What job is right for me?
If you’re looking for a first job fresh out of college, you may be facing a series of challenges. Some have to do with the application (how do you write a competitive CV if you’ve never worked before?) but for many, the difficulties start even earlier.
In a world of possibilities that our grandparents could have only dreamed of, how do you know what career is right for you?
If you’ve looked for this question on Google, you will have found a plethora of tests and quizzes that get back to you with a career path based on your answers. However, traditional career tests are based on a series of personality descriptions (the most popular set being the ‘Holland types’) that research has shown can tell very little about your future success and satisfaction on a job. They may be fun, but more often than not, career tests don’t work.
So if you need to pick a profession, where to start? Although most bloggers suggest self-reflection, we think that you should have a more practical approach that allows you to get as close to the job(s) you’re considering as possible. Only proper research and experience will allow you to understand if a path is a good fit for you.
Narrowing down career options
Unfortunately, you won’t always be able to figure out if you like a career while you’re on the job. So how do you narrow down your options list before starting your applications?
Prioritisation is key. Try to rank your list of dream jobs taking into consideration several factors, such as:
- Impact and value
- How much you think you’re a good fit
- Required training
- Other conditions that you personally think would satisfy you
Try to think of wealth holistically. Sure, there is a threshold that would make you financially happy but it doesn’t stop there. Wealth means different things for different people, here are a few examples:
- City location vs country living
- Family time
- The type of people you’ll work with every day
- Flexible hours
Once you have the concept of wealth and what it represents for you down in detail, you will be better equipped to rank your list.
Get the information you need
It’s time to find out whether your assumptions about a certain career are correct. Before you invest in an expensive Master’s or start an unpaid internship, you may want to hear how working in the industry is really like.
How to use the web to find your dream job
The internet is a great place to start looking for information about careers.
By simply Googling your prospective position, you may discover blogs written by professionals who talk about their day, their challenges, and even give tips on how to enter the field.
If the niche is specific and you don’t get results on Google, you can always ask a direct question on sites like Quora or dedicated forums.
Professional associations often organise events (some are even held online) where a panel of professionals explain their work and take questions from the audience. If you don’t know any around you, start searching online, most organisations have a website.
LinkedIn is an incredible platform, not only for those actively looking for a job. Don’t be scared of contacting people directly and asking them to write their thoughts about their job. This is technically called an ‘informational interview’ but it’s much quicker and more informal than you think. You’ll be surprised by how many people actually enjoy helping others out or more simply, talking about themselves.
Don’t forget to follow relevant hashtags so that you will get interesting posts and articles directly in your feed.
Ask in person
Then, there is the old-fashioned way. Ask your personal network for help — chances are, your friends and family members know someone who could clear your doubts.
If you’re currently studying or still have contacts from your university years, don’t hesitate to reach out to professors, tutors, and classmates, especially if some of your courses are relevant to the industry you’re interested in.
When it comes to money, doing some research is a good way to get a general idea. However, don’t trust everything you read in places like Glassdoor as they are just average numbers that don’t take into account many factors. Ask the experts: people in the industry, HR professionals, etc.
How to test the job yourself
We started by saying this: there’s nothing like first-hand experience. Once you actually get on the job, you may uncover a long series of misconceptions that you had about it. And that nobody could or would warn you about.
Once you have narrowed your list down and organised it according to your professional priorities, it’s time for you to see things for yourself. Find below a few ways to experience a job for a short period of time.
Getting an internship
This is the classic path that students and recent graduates take in order to break into an industry. With an internship, you’ll have the opportunity to actually do the job (of course, in its most manageable parts) for a limited time.
The companies that organise internships best will also allow interns to rotate across different departments and attend training sessions. Trainees also get unique access that allows them to receive advice and ask questions to experts in their area.
Of course, people who are already in the workforce may not be able to sign up for an internship. That depends on many factors: some internships are unpaid, for example, while others have age requirements in place.
Companies have then developed job experience programs. These are usually open to everyone and last just a few weeks. Some young professionals who are interested in changing their career sign up for one of these during their holidays.
Some careers don’t require you to actually spend time in an office to learn what a typical day looks like. Creative professions, for example, can take many forms and often involve working remotely or freelance. In these cases, even an intensive workshop, seminar, or retreat will give you a sense of the majority of tasks that the creative must perform.
How to learn with job shadowing
A slightly different concept, job shadowing may be a great option for those who are thinking of changing departments in their current company. Simply put, it means following the person you’re shadowing in their activities: from meetings with clients and presentations to observing how they carry out their tasks.
Usually, you won’t actually do the job, although some companies allow shadowers to complete simple tasks. Of course, you’ll have the chance to ask plenty of questions.