more of (or less of) professionally. Again, this knowledge will enable you to make informed career choices when considering different jobs or assignments within your current company.

Career assessments cannot tell you what you should be doing professionally, but they can help you put words on things you like to do and are naturally good at. By using these words to build your elevator pitch, you can really avoid putting yourself into roles that are likely to make you miserable. Instead, by articulating your preferences and strengths, you can make informed career choices. A great way to use this information is to integrate these strengths into how you talk to others about your past experiences and your goals (in person or through your online profiles on justmeans, LinkedIn or Plaxo). These simple steps can also help others provide you with information and job leads that align with your strengths and career goals. By being able to best articulate what you are good at and want to do more of in your next job, you can narrow down your career options with confidence. Narrowing down your options based on your strengths is sure to help you make more informed career choices moving forward!

Have you used these tools? Have you found them helpful? Have you used other tools that helped you clarify your personality traits, preferences or career goals? I look forward to a discussion on how to use tools to gain clarity and confidence with your career choices!